From Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
The West Africa Elders’ Forum has called on Nigerians to ensure that the 2023 elections are credible and conducted in a violence-free atmosphere.
According to the forum a hitch-free election in Nigeria will signal to the rest of the region that democracy has come to stay and discourage the trend of democratic recession in West Africa.
Head of the WAEF Pre-election Mediation Mission and former President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma, stated this at a news conference while presenting the forum’s post-mission statement on Wednesday in Abuja.
Koroma emphasized that the 2023 general election in Nigeria is of great significance for West Africa and the entire African continent.
His words: “we call on all Nigerians to exercise their rights to civic participation both before and during the coming elections without fear while also respecting the rights of others to do the same.
Our region, West Africa, of late, has experienced some reversal in democratic practice with unconstitutional changes of government in some countries. At the heart of the instability within the sub-region are the issue of disputed elections and citizen disaffection.
“The 2023 general elections in Nigeria are crucial not just for Nigeria alone but for West Africa and the African continent. “They are the first of three to be held in the region next year. The successful conduct of peaceful, credible, inclusive, free and fair elections here will set a good example for others.
“This will not only send a message that democracy is here to stay in West Africa but will also resuscitate hope at a time when the sub-region is plagued with various challenges.
“The WAEF will stay engaged and accompany the process before, during and after the general elections until a smooth and peaceful transition is achieved.
Koroma further noted that although some stakeholders expressed some concerns and misgivings towards the forthcoming polls, the mission got assurances from relevant authorities that all concerns would be adequately addressed ahead of the elections.
He said: “We note that although some stakeholders expressed some concerns and misgivings, we were assured by relevant authorities that all concerns will be adequately addressed ahead of the elections.
“We are optimistic that a secure and free environment and a level playing field will be guaranteed for all citizens and political actors, irrespective of political affiliations.
“The Independent Electoral Commission assured us that the permanent voters’ cards of all new registrants are ready, and distribution at the local government offices will commence on Monday, 12th December 2022.
We urge all who registered recently to use the opportunity to take the initiative to collect their PVCs.”