*Insists no credible poll without Amended Electoral Act
*As APC chides PDP candidate for shunning Tuesday ceremony
*Says his decision to sign it is a face saving move
*Sowore, Donald Duke excluded from the presidential debate
By Mike Odiakose
Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Atiku Abubakar and Obiageli Ezekwesili of Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, ACPN, on Wednesday at the Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah Centre signed the Peace Accord, committing them to peaceful election next year.
It would be recalled that 69 other presidential candidates, including President Muhammadu Buhari, had signed the same document on Tuesday at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.
In a brief remark after signing the agreement, Atiku, flanked by his running mate, Mr. Peter Obi and the PDP Presidential Campaign Deputy Director General, Tanimu Turaki, called on President Buhari to ensure credible election by signing the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill.
He said: “I am delighted that Mr. President has agreed to sign this peace accord. I will want to appeal to him to also sign the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill. Mr. President needs to understand that as long as he refuses to sign the bill, we will have doubts that this government is truly committed to free, fair and credible elections. “I am a democrat ab initio. I was never converted. I have always been a democrat. And I fought the military to return this country to democracy. However, the best way to guarantee peace in any election is to ensure manifest justice to all concerned.”
He expressed his doubt that there will be credible election next year if President Buhari refuses to sign the Amended Electoral Bill and charged him to demonstrate his willingness to ensure free and fair elections by signing the bill.
Ezekwesili, while signing the agreement, also called on President Buhari to sign the Electoral Act Amendment Bill saying that it is the only way to assure Nigerians that he is ready for free and fair elections in 2019.
Meanwhile, the ruling All progressives Congress, APC said on Wednesday that it is obvious that the presidential candidate of the PDP tried to avoid signing the national peace accord ahead of the country’s 2019 general elections.
APC National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, said in a statement that to all discerning Nigerians, the PDP and Atiku’s “dubious claim” of a “communication lapse” as reason for their no-show at Tuesday’s formal signing ceremony is hogwash, as the peace committee duly and formally invited the PDP and Atiku like other candidates and political parties contesting the 2019 Elections.
He said “Atiku’s eventual decision to sign the peace deal is clearly a face-saving move following widespread condemnation that greeted his initial refusal to agree to the peace deal.
“We, however, must not lose sight of the dangerous and ominous signs the PDP and Atiku have inadvertently shown Nigerians in the lead up to the elections.”
In spite of the fact that all presidential candidates are expected to sign the Peace Accord, the Nigerian Elections Debate Group, NEDG, and the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria, BON, have named only five political parties to participate in 2019 vice presidential and presidential debates.
According to the statement signed by Eddi Emesiri, Executive Secretary of the NEDG, the parties are Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN), All Progressives Congress (APC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Young Progressives Party (YPP).
This means the presidential aspirants expected at the debate are Atiku Abubakar, Muhammadu Buhari, Oby Ezekwesili, Fela Durotoye, and Kingsley Moghalu.
BON and NEDG have excluded Omoyele Sowore of the African Action Congress; Donald Duke of the Social Democratic Party; Tope Fasua of the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP) and a host of others.
The Vice Presidential debate will hold from 7 pm at the congress hall of the Transcorp Hilton in Abuja on Friday, December 14, 2018.
The presidential debate, on the other hand, will hold just over a month later, on Saturday, January 19, 2019.