MAJOR Presidential candidates were physically absent as dignitaries dialogued on the way forward for peace towards the 2023 election at Goodluck Jonathan’s 2022 peace conference.
The one-day event with the theme: “The Role of Elections in a Multi-Ethnic Context” was held on Tuesday at the NAF Conference Centre, Abuja.
In her welcome remarks, Ann Iyonu, the Executive Director of the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation, said the quest for a solution to Africa’s government and the democratic challenge is at the forefront of the foundation’s mandate.
“The quest for a solution to Africa’s government and the democratic challenge is at the forefront of the Foundation’s mandate, and as a foundation, we truly understand that peace, security, good governance and credible election are critical for the achievement of sustainable development of the African continent,” Iyonu said.
She added that the Foundation has actively explored the opportunity to strengthen democratic governance across West Africa over the years.
“And in that regard over the last years since establishment, the foundation has actively explored the opportunity for strengthening democratic governance, promoting the peaceful transfer of power and encouraging respect for the rule of law across West Africa region,” she added.
A former Head of State and the Chairman of the occasion, Abdulsalami Abubakar, said in a recorded message that the conference was timely and commended the foundation for helping to seek peace in the upcoming 2023 election.
The Keynote Speaker at the occasion, Mohammed Ibn Chambers, Member of the West African Elders Forum and Former Representative of the UN Secretary-General, said the whole African continent will look up to Africa to conduct a peaceful and credible 2023 election.
Chambers also highlighted the importance of the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation. He said “As the 2023 election approaches, the foundation is again poised to ensure and promote the inclusive, peaceful atmosphere before, during and after the elections.
He commended the efforts of the host, Jonathan, in enthroning a legacy of a peaceful election in Nigeria.
“His Excellency Dr Goodluck Jonathan continues to be the yardstick for national responsible conduct and political leadership before, during, and after political election.
“The singular act of statesmanship in the post-election period of 2015 when he made that phone call on that fateful day conceding the election to the main opposition candidate even before the final result was announced is and will continue to be a reference point that, in addition to the statement about which we have been reminded by His Excellency, Deputy Governor of Bayelsa ‘NO single blood of any Nigerian is worth spilling for my presidential ambition’ is what gives him the stature and credibility to be the international mediator of repute that he is today,” the keynote speaker said.
On the 2023 election, Chambers said, “When it comes to Nigeria, all stakeholders will have a key interest in its affairs.
“My optimism stands on the fact that Nigeria is a country where all eyes are not only based on government but also on the private sector,” he added.
He pleaded for neutrality on the part of all the stakeholders and made some recommendations for a successful 2023 election, including adopting an electronic voting system, proper articulation of a robust security system, a good partnership with the media, giving priority to youth empowerment and good use of Social Media in a way that it does not foster trouble.
In his closing remarks, Jonathan warned politicians and their parties to eschew violence, saying Nigeria must exist before having the next President.
He called on those seeking elective positions to protect Africa’s most populous nation from destruction.
According to him, those interested in becoming President, governors, and legislators have roles to play in preserving the nation’s democracy.
“We must have a state before you talk about having a President or a governor. If you destroy the country, then where do we need a President?
We must have a state before you talk about having a President or a governor. If you destroy the country, then where do we need a President?
“Anybody who is interested in leadership at the level of a president, governor, senator, etc., you have the biggest stake to protect the nation.
“Both those who want to be President, governors and their supporters should first know that we need to have a nation before whoever you are supporting can emerge,” he said.
He praised Nigerian youths for picking up interest in the 2023 general elections, advising them to guard against hate speech.
He identified fake news, hate speech and propaganda as the biggest threat to Nigerian democracy, calling on the citizens not to indulge in it.
However, one significant observation at the event was the absence of major Presidential candidates who were expected to give comments on the occasion.
The Presidential candidates that were billed to speak at the event according to the official programme seen by The ICIR include Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Peter Obi Of Labour Party (LP) and Adewole Adebayo of the Social Democratic Party (SDP)
Although they all sent representatives, only the candidate of the SDP, Adebayo, was physically present.
There was a panel session and goodwill messages from Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, Lawrence Ewhrudjkpo, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha and representative of ECOWAS.
Also in attendance were Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State, Matthew Kukah of Sokoto Diocese and Cynthia Mbamalu of YIAGA, among others.