The Commonwealth Secretary-General has praised Nigeria's "steadfast commitment to the promotion of peace" in the run-up to Saturday's presidential election.
Speaking in the Nigerian capital Abuja at the signing of a National Peace Accord, Patricia Scotland said: “The country, region, continent and wider world are holding their breath. Nigeria is the largest economy in Africa, with the largest population. Nigeria plays a crucial political and economic role in Africa. What happens in Nigeria, matters to all.
“By signing this National Peace Accord, Nigeria’s political leaders are committing themselves to writing a new chapter in the country’s future growth and prosperity – a chapter which we can all be proud of”.
Presidential candidates and chairpersons of political parties, including the two main contenders - incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar – agreed to “among other things, run an issue-based campaign and pledge that our electoral campaigns will not involve any religious incitement, ethnic or tribal profiling, both by ourselves and all agents acting in our names.”
The Peace Pledge also stated: “We therefore call on all fellow citizens of our dear country, and our party supporters, to refrain from violence or any acts that may in any way jeopardise our collective vision of a free, fair and credible election. In addition, we call on INEC and all Security Agencies to ensure strict adherence to their constitutional roles. We also pledge to respect the outcome of free, fair and credible elections. Today again, we renew our commitment to a united, democratic and prosperous Nigeria. We want to appeal to all Nigerians to stand together at this critical phase of our Nation's history."
The Accord is the initiative of Nigeria's National Peace Committee headed by former head of state Abdulsalami Abubakar.
Addressing the gathering, the Secretary–General said: “This Peace Accord will be put to the test ahead of the elections, on Election Day and the days that follow, in particular after the results are announced. This is when the Leadership in promoting peace will be more crucial than ever before.
“Not only do we look to the leaders gathered here today to live up to lofty aspirations set out in the Accord, we call upon their parties, supporters and the wider electorate to follow their lead and support them in the fulfilment of the promises made today to the people of Nigeria.”
The Secretary-General added: “For some voters, especially those born after 1999, it will be the first time that they will have the opportunity to exercise their right to vote and determine who leads Nigeria.
“It is these young people who we must not only encourage to dream of a better Nigeria but also empower to embody the ideals of inclusivity and peaceful participation in democratic processes, particular through credible, transparent and inclusive elections in shaping the society in which they live. These are Commonwealth values, enshrined in the Commonwealth Charter.
She concluded: “Your supporters are watching your actions and listening to the statements you make. I therefore urge you to live up to the letter and spirit of this National Peace Accord. Elections will come and go, but Nigeria, this great Nigeria, will remain.”
Read the full speech here.