President Muhammadu Buhari has urged traditional rulers to caution politicians against utterances that could affect smooth conduct of this year’s general elections and by extension the peace and unity of Nigeria.
He made the plea on Monday in Abuja at the 10th General Assembly of the National Council of Traditional Rulers of Nigeria (NCTRN), themed: “Building a synergy towards free, fair, credible and violent-free 2019 general election – the role of traditional rulers”.
Represented by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the President said being the closest institution to the people, the government believe that the royal fathers enjoy loyalty and respect of their subjects, hence the need to promote causes that would herald greater transformation and socio-economic and political development in Nigeria.
He described the traditional institutions as repository of local intelligence, hence the periodic consultation and regular meetings with the government for a better Nigeria.
He said: “We have had in the past various degrees of violence during previous elections which was outcome irresponsible utterances, hate speech by some ‘desperate politicians’ apparently designed to provoke or incite violence. That would not be tolerated again.
“Your positions as traditional rulers accord you considerable influence and respect of your subjects. So I urge you to take up your responsibility of guidance and counselling, and enlighten your subjects on the need to shun animosity, conflict and violence during or after the elections.
“It is also important that you mobilise them to participate in the electoral process by voting candidates or party of their choice without fear of molestation, intimidation or harassment.”
Also speaking, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, who is the Co-chairman of council, expressed worry over the rate of insecurity in Nigeria, which he said, could mar the credibility of the forthcoming elections.
“At the 9th general assembly, the former Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, briefed the council on his effort to provide security for Nigerians.
“But unfortunately, the case of insecurity assumed worst dimension in last one year. Bandits have had field days in Sokoto and Zamfara states, kidnapping is order of the day, among several other crimes,” he said.
He however challenged the government to step up security ahead of the election, so it could guarantee safety of voters in and out of polling stations.
He also challenged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to harnesses views and suggestions of all stakeholders which are relevant in accordance to law, to ensure free, fair, credible and globally accepted elections by all parties.
In his keynote, INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, inundated the traditional rulers with the preparations and other efforts made by the commission to ensure credibility of the polls.
He however solicited their support to sensitise and enlighten Nigerians at the grassroot to participate and make informed choice of leaders in the forthcoming elections.
He also lamented that the commission’s greatest fear was insecurity and misuse of the Permanent Voters Card (PVC), which many Nigerians have taken as a major alternative to the National Identity Card.
He also lament that the last party primaries for the 2019 elections were the most problematic such that the commission has been taken to the courts 639 times, 186 protests and petitions; and 584 applications for certified true copies of documents.
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