Abuja, Oct. 31, 2022 (ABC) Stakeholders have called for severe punishment for sponsors of thuggery and electoral violence, ahead of the 2023 General Elections.
A cross section of those interviewed by ABC News on Monday in Abuja, said that decisive action must be taken against electoral violence to ensure hitch-free general elections.
Chief Kenneth Udeze, the National Chairman of Action Alliance (AA), said that perpetrators of electoral violence must be sanctioned according to law, to serve as deterrent to others.
“Our approach is to keep advising the youth and all the citizens on the negative impacts of violence.
“However, they will have to go further on this issue of peace accord that was signed most recently by all the political parties with presidential candidates.
“We have to go beyond the accord. We have to find a way of legal sanctions possibly, if people are proven to have been involved in orchestrating issues that have to do or led to violence,” he said.
Udeze advised political actors in the 2023 General Elections to strive hard to prevent violence in whatever form.
“You can only know the beginning of a war, no one can predict when it will end or the consequences.
“Violence cannot do anyone good. When you start from one state, you think it is an easy thing, but by the time it starts developing, by the time other interests are building, it spreads all over the country, and that is what leads to civil disorder or war.
“So, we have to do everything possible to make sure that violence does not thrive in this election.
“Nobody knows who is going to die tomorrow. If are orchestrating it you don’t know if the bullet will hit your wife somewhere, or your sister, or your brother,” he said.
According to Udeze therefore, Nigerians should work diligently and in unity as a people to ensure that the 2023 General Elections become the driving force that will bring citizens to the new Nigeria of everybody’s dream.
He said his party, the AA, was committed to ensuring peaceful conduct of the poll and would continue to appeal to its members and supporters, even up to the grassroots, to be law abiding, shun violence and play by the rules.
“In AA we consider ourselves as a silent majority and underdog. People may not know what we are doing, but the candidate we are giving Nigerians, Dr Hamza Al Mustapha, knows this country very well, we know what we are doing.
“We are embarking on our campaign very diligently without name calling. So we call on people to always find a way to engage on issue-based campaigns.
“With that, our supporters all over Nigeria are doing the job which we have actually asked them to do. And we are doing it as a silent majority,” he said.
Mr Yabagi Sani, the National Chairman of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), was also of the same view, and urged all political actors, especially politicians, to shun violence for smooth conduct of the poll.
“The fact of the matter is that the biggest and immediate losers when democracy fails are the politicians, not the public really.
“It is later the public suffers for it, but the immediate casualties when democracy fails is the politician.
“So for that reason, we have to shun anything that will affect the smooth conduct of elections because it matters to us,” Sani said.
The IPAC chairman expressed concern over what he described as the emerging negative signals against a peaceful and credible 2023 election.
He listed the signals to include the use of money with impunity, during the last off-season governorship election in Anambra, Ekiti and Osun, in breach of the provisions of the Electoral Act and other extant laws.
“Also, IPAC leadership has noted the spikes in the use of divisive languages and hate speeches by several chieftains and spokespersons of some of the political parties in the mass media, and at political rallies,” he said.
He said that efforts were ongoing by IPAC to address irresponsible and reckless utterances capable of heating up the polity, with the potential of igniting mutual hate, animosity and violence in the country.
“To deepen the roots of democracy and good governance, violence in all its ramifications must be uprooted from the political space.
“We are in this regard, calling on the nation’s security agencies and other relevant bodies to gear up in the performance of their statutory responsibilities professionally and objectively,” he added.
The National Chairman, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Dr Victor Okoye, on his part, expressed optimism that the 2023 poll would not witness violence in any form.
“I believe 2023 election is going to be peaceful. Every act of man is within the confines of God’s providential authority. No man can change what God has written,” Okoye said.
He therefore, advised Nigerians to remain firm and play politics without bitterness.
“Let us remain firm, avoid violence and money bags during elections. Vote according to your conscience. Vote for sustainable democracy. Vote for a good a good government you will get a good result,” he said.
Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, the National Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), cautioned political parties and their supporters against violence, saying it could further complicate the security situation in the country.
“Parties, candidates and their supporters should not by acts of commission or omission, further complicate the prevailing security situation in the country,” Yakubu said.
The INEC helmsman expressed sadness over the recent clashes among party supporters in some states, describing it as worrisome.
“Even as the commission is working hard to ensure a credible process in the forthcoming elections, reports of clashes among parties and their supporters in some states of the country during the ongoing electioneering campaign are worrisome.
“So too is the reported denial of access to public facilities for parties and candidates in some states of the federation.
“Let me caution parties and their supporters to focus on issues and steer clear of attacks on each other.
“These are not only violations of the Electoral Act, 2022, but also negate the voluntary commitment by all political parties and candidates to the letter and spirit of the peace accord signed about three weeks ago under the auspices of the National Peace Committee (NPC),” he said.
The INEC chairman therefore reiterated that a peaceful electioneering campaign was critical to the conduct of peaceful and credible elections.
“At our consultative meeting few days ago, leaders of political parties in Nigeria also complained about the denial of access to public facilities and exorbitant charges in some states for the use of such facilities for the dissemination of their campaign materials, messages and rallies.
“These attacks and denials are a violation of the Electoral Act 2022 and ominous signs of what will follow as the campaigns enter critical stages.
“They may also be a prelude to violence on Election Day and beyond. We should tackle the smoke before it snowballs into a major inferno.
Yakubu urged security agencies on effective enforcement of law to curb the issue of vote buying, violence and other menace that could affect the peaceful conduct of the 2023 General Elections.
“The effective enforcement of our electoral law is the best way to deal with the menace. We should work together to ensure the arrest and prosecution of violators of the provisions of especially Sections 92 – 93 of the Electoral Act 2022.”
Yakubu said that ahead of the 2023 general election, INEC would continue to appraise the security situation in the country and its possible impact on the conduct of the election.
“We are right now working to harmonise our Election Risk Management (ERM) and Election Violence Mitigation and Advocacy Tool (EVMAT), for a more effective risk assessment and mitigation measures ahead of the general election.
“We will continue to share information with the security agencies and most importantly, work together to ensure that elections hold peacefully nationwide as scheduled,” he said.