The National Peace Committee, headed by a former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (retd.), has advised Nigerians should take the forthcoming general elections seriously and contribute to its success and credibility without rancour and violence.
Abdulsalami, who stated this in Abuja during a one-day roundtable and closed-door meeting with the leadership of the 18 registered political parties and their presidential candidates on Friday, said the advice became necessary because the country had gone through many difficulties and survived all the challenges.
Journalists were asked to excuse themselves from the deliberations.
But just before the commencement of the meeting, a mild drama ensued when the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress, Omoyele Sowore, protested against the sitting arrangements, which, he said, should have been alphabetical.
It took spirited efforts by the former Head of State to make Sowore sit down after he threatened to remain standing or leave the meeting if the NPC did not give the assurance that there would not be a repeat.
“The sitting arrangements should have been alphabetical, I note that this happened at the ICC during the signing of the peace accord and this is not fair”, the AAC presidential candidate said.
Abdulsalami, who assured that his position was noted, however, said that Sowore could leave if he was not still satisfied.
The former military leader also advised the candidates to avoid using bad language in the meeting.
He said, “I want to appeal to all Nigerians to appreciate the seriousness and significance of these elections. We have gone through many difficulties and survived them.
“The purpose of this initiative by the peace committee is to build up the confidence of our people in the electoral process and to ensure that we do all that is possible to ensure that these very crucial elections are successful.
“Our intention is to hear from the presidential aspirants themselves and see how we can rally all our people to ensure that all citizens are able to elect the leaders of their choice. It is impossible to have all contestants in one room and so, we hope that whatever we discuss here affects all contestants in these elections.”
He recalled that on September 29, 2022, the committee invited the presidential candidates for the signing of the Peace Accord at the International Conference Centre in Abuja.
Abdulsalami said, “You may also recall that we placed advertisements in all major newspapers and social media calling on all presidential candidates to be mindful of the concerns of Nigerians on such issues and the need to use temperate language, avoid raising the tone of violence and to conduct themselves in a manner that does not undermine the electoral process.”
He also said the meeting was not aimed at listening to accusations and counter-accusations, nor was it to trade blame but to raise issues and concerns so that the forum could explore the best means of resolving the concerns.
“I appeal to you all to be moderate in your language, show respect to the views and concerns of one another and listen to the concerns expressed.