The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has called on the National Peace Committee (NPC), to engage actors in the political space early enough in order to minimise incidences of electoral violence in the 2023 general election.
Chairman of the commission, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, made the call when he received a delegation from the National Peace Committee alongside Representatives from the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and Kofi Annan Foundation.
The group was led by the Head of the NPC Secretariat, Rev. Father Atta Barkindo, who represented Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah.
The INEC chairman who appreciated the contribution of the National Peace Committee to peaceful elections through the regular peace accord initiative introduced in 2015, noted that “nations are lucky when they have moral voices, that their authority does not draw from statutory provisions, it exists purely from moral persuasion, and people listen”.
“That is why I think it is a big plus for us as a nation to have a national peace committee and the calibre of people involved in the National Peace Committee”, he added.
Appealing to the General Abdulsalam Abubakar-led committee for its intervention with regards to electoral violence, Professor Yakubu said “one of the things that the National Peace Committee can help us do in terms of mitigating security challenges is early engagement with some of the actors”.
“Not just signing the peace accord on the eve of elections, but imagine that some of those who perpetrate violence on election day are not necessarily candidates in the election, but are people engaged by beneficiaries of the election. So if we can engage with the actors early enough, I hope that we will be able to turn a new leaf in that respect”.
Recalling how the NPC started in 2015, and its impact on peaceful conduct of political actors, the INEC Chairman said “when they started in 2015, it is a very good initiative supported by not just people in Nigeria but by people from so many countries around the world, including the late Kofi Annan himself, he was here for the signing of the peace accord in 2015”.
He continued: “we thought that we should replicate it in the 2019 general election and we did. We then started a discussion to see if we can devolve the Peace Accord. At that time our concern was with the incendiary statements not only on the social media but even on the traditional media, coming from the politicians, particularly on Edo governorship election in September 2020, and the Peace Committee for the first time agreed to devolve”.
“We were with them in Benin for the Edo governorship election, and very happily I must say, instead of the chaos and anarchy that people expected will follow the outcome of the election, actually as soon as we declared the result of election in Benin, people started dancing on the streets of Benin. I actually attribute that to a large extent to the role played by the peace accord”.
Professor Yakubu further implored the NPC to play the role of brokering peace in the Ekiti and Osun Governorship elections scheduled for June 18 and July 16, 2022 respectively. He added that “we will keep working with the National Peace Committee on how we can deepen this engagement and conversation, where we notice something smouldering, let’s put out the fire before it turns into a big fire”.
Earlier, Bishop Mathew Kukah and Convener of the meeting, appreciated the support of the Prof. Yakubu led Commission towards cascading the Peace Accord from the national level to the states. He noted that the support and the successes recorded endeared the Kofi Anan Foundation and the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs to the NPC.
Represented by Rev. Father Atta Barkindo, Bishop Kukah explained that they were at the Commission to seek ways to deepen the existing relationship between the NPC and INEC.
The clergy and peace ambassador also sought to know some of the challenges facing the commission in its plans for the 2023 general election as well as ways they can assist the Commission in monitoring social media behaviours.
Also on the visiting team from the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and Kofi Annan Foundation were; Senior Political Adviser, Nicolas Detorrente; Electoral Adviser, Dahel Brugge; and Senior Adviser, Sabastin Brakk.