Another landmark history was made on 16th and 17th of August, 2018, when the Political Parties Leadership and Policy Development Centre of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, held a Summit for all political parties, the first of its kind tagged Annual National Political Parties Summit 2018, in grand style at the Nicon Luxury Hotel, Abuja. The two-day Summit attracted who-is-who in political party circles and other relevant stakeholders.
The National Institute, known for its capacity to draw high-caliber resource persons and experts from all walks of life, lived up to expectation by bringing together all registered political parties in Nigeria under one roof. The occasion was chaired by no other cerebral personality than the former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC, Prof. Atttahiru Jega, OFR. , while the Keynote Address was delivered by an international personality and Nigeria's former Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari CFR. His lecture was titled, Political Parties and Peaceful Conduct and Credible Outcome of the 2019 Elections. In his opening remarks, the Chairman, reiterated the need for the participants that they need to be structured and organized in order to help people choose the right kind of leadership, while noting that an unstructured political parties creates a larger instability in the country.
The Ag. DG, NIPSS, Jonathan Juma, mni, while, delivering the welcoming address stated that, the PPLPDCC is committed to a credible, free and fair election in 2019. He also noted that political parties are catalyst of development and they remain indispensible to the democratic practice. The chairman of IPAC, Hon. Muhammed Nalado, was of the opinion that the Summit is built on a success of the Peace Accord of 2015 to ensure peace and stability. He informed the Summit that during his era as Chairman, registered political parties increased from 48 to 68 and now 93 at the eve of the Summit, hoping that this would provide options and choices to voters during election.
In recognition of the strategic importance of the NIPSS PPLPDC and how germaine the Summit is to the development of Political Parties and a peaceful conduct of the 2019 General Elections, the Federal Government made its presence felt at the Summit. The Senior Special Adviser to the President on political matters, Senator Babafemi Ojudu represented President Mohammad Buhari, GCFR at the occasion. In his speech, the President noted that Nigeria's democracy has witnessed tremendous challenges in the past 19 years. However, he warned that though to an extent, democracy is all about election, presenting people the opportunity to make a choice, it is not a do or die event. He lauded IPAC for being the major platform for parties to express their mutual concerns and the PPLPDC for promoting inter party dialogue and capacity building. He concluded by giving the Federal Government's pledge “Today, I pledge to Nigeria, my country to promote free, fair and credible election devoid of any form of interference in the activities of INEC, to ensure security and promote a violence-free election devoid of animosity and hate speeches, to abide by the extant laws governing political parties and adhere strictly to the Code of Conduct of political parties in Nigeria.”
Prof Ibrahim A. Gambari, CFR emphasized on political parties and peaceful conduct and credible outcome of the 2019 elections. He was of the strong belief that saving democracy in Nigeria is saving democracy in the entire African continent. He expressed optimism that the 2019 election would be a game changer. While noting that there are great expectations that INEC will deliver a credible, free and transparent election come 2019, Prof Gambari urged all stakeholders to rally round INEC to achieve this, saying, “it is not just on INEC alone but political parties have to make sure they present flag bearers that have the 3C's; Competence, Capacity and Character.” The ambassador said the 2019 election affords Nigeria a chance to deepen its democracy and deliver its dividends such as equality of social services, including education, health and security of lives and properties. In order to achieve these overriding objectives, Nigeria must adopt a zero-tolerance for official corruption. He cautioned that election itself is not an end but a process leading to real business of governance. He pleaded that the 2019 election must present a watershed with potential to cross the threshold to an era of global governance and human experience. He also itemized some major issues among which are; more popular participation, openness of party primaries to all, serious inter-party engagement, and enhanced role for CSO's and NGO's in promoting credible and peaceful elections.
Also, the INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmmod Yakubu, represented by Prof. Anthonia Okoosi-Simbine, the INEC National Commissioner in charge of … in her speech assured that INEC would issue guidelines for the conduct of party primaries. She urged party leaders to be guided by democratic principles and advised parties to engage on issue-based campaign not hate speeches.
On hand to present goodwill messages at the Summit are the representatives of the Honorable Minister of the Federal Capital Territory FCT and that of the Minister of Budget and National Planning. Also in attendance were some implementing partners of the EU-SDGN including ECES, Albino Foundation, Westminster Foundation for Democracy, … In a goodwill message, the Director, European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES), Abuja, Dominique Waltz, noted that where Guinea failed, Nigeria has succeeded in having a Code of Conduct for its political parties. He lauded the role of NIPSS-PPLPDCC and IPAC in the review of the Code of Conduct for political parties which, according to him, demonstrated non-partisanship and maturity among the political class.
Several issues on strategies for peaceful conduct of 2019 elections were raised, the most important being that of vote buying. Participants were cautioned on this issue which has been a recurring decimal in Nigeria's politics and has gotten to an alarming stage. There was also a call for standard card reader and electronic voting to be free and fair from all manipulations, particularly with the newly registered political parties which may make the ballot paper to be cumbersome
The Ag. DG of NIPSS in his closing remark lauded the organization efficiency of IPAC which is an indication that political parties are ready for free, fair and credible elections.