ECOWAS delegation meets with political parties, calls for more dialogue

ECOWAS Pre-Election Fact-Finding Mission to Nigeria on Tuesday in Abuja called for more discussions and dialogue between political parties and INEC for a successful conduct of the 2023 general elections.

Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, leader of the mission and former Chairman, Ghana Electoral Commission, gave the advice at its meeting with national leaders of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC).

IPAC is the umbrella body of registered political parties in Nigeria.

Afari-Gyan noted dialogue as an important mechanism to successful elections and advised political parties to work with INEC to ensure that the elections were credible and successful.

“I advise that you talk to one another often. If you see anything that is of significance to you, try to agree on a way forward on it.

“Dialogue between yourselves; dialogue with the electoral commission,’’ Afari-Gyan said

He told leaders of the political parties that in Ghana where he was chairman of the electoral body for many years, a lot of innovations were brought in through agreements and suggestions by political parties.

Responding to concerns raised by IPAC members on violence and vote buying, Afari-Gyan advised political parties to play by the rules and allow citizens to choose freely at the 2023 elections.

“Everybody is talking about violence and use of money. It is a perennial problem in Africa.

“’We are coming to rely on too much of money in elections and there will be a time that if you don’t have enough money, you cannot contest an election.

“That defeats the essence of democracy. A poor man who has good intentions for the people should be able to offer himself or herself, even though he does not have loads of money,’’ he said.

He noted that issues raised were important to free and fair elections.

“It is unfair if you are buying votes. When we say free and fair elections, there are certain things you are free to do and there are certain things you are not free to do.

“You are not free to buy votes or cause violence or intimidate people.

“It is not only INEC that should be fair, but also political parties and their candidates. IPAC has a role to play in ensuring credible elections.

“People should be free to choose. There should not been any form of compulsion. Every citizen is free by law on who to elect,’’ Afari-Gyan stressed.

In his remarks, IPAC National Chairman, Mr Yabagi Sani commended ECOWAS for showing commitment to credible elections in Nigeria.

Sani, also the National Chairman of the Action Democratic Party (ADP), said with the presence of the ECOWAS delegation in Nigeria some of the concerns regarding the 2023 general elections would be addressed.

He noted that the essence of elections in every country was to afford the citizens the opportunity to choose their representatives.

“You are here at the right time because issues of violence and use of money are not things that will give one peace of mind.

“If this visit is not taking place, perhaps such things will happen with impunity and results of the elections will be different from the will of the people

“As IPAC, we are happy that INEC is doing a lot to ensure that we have credible, peaceful, reliable and all-inclusive elections by way of digitalising the process.

“By its commitment INEC has shown that it is ready to give its all to ensure that the outcome of the elections will make Nigeria and Africa proud,’’ he said.

Sani expressed optimism that the new Electoral Law would make the elections to be successful.

He also expressed political parties’ commitment to credible elections and urged ECOWAS to continue to show interest to ensure that the elections were free and fair.

Earlier, a member of the ECOWAS delegation, Dr Remi Ajibewa, said it was in Nigeria for fact-finding to ascertain the level of stakeholders’ preparedness for the 2023 elections.

The visit, he explained was in line with ECOWAS Supplementary Protocol 2021 to observe elections in Nigeria.

He said that the mission had already met with INEC, many Civil Society Organisations and the Inspector-General of Police and his team.

Ajibwewa assured that the mission would also meet with other stakeholders in all geopolitical zones including most of the political parties, the media and the judiciary.

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