Former head of state, Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar, and the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Most Reverend Mathew Hassan Kukah, have called on all the gubernatorial candidates for Kogi, Bayelsa and Imo State polls to commit to violence-free elections.
This is just as the major candidates in the upcoming governorship elections have engaged in a blame game over who and what is responsible for the violence in their respective states.
Others simply ignored efforts by LEADERSHIP Weekend to gauge their willingness to renounce violence.
As the gubernatorial election in the three states comes up on November 11, 2023, the National Peace Committee (NPC) co-chaired by Abdulsalami and Kukah is concerned about the peace and security in the states, and is keen to commit the candidates into signing a peace agreement.
There have been concerns by Nigerians on why violence persists during elections in Nigeria despite efforts by the electoral umpire and other stakeholders.
To this end, the National Peace Committee said it will not be discouraged by the behaviour of some politicians during elections, insisting that it will try to ensure the process is peaceful based on the commitment of the gubernatorial candidates, their political parties and other stakeholders.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP Weekend, the secretary and head of secretariat of the National Peace Committee, Fr. Attah Barkindo, confirmed the plan of the NPC to promote non-violent election among the gubernatorial candidates, their political parties and other stakeholders.
“Yes, we will be committing them to signing a peace accord. We will be sending out letters next week,” Barkindo said.
Also speaking to LEADERSHIP Weekend, Bishop Kukah said the peace accord will be simultaneously signed on November 9, 2023 in the three states of Imo, Kogi and Bayelsa states.
Speaking on the issue, the Imo State governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, said the approach of the state government in tackling the security challenge is responsible for the violence in the state.
Asserting that the youths of the state are jobless, Anyanwu advised the government to create jobs, build industries, and create an enabling environment for business to thrive.
According to him, it is the responsibility of the government to protect lives and property, and any government found wanting should be counted as a failed administration.
Senator Anyanwu stressed that governments in civilized climes apply the carrot and stick methodology, even as he condemned the administration of Hope Uzodimma for applying force, which does not always yield a positive result.
In his contribution, the governorship candidate of Labour Party, LP, Senator Athan Achonu also blamed the state government for insecurity in the state.
According to him, Uzodimma counts anyone who is not in support of his administration as an enemy, He advised Uzodimma to change his governance style.
He further noted that the local government system was dead and once that arm of government was left unattended, there was bound to be problems in the society.
The candidates indicated their readiness to sign peace accord and commit to violence-free elections.
However, the candidates advised security agents to display neutrality and not to support the incumbent on the day of the election.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, Prof Sylvia Agu revealed that the electoral body had made adequate arrangements with security personnel toward protecting the staff of the commission.
In Kogi, the governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party, Murtala Ajaka, expressed his eagerness to sign any peace accord but held that it would be worth less than the paper it is written on.
Speaking through the director of communications of the SDP Campaign Council, Farouq Adejoh-Audu, Ajaka recalled that during the last attempt to sign a peace accord on November 12, 2019 thugs disrupted the process in the presence of the Inspector General of Police, the director general of the Department of State Services (DSS) and the chairman of INEC.
LEADERSHIP Weekend also reached out to the spokesman of the APC Campaign Council, Kingsley Fanwo, and the senior special assistant to the Kogi governor on print media, Michael Ozigi, on whether their candidate will sign the peace accord. Both of them did not respond.
Dino Melaye, candidate of the PDP, also did not respond to similar questions.
It was difficult to get audience with candidates of the three major political parties and members of their campaign councils.
It has, however, been a busy week for the parties particularly PDP and APC as a result of their respective campaigns activities happening concurrently across the LGAs of the state.
The director of media and publicity, APC gubernatorial campaign organisation, Perry Tukuwei, declined to speak on the issues bordering on election violence. He simply said it is expected of the various political parties and their governorship candidates to sign a Peace Accord when the need arises.
Several attempts were made to reach the campaign director general, Governor Diri Campaign Organisation, Hon. Miteme Obodo and the Labour Party candidate, Udengs Eradiri, via calls and text messages but they did not answer their calls or reply to the messages. Also, some of the party chieftains have not also responded to calls.
On the measures INEC is taking to protect its staff, the head of department, Voter Education and Publicity, Wilfred Ifogah, said the commission had held many engagements with various stakeholders on the issue of election security.
He said, “INEC doesn’t work alone. There is the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES). This is a body of all security agencies available in the particular state election is taking place. It is chaired by the Resident Electoral Commissioner, and co-chaired by the commissioner of police in that particular state.
“As we speak, we have had a series of engagements with them. They are in charge of security, they are in charge of protecting lives and property. In the course of the election, they are there to protect not just the staff of INEC, the electorate themselves and also the electoral materials.”
According to him, all this is to ensure that voters can be at the polling units without any molestation.
“The discussion has been on, not just the police. We discussed with community leaders, religious leaders, traditional rulers, professional bodies; even the media is part of the stakeholders.
“The only thing INEC can do is for is to interface with the body in charge of security, which is the police and other agencies.”
Meanwhile, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have expressed worry over the frequent experience of election violence in Nigeria, attributing the menace to the desperation of politicians.
The executive director, Yiaga Africa, Samson Itodo told LEADERSHIP Weekend that stakeholders need to discourage politicians from using violence in search of political leadership.
“We don’t have electronic voting. What we have is electronic accreditation. So we have to think of how to stop election violence because the introduction of electronics in the electoral process was just for people in the voter register to be accredited to vote.
“The electronic process was for credibility. Why are politicians using violence? They want to take power at all costs. It is the desperation of the politicians that is causing violence. It is the character of politicians that we should address. Desperation is the cause of violence in our elections,” Itodo said.
Other CSOs who spoke to LEADERSHIP are Transparency International (TI), the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), and the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG).
Speaking through their leader, Awwal Musa Rafsanjani, the CSOs said politicians who are the greatest beneficiaries of democracy are always engaging in do-or-die politics.
“The reason why elections are going violent is that politicians have turned the electoral process into a business. They want power by force. They are seeking power not to serve the people but to serve themselves.
“Election is an opportunity for the electorate to make their choices based on track records, but elections have turned into an avenue where people get into positions only to loot. That’s why it is a do or die affair, that’s why there is always violence. We must commit the politicians to non-violent election,” Rafsanjani said.