2019 and electoral violence, by Adewale Kupoluyi




Troops

As the general elections draw nearer, series of events are unfolding suggesting that violence and crisis may erupt unless necessary steps are taken to ensure that peace, stability and orderliness are enthroned in the country.
Ordinarily, the periods of elections are associated with high level of campaigns, politicking and lobbying that should naturally elicit some tension.
This should be expected because the actors, gladiators and players are all out to take over power.
Wrestling power, especially from an incumbent in office is not always easy.
This is not peculiar to Nigeria but a regular pattern in other countries across the world, as they also witness one form of power-play or another.
The usual problem with our politicians is that their strong determination to win elections at all cost often brew violence.
The level of maturity expected of politicians is largely missing in the way and manner that we play politics in Nigeria.
We often fail to realise that at such contests, only one candidate can win at a time.
Hence, what would be would be.
Contestants should be fully prepared to accept the outcome of the election in good faith without fomenting trouble.
That ultimate decision of who governs them should freely be taken by the people.
Peace and sanity should be allowed to prevail.
Why we should exercise great caution is buttressed by recent findings by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) report on electoral violence risk assessment in Nigeria, which predicted possible rise in electoral violence before the general elections.
USIP had identified Ekiti, Rivers, Kano and Kaduna among the states with high risks of political violence.
The report further identified the ongoing farmers-herdsmen disputes, communal as well as ethnic crises as capable of disrupting the existing fragile peace in the nation ahead of 2019.
Efforts of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in organising free, fair and credible elections should be commended.
It has been a daunting task for the commission, considering the various 1,558 constituencies, made up of one presidential constituency, 36 governorship constituencies, 109 senatorial districts, 360 federal constituencies, 991 state assembly constituencies, 6 Federal Capital Territory area council chairmen as well as 62 councillors.
What makes next year’s general elections crucial is the fact that there is reordering of the presidential poll, which is now the first to be organised after an incumbent President was unseated by an opposition candidate in 2015.
That is why there is the need to make sure that electoral violence is curtailed so that voting process can go on in various parts of the country without any difficulty, to engender good governance.
INEC should realise that in conjunction with security agencies, it has critical roles to play at ensuring violencefree elections.
INEC should ensure strict compliance to the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), by making sure that troublemakers are apprehended and punished.
To achieve this, the electoral body should remain and be seen to be unbiased and apolitical before, during and after elections.
It should ensure that electoral materials get to their destinations in good time.
Electoral officers should carry out their duties with every sense of professionalism, patriotism, equity and good conscience.
INEC should further ensure that smart card reader machines are functional; it should mininise or eliminate factors that led to inconclusiveness that characterised previous elections.
Political parties should embrace peace by shunning imposition of candidates, granting of automatic tickets, thuggery, emergency substitution of names for party conventions, indulge in over-zoning, engage in snatching of ballot boxes and outright rigging.
Our judicial officers should live above board and expectations.
Unlike in the past, ridiculous granting of ex-parte orders to either stop elections or to substitute candidates should no longer be granted.
The media should be objective and non-partisan as much as possible in discharging its very important responsibilities while international observers should carry out their assignments without getting enmeshed in local politics, undue sympathy and favouritism.
In short, 2019 elections should not be turned into a do-or-die affair.
All the stakeholders should reject violence and embrace peace in the overall interest of the nation.
Hate speech and fake news should be prevented, especially on the social media that had largely contributed positively and negatively to the electoral process.
The New Media had certainly played prominent part in relaying useful information among the people in creating voter awareness, on how to cast valid votes, preventing voter ignorance and disenfranchisement as we as exposing logistical failures that could mar smooth electioneering.
As the people cast their votes, they should try as much as possible not to wander about.
They should rely on official sources of getting authentic results.
Those that often indulge in sending fictitious online results should watch it.
Rumuor mongering and raising of false alarms should be prevented.
Security agents should carry out their assignments well but with human face.
Party agents should not constitute themselves in electoral officers.
They are not.
Journalists, medicals and youth corps members should adequately be protected.
All the stakeholders should know that all eyes are on Nigeria at this moment.
Therefore, we must get it right as a nation.

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