Implementation of electoral act will checkmate electoral violence – South East stakeholders

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Some political stakeholders in the South-East have reiterated that effective implementation of the Electoral Act would assist in check-mating electoral violence in the 2023 general elections in the country.

The stakeholders made the call while reacting to a News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) survey on checkmating Electoral Violence ahead of the 2023 General Elections in the country.

Nelson Nwafor, the Executive Director of Foundation for Environmental Rights, Advocacy and Development (FENRAD) in Abia, said that electoral violence was a “serious threat” to the achievement of sustainable democracy in Nigeria.

According to him, the menace has become detrimental to democratic sustainability in Nigerian politics and required swift action toward addressing the issue.

Mr Nwafor said that politicians and the electorate were jointly responsible for the continued occurrence of electoral violence recorded during electioneering periods.

He commended the federal government for the Electoral Act (2022), adding that it would play a vital role in guiding the conduct of the politicians and electorate during the elections.

He charged political parties to ensure that the campaigns of their candidates were issue-based to enable them to build a work plan that would facilitate delivery of democracy dividend to the citizenry.

Mr Nwafor called on relevant agencies to conduct regular sensitisation campaigns on the need for the electorate to be law abiding during the electioneering period.

A teacher, Kingsley Kalu, said he had vowed never to participate in the country’s general elections again because of his experience in 2019.

He said that he almost lost his life while working as an adhoc staff to the Independent National Electoral Commission, as thugs invaded the venue in an attempt to snatch the ballot box.

“If not for the intervention of the police, I would have died as these boys came, descended on me and my colleagues in one of the remote communities in the state during the House of Assembly election,” he said.

He expressed hope in the new Electoral Act, saying that it would curb electoral violence because there would be no snatching of ballot boxes.

In Ebonyi, some analysts have advised politicians across states of the federation to focus on issue based campaigns that could bring development to the nation and desist from causing violence.

They decried the way thuggery had brought a lot of conflicts in the Nigeria political system including ethnicity, religion and tribalism amongst others.

Thamos Ikenna, a lawyer, noted that the issue of thuggery during campaigns and elections started as a result of bad governance.

“Failure of political leaders to do the needful in providing gainful employment for the teeming population of youths.

“The youths remained the instruments used by politicians to perpetrate these violent crime in the country.

“These violence are being caused as a result of bad governance, unemployment, poverty, bribery and corruption amongst others,” Mr Ikenna said.

Monday Nkwoagu, Bishop of Anglican Communion, Diocese of Abakaliki, condemned the incessant killings and violence so far experienced in the country ahead of the 2023 general polls.

Mr Nkwoagu tasked politicians on peaceful campaigns and added that violence was not a strategy to win elections.

Also speaking, Professor Benard Odoh, 2023 governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in Ebonyi, said that a peaceful campaign could bring security of lives and property for the people.

“It is better to campaign on issues rather than concentrating on destruction of campaign materials and all sorts of violence,” he advised.

Mr Odoh stressed the need to implement laws and strengthen it against thuggery and political violence in the country.

He called on youths in particular and colleagues in various political parties to steer clear of the act and focus on issues that could bring development to the state and nation at large.

“Elections should not be seen as war against persons,” Mr Odoh added.

In Anambra, politicians contesting positions during the 2023 general elections are yet to begin campaigns apparently because only state and national elections would be conducted in the state.

A check by NAN showed that most of the candidates were still doing consultations, a month after the Electoral Act as amended had okayed commencement of campaigns for the 2023 elections.

Chukwuma Agufugo, state secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) said the party was yet to inaugurate its state chapter of the campaign council.

He said that political activities were still low because the state was not holding a governorship election, but only national and state assembly elections.

“For now, I can say that we are not hearing anything about thuggery and violence and we believe that such problems usually take place towards the end of campaign period,” he said.

Paul-Chuks Umenduka, an Awka-based politician, said the state might not witness incidences of violence during the ongoing political process.

According to Mr Umenduka, my feeling is that most people are enlightened and might not be tricked into political violence as before.

“I see a paradigm shift in the cases of political thuggery and violence in next year’s elections because of two reasons.

“Most Nigerians are aware that the electronic transmission of results from the polling units will make nonsense of snatching of ballot boxes.

“Again the common knowledge among most citizens now that those engaged for thuggery and other dirty political jobs by politicians are now aware of the consequences of engaging in such practices,” he said.

Mr Umenduka, who said that his position was informed by some preliminary findings made in his Aguata area, added that most youths now decline invitations for membership of pressure groups.

He said, before now, the pressure groups formed ahead of every dispensation often turned into recruiting windows for thugs.

He however, urged the Independent National Electoral Commission, the media, civil society organisations to intensify enlightenment on the danger of thuggery and violence during elections.

(NAN)