President Goodluck Jonathan said on Wednesday that the post- election violence that erupted in some northern states in 2011 was not caused by electoral malpractices.
Many including 10 members of the National Youth Service Corps died in the violence that erupted after the 2011 presidential poll.
The President, who spoke in Abuja at an election sensitisation workshop on non-violence ahead of the 2015 general elections, said the fear to accept defeat was responsible for the violence.
A former Head of State and the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, who also spoke at the event, reiterated the need for the Independent National Electoral Commission to conduct credible poll as a panacea to post-election violence this year.
He recounted his experience of having to resort to court to challenge the outcome of the presidential elections in which he was a candidate in 2003, 2007 and 2011.
But Jonathan disagreed with Buhari on the cause of the post-election violence, insisting that election malpractices were not necessarily the cause of post-election violence.
He, therefore, charged the next National Assembly to look into the nation’s laws with a view to amending them in order to give room to parties with substantial popularity to be part of government formed by the party which polled the highest votes.
He said, “If you look at the 2011 election, we approached it better and I’m quite pleased that a number of civil society activists are here; a lot of observers are here and they did mention that the 2011 election was much better any election conducted by the country . We thank Prof. Attahiru Jega and his team.
“But even then at the end of the election there was violence in some parts of the country. In Kano, properties were destroyed, residential homes were burnt down, and business premises were burnt down. In Bauchi State, 10 young corpers that were involved in the election were slaughtered. Then we asked what led to this level of violence? The violence came when election result was being announced.
“INEC had announced results at every polling unit. The violence didn’t come up in the middle of the election. The results collated had already been announced. But as we are approaching towards the end, it was clear that maybe a candidate was likely to win and violence erupted in Kano and in Bauchi.
“We cannot say there were malpractices to favour the candidate that won because in Kano we got 16 per cent, in Bauchi I got 15 per cent of the votes – those were the least. Even in states where we got 80 per cent or more than 50 per cent, even in opposition states, there was no violence.
“So you see what leads to violence sometimes is not necessarily electoral malpractices but some other causes of violence.”
The President, who said a total of about N10bn had been paid to compensate victims of the 2011 post-election violence, again charged INEC to ensure that no eligible Nigerian was disenfranchised in the forthcoming elections.
He said failure to ensure that every Nigeria voted in the forthcoming polls was a recipe for violence.
The President said, “A number of Nigerians are complaining that they don’t have permanent voter card, what INEC calls the PVC.
“If some people don’t have permanent voter card, the assumption is that, from the beginning, INEC wants to rig election and there is the tendency for those kinds of people to go violent.
“I have been mentioning this to the INEC chairman that you must make sure that every Nigerian votes. If INEC is unable to make sure that every Nigerian votes, that is a recipe for violence.”
At the workshop where a former Secretary-General of the United Nation, Kofi Annan, was a special guest of honour and chaired by a former Secretary-General of Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, the presidential candidates in the forthcoming poll signed a five-point accord for peace ahead of the general elections.
Buhari said when Nigeria returned to democracy “16 years ago, we hoped that the developed countries which went through the painful processes of stabilising their system, should learn from them rather than insisting to make the same mistake.”
He said the speeches by speakers at the event were only anchored on hope as his past experience about elections in the country had been nasty.
He recounted how his party competent agents were able to show how he was programmed to lose 40 per cent and 26 per cent respectively in two northern states in 2011.
He said, “They (the agents) compared the results against the INEC register and they put it in the computer garbage in garbage out. What came out is that the presidential candidate of that party was programmed to lose 40 per cent of its scores and when it was done in another state it was 26 per cent.”
Recalling that the cases he filed to challenge the outcome of the three presidential elections all ended at the Supreme Court, he said he spent 13 months in court in 2003, 18 months in 2007 and nine months in 2011.
The INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, also gave an undertaking that it would not be partisan in conducting the general elections, adding that all candidates would be given a level playing field.
Anan said that Nigeria faced a critical test in the 2015 elections, apart from the barbaric Boko Haram insurgency and the falling oil price and its impact on the economy.
He stated that the success of the elections was crucial to the future of the nation and Africa, noting that chaotic elections would send a bad signal out at this crucial time.
Anan therefore challenged the stakeholders to ensure fair, free and peaceful elections, stressing that the success of the polls was not the sole responsibility of INEC.
According to him, political parties, their candidates and supporters all share responsibilities for ensuring free, fair and peaceful elections.