Can Nigeria be violence-free during the campaigns for the 2023 elections?
NEWS DIGEST – “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely.” ― Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The past three to four decades suggest that Nigerian youths have a central role to play in helping the upcoming 2023 general election provide a more tolerable outcome than previous ones.
The flagging of campaigns has now officially announced the beginning of the election season. It is often during this season that the worst of politics is seen in this part of the world, most notably due to citizens’ neglect.
Despite the lessons of yesterday, Nigerians continue to allow themselves to be owned as political thugs by politicians in the country.
These past few days in Lagos, I have learnt that some youths are ready to risk unlawful behaviours in support and love for their political candidate.
I believe a culture of nonviolence will help create a condition where injustice is unacceptable and one where bad governance is way behind us. The environment may never be strong enough to be outrightly peaceful in these times but we must keep nonviolence as our goal and make strong progress towards it.
The engagement of youths in the political affairs of the country should never bring or attract violence to society.
The PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, urged his supporters on Instagram to “conduct the campaigns peacefully and adhere to all extant laws on hate speech despite any and every provocation.”
“I also believe, personally, that our role as Democrats should be established on fidelity to fair and credible elections,” Mr Atiku said.
As is customary, political parties gathered at the Federal Capital Territory to sign the National Peace Accord that sealed their commitment to turn away from violence in the 2023 general elections.
Perhaps what was more telling was the reaction of Omoyele Sowore, presidential candidate of the African Action Congress. Mr Sowore would question the need for a peace pact. “This signifies that Nigeria is at war. Elections are a war in this country.”
And there’s truth to this: election after election, Nigeria continues to witness proliferating accounts of violence and election misconduct, most of which are led by youths.
On election misconduct, however, Nigerians can perhaps take some cheer in the state elections this year and the speech of President Buhari at the United Nations General Assembly. “As President, I have set the goal that one of the enduring legacies I would like to leave is to entrench a process of free, fair and transparent and credible elections through which Nigerians elect leaders of their choice.”
And then, there is insecurity.
The southwest of Nigeria is filled with all sorts of cybercrime, armed robbery, kidnapping, extrajudicial killings and herder-farmer conflicts.
The southeast is a haven for ritual killings and secessionist agitation, kidnapping while the south-south remains threatened by militancy, kidnapping and environmental agitation.
The northeast has been subject to a humanitarian crisis lasting over a decade and caused by the Boko Haram insurgency and the Islamic State in West Africa Province.
Finally, the northwest is enmeshed in illegal mining, ethnoreligious killings and banditry.
Insecurity has assumed a firm stance in our country’s architecture and it’s only natural to question if we can have, for once, a peaceful campaign.
Maybe we will. Maybe we won’t. Either way, Nigerians must go into the campaign season with a nonviolence mindset, ready to be on their best behaviours so we can successfully elect the president that will the country on its next adventure of prosperity.