Despite the scramble for party tickets by some politicians for various political positions, especially the presidency, there are mounting fears that the growing insecurity across the country may truncate the 2023 elections. Some prominent Nigerians and groups are of the view that the elections may not hold going by the general insecurity in the country. The United Nations (UN), Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Ijaw National Congress,( INC) Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Sultan of Sokoto, Sa,ad Abubakar, Aare Ona-Kakanfo of Yoruba land, Gani Adams, have variously expressed concerns over the polls.
At the Inclusive Security Dialogue Retreat jointly organised by the Global Peace Foundation and Vision Africa in Abuja, they warned that there may not be elections in 2023, if the current spate of insecurity in the country is not urgently tackled. According to the President of CAN, Samson Ayokunle, “care must be taken to ensure that the 2023 election does not become a sham” due to the rising insecurity across the country. He also warned that non-recognition of the nation’s complexities and unfair zoning of political offices among the six geo-political zones may undermine the elections.
Similarly, the PFN has urged politicians to respect the zoning principle and tasked the government to check the insecurity before the elections. Apart from bemoaning government’s lethargy in tackling the worsening insecurity, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, decried the pervasive corruption in the management of the nation’s insecurity. On its part, Ohanaeze Ndigbo condemned the heightened insecurity in the South East and vowed that the seeming intimidation or blackmail of the zone on its quest to be treated fairly will not work.
Also, the NEF argued that banditry is not a military problem, but a social issue which must be addressed through justice and social orientation. It also warned that the looming slide into anarchy must be addressed before the 2023 elections. Others who spoke at the forum called for restructuring and addressing of economic injustices in the country.
In a related development, the UN has expressed anxiety over preparations for the 2023 elections. At a meeting between the delegation of the UN Electoral Needs Assessment Mission and 18 political parties under the umbrella of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), the global body identified voter apathy noticed in previous elections as a challenge to the 2023 polls.
However, it indicated its readiness to confer with the National Assembly, security agencies and political parties on the envisaged obstacles against 2023 elections. To overcome voter apathy, IPAC called for massive sensitisation, advocacy, enlightenment and mobilisation of the electorate. The mounting fears over the 2023 elections must not be seen as alarmist or be treated with levity. The recent killing of INEC registration officer, Anthony Nwokorie in Ihitte-Uboma Local Government Area of Imo State is a veritable sign that the polls may be threatened by insecurity. According to a news report on electoral violence in Nigeria, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) lost not less than 9,836 smart card readers in more than 42 attacks in its offices and staff within three years. Over 1,149 persons, including INEC staff and security officers, were reportedly killed in 2011, 2015 and 2019 elections.
Even a visitor to the country will feel the increasing insecurity in virtually all parts of the country – bandits in the North West and killer herdsmen in North Central, Boko Haram insurgency in the North East, unknown gunmen in the South East and South South and kidnapping and ritual killings in the South West. The security siege is overwhelming and government appears incapable of handling the situation. That is why some Nigerians have called on the government to hire mercenaries and seek foreign assistance in containing the growing insecurity.
The growing rancour within the political parties and agitations for fairness and equity in the zoning of political offices may heighten insecurity if not promptly addressed. Therefore, we urge government to urgently review its security architecture, re-strategise and confront with more intensity the insurgents, bandits, terrorists and other criminal elements in the country. Fresh ideas and strategies are needed to overcome the security challenges.
The need to explore non-military options in resolving the problem is not out of place. Peaceful and credible elections can only be realised in an atmosphere of peace and tranquility. If the rising insecurity persists, it is doubtful that the 2023 elections will hold. Nevertheless, we still believe that the government can overcome the security challenges if it adopts the right approach. Good enough, the government has what it takes to contain and defeat the forces of insecurity across the land.
(THE Sun editorial)