From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Religious leaders across different faith have amplified the need for peace and tolerance among Nigerians of different political parties and ethnic groups ahead the 2023 general elections, insisting that without peace, there might not be elections as expected.
Some of the religious leaders that spoke at a security dialogue jointly organised by Global Peace Foundation, ADF International, Vision Africa, and other partners, challenged themselves to champion a campaign at different places of worship and local communities against electoral violence and other actions that could affect the credibility of the electoral process.
They called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and other stakeholders to be fair, just, transparent and credible, in their dealings in order to secure the trust and support of the people, and discourage violence.
President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Daniel Okoh, in his submission at the meeting, admitted that curbing pre-and post-electoral violence in Nigeria is a herculean task because the practice has been entrenched as the shortest way to electoral victory by political parties.
He said: “This assertion, however, does not intend to discourage genuine efforts by well-meaning Nigerians and other development partners that want Nigeria to depart from the era of electoral violence and its attendant consequences.”
He, thus, highlighted the consequences of electoral violence, particularly its ability to truncate the democratic process and all the gains made over the years in Nigerian democratic journey.
“The impact of electoral violence on Nigeria’s elections is very severe. The necessity of free and fair elections can never be overemphasised bearing in mind the opposite is better imagined than experienced. Electoral violence could lead to electing the ‘wrong’ persons into political positions that they are not sufficiently prepared for, and this will lead to further economic crisis and underdevelopment.
“Electoral violence lead to deaths, particularly among the youths. The pain of the loss of many future leaders and breadwinners of families in previous elections is still being felt. Unarguably, violent elections scare away many people who would have loved to participate in politics and offer their expertise in rebuilding Nigeria, hence the rise in electoral apathy which is considered high in Nigeria as a product of electoral violence.