UPDATED: 2019: Atiku signs peace accord in Abuja

On this July 3, 2018 photo, Atiku Abubakar reviews some documents on his first day at his campaign headquarters in Abuja. (Credits: Atiku Campaign Organisation)
On this July 3, 2018 photo, Atiku Abubakar reviews some documents on his first day at his campaign headquarters in Abuja. (Credits: Atiku Campaign Organisation)

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has signed the peace accord for 2019 presidential candidates in Abuja.

Mr Abubakar, who is the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, endorsed the pact drafted by the National Peace Committee during a ceremony at the Kukah Centre, Abuja.

The former vice president was absent when the committee gathered some candidates to sign the pact Tuesday afternoon in Abuja.

President Muhammadu Buhari was present at the Tuesday ceremony, arriving at about 3:00 p.m.

Mr Abubakar immediately came under public backlash for his failure to participate at a crucial meeting aimed at ensuring a peaceful general election in 2019.

The candidate and his party both blamed a communication mishap for their failure to turn up, despite receiving an invitation from the National Peace Committee, headed by Abdulsalami Abubakar, a former Nigerian military ruler.

Mr Abubakar arrived for the signing on Wednesday afternoon, accompanied by Uche Secondus, the PDP chairman and other party top shots.

He endorsed the accord at 12:08 p.m., before Abdulsalami Abubakar and some delegates from the European Union and British High Commission in Abuja.

Mr Abubakar described himself as a well-bred democrat and not a “converted democrat,” in an apparent shot at Mr Buhari, who famously said in 2015 that he had converted to a democrat and was doing away with the traits of dictatorship that followed him since his days as a military ruler in the mid-1980s.

Mr Abubakar also insisted that he did not deliberately miss the invitation in order to avoid meeting with the president.

“It is not true,” he said, adding that he had always preached a peaceful poll in 2019 and beyond.

Mr Abubakar used the ceremony to call on the president to sign the amendment to the electoral law, which would see Nigeria fully adopt the use of electronic card readers if signed into law.

Mr Buhari raised a slew of issues his administration had with the amendments by the National Assembly, suggesting in some cases that some provisions may be too cumbersome to implement in time for the 2019 elections and should be pushed back until the next general election cycle.

Mr Abubakar slammed the president’s reasons as untenable, saying they betray his government’s attempts to manipulate the true outcome of the election in order to remain in power.

Although they pushed the amendments through with a resounding majority, federal lawmakers are now largely divided along party lines about whether or not they would override the president’s veto.

The presidential candidate, however, failed to answer when asked by PREMIUM TIMES whether or not he would rally lawmakers to override the veto to ensure implementation of the changes in 2019.

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