Kogi State Independent Electoral Commission’s Resident Electoral Commissioner, Gabriel Haley Longpet has said that Kogi State has had a bad reputation in election conduct in the past, noting that “election in Kogi is always a case of do or die, but I don’t want that to happen under my watch.”
Longpet made the assertion in Lokoja when the executives of a non-governmental organisation in state, Kogi Peace and Security Network (KOPSEN) paid an advocacy visit to the state INEC to seek collaboration with INEC towards a peaceful Governorship election in November.
The group, a non-political, non-religious, and nonprofit network of social change agents in the state, partners with key stakeholders to implement its core mandate of identifying communities and settlements prone to crises, disputes, and violence.
“This is the battle of the ballots, not the battle of the guns. We should try to disabuse the minds of the people on what Kogi has been known for when it comes to election.
“Any political party however small, has a right to campaign for vote anywhere as long as they notify relevant security agencies,” he said.
Longpet expressed readiness of INEC to partner with KOPSEN to achieve a violence-free election in the state. as he expressed delight with the organisational objectives of the group which he described as a worthy partner in the promotion of the ideals of democracy and peaceful election.
Longpet equally tasked KOPSEN as a grassroots organisation closer to the people, to educate with the aim of correcting the misconceptions arising from hearsay and rumours about the activities of INEC in the state as he appealed to people of the state to seek clarifications on certain rumours about Kogi election in November, just as he pledged to support the organisation with available resources to accomplish its objectives as INEC’s strategic partner in the promotion of election security.
The state Coordinator of KOPSEN, Ben Joshua and state Secretary, Joy Akinola, said that KOPSEN was a coalition of all Non-Governmental Organisations in Kogi State working in the peace and conflict resolution thematic areas, with over 30 registered organisations as members.
One of its key partners is Mercy Corps, a global humanitarian NGO working on the front lines in the area of crisis and disaster control and management.
“The network champions the promotion of a peaceful and inclusive society for sustainable development and as well strives for significant resolution of all forms of conflicts and violence wherever they exist through policy advocacy, sensitization, for the betterment of Kogi State and Nigeria at large.
“KOPSEN partners with key stakeholders to implement her core mandate of identifying communities and settlements prone to crises, disputes, and violence.
“We want to thank the entire staff and management of INEC for the role they play in ensuring democracy and democratic processes are sustained in Kogi State and Nigeria at large.
“However, we want to state that the expectation of Kogi Citizens is high with regards to how INEC will deliver her mandate in the forth-coming Kogi gubernatorial election on November 11, 2023,” he said.
The NGO said that the electoral body has a big role to play in ensuring good conduct of the political actors and hence, the collaboration of INEC and the civil society organisations in the state are critical in promoting peace during and after elections, “and as such, we call for free and fair elections.”
The group also said: “Recall that recent elections in Kogi State have been characterised by violence, crises, killings, and destruction of lives and property and as a result, we urge INEC to partner and collaborate with relevant institutions and organisations to embark on grassroots sensitisation for peaceful campaigns ahead of the upcoming election,” the group said.
The coordinator also said that KOPSEN was prepared to partner and collaborate with INEC in sensitising and educating the general public on the need for a peaceful electoral campaign devoid of vices that could trigger violence before, during and after the November 11, 2023 election.
The resident electoral Commissioner urged KOPSEN to educate the followers of the political actors in the state to eschew violence at all times.