• Parties, presidential candidates sign peace pact
President Muhammadu Buhari and former President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday expressed worry over the increasing spread of fake news and misinformation in the country.
They said the development had been compounded by “personal attacks, insults, and incitement” by political gladiators and parties.
Buhari and Jonathan, therefore, called on the 18 presidential candidates and their parties to be wary of the vices and make their campaigns issue-based.
The duo spoke during the signing of a peace accord by the presidential candidates at the ‘First National Peace Accord’ initiated by the National Peace Committee (NPC) in Abuja.
The candidates at the event were Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); Vice-Presidential Candidate of the All Progressives Congress(APC) Kashim Shettima; Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP); Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) and 14 others.
Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman Mahmood Yakubu and former Head of State Abdulsalami Abubakar, also enjoined the candidates and their parties to focus on issues and avoid mudslinging.
Yakubu told them that INEC would keep a tab on their utterances during the campaign.
Buhari, in a video that was played by the Abubakar-led NPC during the event, told the candidates and parties that his signing of a peace accord with Jonathan contributed to peaceful elections in 2015.
Reiterating his administration’s commitment to fair and credible polls next year, the President commended members of the Abubakar-led NPC for “supporting peaceful elections and facilitating peace in the country.”
His words: ”As the President, I have always reiterated my commitment to peaceful, credible, and transparent elections. What the peace committee has been doing over the years aligns with my belief that Nigeria needs peace in order to achieve credible elections.
“However, the rise of fake news and misinformation continues to pose a significant threat to the pattern of democracy in Nigeria. It has shifted focus away from issue-based campaigns to amplifying the potential for personal attacks, insults, and incitement. It has also significantly diminished civility and decency in public discourse and debate.
“The initiatives undertaken by the National Peace Committee to commit all political actors to an issue-based campaign devoid of incitement, personal insults and attacks is a welcome development.”
The President added that the general election was also an opportunity for political gladiators to “serve Nigeria, defend Nigeria and uphold her unity and progress.”
He said: ”I call on all Nigerians, political parties, politicians, security agencies, the election management body (INEC), and all stakeholders to ensure that Nigeria is placed first above regional and sectional claims.
“I call on the contestants, especially their publicity agents and media advisers, to shun personal attacks, avoid insults and incitement, reject the spread of fake news, and commit to issue-based campaigns and political rallies.”
Gen. Abubakar later led the NPC members to the Presidential Villa, where he briefed the President on the activities of the committee in the build-up to the elections.
He explained that the signing of the peace pact was to commit all political parties, their presidential candidates, and spokespersons to campaigns devoid of violence, indictment, and personal insults.
Abubakar expressed confidence that the committee would do its utmost to ensure that all political actors live up to expectations.
Jonathan also urged the presidential candidates and their parties to strive to make the electioneering season issue-based, clean and violent-free.
He said: ”I must say that it behoves on the candidates and the leaders of the various parties to lead the process for peaceful elections in our country.
“I urge all of us to continue to share in the prayers and enthusiasm of the NPC for peaceful, free, and fair elections in our nation. The task of ensuring peaceful elections in 2023 is our collective responsibility.
“We cannot afford to continue to play politics of bitterness and division along ethnic and religious lines. This is because such kind of politics portends great danger to our unity, growth, and the sustenance of our democracy.
”I charge the candidates, their promoters, and supporters to exercise restraint and seek to run their campaigns based on issues that affect our people. They should, by all means, avoid needless attacks on personalities and the use of abusive language for those are the elements that cause chaos and crisis during elections.
“Political stability and growth of democracy in any country are usually measured by the quality of elections. In this regard, we expect our democracy to be consolidated in such a way that our electoral processes will be seen to record incremental progress at the end of every election cycle.
“Unfortunately, this has not been the case, as there are signs of inconsistencies with the progress we make in our elections. As citizens of this great country, we all have the responsibility to redirect our steps, strive to work harder, and do the right thing to avoid the stagnation of our democracy.
“I expect our country to raise the bar for credible and transparent elections by ensuring that our electoral processes are peaceful, free, and fair.”
Yakubu said that the commission would monitor the campaigns to ensure that the candidates and parties comply with the Electoral Act.
Reminding them that INEC would also monitor campaign funding, the INEC chairman urged them to ensure that they lived by the spirit and letter of the peace accord.
Yakubu added: “In line with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 and in our determination to play our role as a regulator, the commission will vigorously monitor compliance to ensure that parties shun abusive, intemperate or slanderous language as well as insinuations or innuendoes likely to provoke a breach of the peace during the electioneering campaigns.
“Similarly, the commission will also closely monitor compliance with the limits on campaign spending under the Electoral Act.”
Yakubu, therefore, urged the parties and candidates to study the Electoral Act to avoid any infraction.