The presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili, says she is not so certain that President Muhammadu Buhari wants peace across the nation before, during and after the 2019 election.
Ezekwesili said as much during a meeting with the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI)--two organisations deploying a Joint International Elections Observer Mission to Africa's most populous country in 2019.
The IRI and NDI high-level delegates are in Nigeria from December 14 to December 20, 2018 to meet with key stakeholders on the electoral process and to assess the pre-election environment.
The delegation is led by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, former Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs; Ambassador Lewis Lucke, Executive Vice President for the Middle East and Africa Grainster LLC; John Tomaszewski, Regional Director for Africa at IRI; and Dickson Omondi, Kenya Resident Country Director at NDI.
The delegation met with the ACPN presidential candidate in Abuja before holding talks with President Buhari.
Disrupting the old order
Ezekwesili assured the delegation that she will promote peace before and after the election. She also asked the delegation to caution President Buhari against compromising the standard of the election.
“My entry into the presidential race is to win and provide the long elusive good governance to Nigerians so that our country and people will prosper, become stable and live in harmony,” Ezekwesili said.
She said, "I have raised the bar in making 2019 an issue/value-based campaign and forced the dominant parties to start focusing on same. My candidacy is mobilising the citizens into a movement of enlightened voters who can make informed choices in the elections.
"My candidacy is creating a political disruption of the old extant order of a political class who have always seen politics as a means to personal wealth instead of service to the country and people.
"With my foray in politics, a new order of politicians and politically conscious citizens are emerging on the scene. Young people and women are the segment of the voting population that are most excited about my candidacy and are volunteering and donating to our campaign.
"As a well-known protagonist for peace, I have signed the peace accord. I did not attend the original event due to failure of communication, but went over to the secretariat to immediately sign the accord the next day when the peace committee reached out to me with apologies and accepted its failure to duly communicate the event to me for attendance.”
Prevailing on President Buhari
She added that, “the delegation and the international community should join the Nigerian people to prevail on President Buhari to practicalize the peace accord with exemplary actions in order to build confidence in the process.
"The most crucial thing the President must do to build the confidence of all contestants and the Nigerian people is to sign the Electoral Amendment Bill 2018 into law. Should he fail to do so, we must encourage the National Assembly to override the President and enact the bill to an Act.”
Ezekwesili warned that the use of security officers to compromise the election may lead to danger in the country.
She added that, "The President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Offices must take due cognizance and avert the danger that the military and police establishments have become to our democracy as was evident in the Osun and Ekiti elections.
"The security forces must be pulled out of the co-opted involvement in our elections, which in those two gubernatorial elections disenfranchised many voters.
"Nigerians want a new direction and the President must avoid actions that suggest he wishes to suppress the aspiration of the people in the 2019 elections. Any action of the President that aims at giving him an advantage in the February elections amounts to political corruption since he is using his political power for personal gain as a candidate."
Running for president as a woman
Asked about the challenges she is facing as a female presidential candidate, Ezekwesili said, “It is mixed. Some are still resistant to the idea of female political leadership. However, many more Nigerians are calling for a gender neutral election of anyone who can solve the complex problems that matter to them.
"They say things like, 'We know Ezekwesili’s track record when she was in government and we trust her to govern the country well. It does not matter that she is a woman. What matters is that she will get the job done'.
"Campaign finance is a major constraint for all female contestants who lack the deep pockets that their male opponents have built up in diverse manners. My campaign has innovated ways to achieve more with less. We have also maximised the use of volunteers to achieve more than our wealthy opponents."
The NDI/IRI head of delegation, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said the team is visiting Nigeria to advocate for free and fair elections in the new year.
"The delegation would like to gauge the thoughts of contestants and their level of preparation for the upcoming elections in 2019 because your insights will be most useful for the delegates’ understanding of the political environment in Nigeria ahead of the 2019 general elections.
"The delegation will make public statements and submit recommendations to the government in the course and at the end of their visit," she was quoted as saying in a press statement on Wednesday.
On December 11, 2018, President Buhari and other presidential candidates signed the Peace Accord in Abuja, the nation's capital city.
The Peace Accord is an undertaking by all the presidential candidates that they will ensure peaceful and rancour-free campaigns before, during and after the 2019 general elections.
President Buhari of the APC will be seeking a second term in office in 2019. Over 70 presidential candidates across 91 political parties will be jostling for the nation's number one job with the incumbent.