President Goodluck Jonathan’s Special Adviser on Inter-Party Affairs, Ben Obi, has explained how his office packaged the workshop where a peace accord was signed on Wednesday by the presidential candidates and leaders of the political parties to stem intensifying tension and concerns of violence ahead of February election.
The presidential candidates of the seven political parties, including Mr. Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and his counterpart in the All Progressives Congress, APC, Muhammadu Buhari, as well as the leadership of all the registered parties, signed the agreement to ensure violent-free polls next month.
The Presidential and National Assembly elections hold on February 14 while the governorship and state houses of assembly polls hold February 28.
Speaking on a radio programme “Politics Nationwide” on Capital FM on Thursday, Mr. Obi said he recently approached Mr. Jonathan to inform him of the plan to organise the workshop where all the presidential candidates would be invited to agree on the need to have peaceful elections.
He explained that when he met the president, who incidentally was with his Chief of State, Jones Arogbofa, he asked him immediately if he had contacted Mr. Buhari.
He said he told the president that he had just come to clear with him (president) first and would contact the APC flag bearer thereafter.
Mr. Obi, a former senator from Anambra State, said he also informed the president that he had already contacted a former Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, whom he said had given his word to arrive Nigeria on January 12 for the workshop slated for January 14.
According to him, during the discussion with Mr. Jonathan, the president told him that though he ought to be campaigning somewhere that day, he would make himself available and asked his deputy, Namadi Sambo, to continue with the campaign.
He explained that immediately he got the approval of the president, he placed a call to the National Chairman of the APC, John Odigie-Oyegun, whom he said told him “Count on me, I will tell Buhari to attend.”
He did not however explain how he got the candidates and leaders of the other parties to attend.
Asked how his office would ensure that the signatories abide by the terms of agreement, the presidential aide said a committee comprising eminent Nigerians and nominees of the political parties would be constituted soon to undertake that task.
He said, “All you need is an all-stakeholder committee to continue to follow up on this accord. Nobody amongst them involuntarily appended their signature to this accord. Therefore it will not be difficult in anyway and manner in enforcing or making sure that they keep to this accord.
If we are able to put as soon as possible an all-stakeholders committee to see this through…it depends on how these things are handled.
“Like I said when we were putting these things together I told the president, Kofi Annan is coming, Emeka Anyaoku will chair it, Ibrahim Gambari, an former Under Secretary guest speaker, General Isaac Obiakor, first African military adviser in the UN, guest speaker; and of course Attajiru Jega, the chairman of INEC for obvious reason; I tried to make sure nobody in APC will say oh this is a known PDP supporter, the other person saying a known APC supporters, I make sure I get everybody that is known clearly non-partisan in any way and manner.
“So the truth of the matter is that you must be able to enjoy the trust and confidence of everybody. So if you put an all stakeholders committee together, people who are respected Nigerians together, the parties nominating their own members, at that high level, you don’t have anything to worry. And Nigerians themselves will be informing the committee of anybody derailing whenever they find the candidates doing it.”
Mr. Obi disclosed that after the accord was signed, the president directed him to follow up in order to ensure the terms were kept.
He also said shortly after the workshop, a clergyman, Matthew Kukah, called him to request him to organise a similar workshop for the religious leaders ahead of the polls.
He advised Nigerian to call party officials whenever they discovered the signatories were not obeying the terms of agreement.