With only 44 days to the commencement of the 2023 general elections, the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) urges the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to ensure more registered voters collect their Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) in readiness for the polls. CDD also joins other well-meaning stakeholders in calling on registered voters to pick up their PVCs, especially now that the cards are being distributed at ward levels.
However, while ongoing efforts to take the PVC collection process closer to voters at the grassroots are commendable, CDD expresses its utmost concern that the preparations for the elections may be undermined if the growing insecurity across the country is not urgently addressed. It is disconcerting that despite the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari mandating the security agencies to secure volatile parts of the country by December, unending waves of attacks by elements contesting the authority of the Nigerian State have not abated.
In the South East, Biafra separatist agitations continue to undermine the peace as separatists’ attack government buildings, while threatening to visit mayhem on voters who dare to show up at their polling units on Election Day. In the South West, pockets of agitations led by Yoruba nation separatists have similarly disrupted public order and peace, while news of the recent abduction of 31 passengers at the train station in Igueben, Edo State, in the South-South is also concerning. Ongoing issues ranging from banditry, kidnapping and acts of terrorism in the North makes it apparent that no part of the country can be deemed a safe haven in the face of the challenge of insecurity.
CDD has, for several months, been monitoring the conflict situation across the country in order to inform election stakeholders on possible mitigation strategies. Through the Nigeria Election Violence Tracker, CDD in collaboration with the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data (ACLED) Project, has been generating troves of data to shape policy decisions in the build up to the 2023 general elections. For the weeks of November 28 to December 12, the tracker documented the increase in violence targeting the facilities of INEC. Also, CDD’s SWOT analysis of 2023 elections released last year provided an overview of the extent of the security challenges confronting Nigeria as it heads into the elections.
This research informs the CDD’s concern that the required level of public order to support the smooth conduct of elections in several parts of the country has not be attained. While CDD calls on Nigerian voters to remain ready and resolute to participate in the polls, it is imperative to call on the agencies charged with securing the country to intensify efforts and do more to make the entire electoral terrain safe for voters, candidates, election observers, media and poll workers.
Ultimately, the work of ensuring a peaceful and rancor-free election process is not limited to security agencies. Political actors and stakeholders have a part to play, and must do so by ceasing their quick resort to violence, spreading of fake news, hate speech and the making of unguarded utterances capable of undermining public peace and harmony.
CDD is disturbed about the fact that the build-up to the election has been marked by irresponsible rhetoric and name-calling, primarily by the presidential candidates, despite repeated calls for the political actors to engaged in issue-based campaigning.
Such trends do more harm to a nascent democracy going into its seventh general elections, at its fourth attempt at engendering a democratic form of governance.
To reverse this trend, law enforcement agencies should now hold political actors to account, especially those whose utterances cause the disruption of public order. This will help discourage campaigns that are not sufficiently focused on programs and policies aimed at transforming the lives of the people at the grassroots.
Section 92(1) of the Electoral Act 2022 is unequivocal that: a political campaign or slogan shall not be tainted with abusive language directly or indirectly likely to injure religious, ethnic, tribal or sectional feelings. Similarly, Section 91 (2) clearly states that: abusive, intemperate, slanderous or base language or insinuations or innuendoes designed or likely to provoke violent reaction or emotions shall not be employed or used in political campaigns.
So far, most campaigns have ignored these provisions of the law, thereby causing tension, and inciting violence across the country. There is still enough time before the election to ensure those who deliberately undermine public peace and order are stopped in their tracks and held accountable.
Director, CDD West Africa