As we approach the 2023 general election, the United Nations (UN), European Union (EU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have jointly warned against electoral violence and other infractions that might mar the conduct of the exercise. The organisations harped on the dangers of violence during the polls and warned that the impacts could be dire to the sub-region and Africa. They were emphatic that in the event of large-scale disturbances during the exercise, no other nation in West Africa could possibly contain the likely refugee crisis.
Without urgently addressing the nation’s security challenge, the EU opined that it could jeopardise the 2023 election. The Team Leader of EU Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria phase two programme, Rudolf Elbling, advised that everything should be done to ensure a hitch-free exercise.
Earlier in Jos, Plateau State, the UN and ECOWAS had during a mediation training and interactive engagement with the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) and other stakeholders, urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and other stakeholders to ensure that the election is peaceful.
Sa’adatu Sha’abu, who represented the United Nations Office for West Africa and Sahel (UNOWAS), enjoined the political actors and their supporters to play the game according to the rules.
The timely concerns of the organisations on the forthcoming general election must not be waved aside or be treated with levity. The Federal Government should promptly address them before the 2023 general election. Instructively, the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, had during his presentation at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House), London, dwelt so much on the importance of the election to Nigeria and Africa. He also used the occasion to assure the international community that the electoral umpire would conduct a free, fair and credible election.
According to Yakubu, based on figures compiled from electoral commissions and interior ministries in 14 other West African states, Nigeria’s current voter population put at 93.4 million is 16.7 million higher than the 76.7 million registered in all the other countries put together. This means that having a general election in Nigeria is like conducting an election in the whole of West Africa and beyond. This, according to him, entails Nigeria getting it right to avoid unpleasant consequences.
Therefore, it behooves on the Federal Government, INEC, the security agencies and others involved in the conduct of the poll to deliver the best election ever in the history of the country. That is why all hands must be on deck to ensure a credible exercise. The 2023 general election is very significant to all Nigerians, especially the electorate. The enthusiasm shown so far by Nigerians in the collection of the permanent voter cards is a pointer to that fact. We call on INEC to ensure that the outcome of the poll reflects the wishes of all Nigerians. Their votes should count. The best way to ensure that the poll is violence-free is by making it transparent and credible.
However, the attacks on INEC offices and facilities in some parts of the country give cause for worry. Available statistics indicate that between 2019 and 2022, the Commission had experienced 50 attacks on its facilities. In some of the attacks, INEC officials were either injured or killed. The most recent was the attack on INEC office in Enugu State in which a policeman was killed.
Having a credible poll is a collective responsibility of the government, INEC, security agencies, the political parties and their supporters. Let the government provide the conducive environment for the electorate to go and cast their votes without any fear. Let adequate security be provided throughout the election period and after the poll. The Nigeria Police and other security agencies involved in the exercise need to be adequately equipped and mobilised.
It is good that the Chairman of INEC has assured Nigerians on the readiness of the electoral agency to deliver a credible and transparent election. Nigerians do not expect anything to the contrary. Achieving this goal will be in line with the pledge of President Muhammadu Buhari to bequeath a legacy of transparent elections in the country. The electoral agency must ensure adequate deployment of Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), Results Viewing Portal and other technological devices for the poll in all polling units in the country.