President Muhammadu Buhari says elections are important only if they make the country safe.
Buhari said this at the signing of the national peace accord ahead of the February 16 presidential election.
Citing the growing number of political parties, young candidates participation and female representations in the political sphere, the president expressed his delight at the changes being experienced in the country’s electoral process, saying the nation’s democracy is “deepening and expanding”.
He called on the youths to avoid being used as tools for violence, saying peaceful elections are the bedrock of the nation’s democracy.
Below is the speech he delivered:
Another election is upon us and not unexpectedly, there is anxiety in the air. This is typical of any form of competition and contest, no matter how well prepared all contestants and regulators are. The forthcoming elections are very special and significant for the growth of our Democracy.
First, they come immediately after one of the most peaceful elections in the history of our country. I am not saying this because I was blessed to emerge as the winner. I am saying there had been a lot of fears and anxieties from within and outside Nigeria about the future of the country. We are hopeful that this is evidence that we are all maturing in our disposition towards electoral outcomes. We see this as an opportunity to grow our sense of political culture in Nigeria.
Secondly, we are witnessing an exciting development in the area of the engagement of our Youth and Women in the democratic process. Hitherto, these groups have often not been in the mainstream of our political competition. It is in appreciation of their contribution that we passed the Not Too Young to Run Bill last year. The success of the Act is illustrated by the unprecedented number of young men and women who have stepped forward to participate in this process as Candidates at all levels. Significantly, we have witnessed also the emergence of Women as Candidates across the political space.
Thirdly, these elections are taking place against the backdrop of the emergence of an unprecedented number of Political Parties. As of now, we have 91 Political Parties, out of which over 70 fielded Presidential Candidates. Although some Candidates have dropped out of the race, there is no doubt in our minds that our country is moving forward and that our democracy is expanding and also deepening.
I call on all Nigerians to contribute to the building of a viable polity by more active participation well beyond the mere casting of votes. Elections by themselves do not constitute Democracy. It is the spirit of citizenship engagement that utilizes the energy of citizens towards the attainment of good governance.
We have assembled here to mark the final phase of our campaigns and we are now at the doorstep of our elections. The Campaigns so far have gone well and we thank God for that. For the few incidents in which people lost their lives largely through accidents, we pray that God grants them eternal peace. Now campaigns are over and our next assignment is for us all, citizens and contestants alike, to go out and exercise our civic duties.
We, the Presidential candidates are here to sign and commit ourselves to do all that is possible to ensure the success of the elections but most importantly to accept the final outcome. I appeal to my fellow contestants to commit to these ideals so as to keep our country and people safe. The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, our electoral Umpire, has already assured us that they have done everything possible to ensure free and fair elections.
It was to ensure this that I made sure that INEC received all the resources they needed to perform their job. Our Security Agencies have been fully briefed and they know that their visible neutrality is key to the conduct, credibility and success of the elections.
To the Rt. Honourable Patricia Scotland, the Secretary General of the Commonwealth Secretariat, we extend our felicitations and welcome to you. Your presence here and your friendship mean a lot to us as a country. To the Members of the Diplomatic Corps, the International Team of Monitors, again, I say, welcome to Nigeria and thank you very much for standing by us. Your presence helps to validate our process and commitment to growing our Democracy.
I want to thank General Abdulsalami Abubakar, the Chairman of the National Peace Committee and all his members for the hard work they have put into ensuring that our Elections are peaceful. Your great work contributed significantly in shaping the 2015 elections and we are sure that the same impact will be felt in these elections.
To all our citizens, I want to thank you. As we go into the elections in few days, please let us pray for our country. Let us use this opportunity to strengthen our beliefs in a united country. Our elections are important only to the extent that they make our country peaceful and prepare us for development.
I am making a special appeal to our young people: Do not allow yourselves to be used to cause violence. Please eschew all forms of violence and cooperate with all the relevant agencies during these elections. We will vote according to Parties, but in the end, the only real Party is Nigeria, our country. Our elections are important only to the extent that they make her strong. Let us do our best and ask God to bless us and our country.
Thank you and God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.