Rising violence may derail 2023 polls, warns GoNigeria

GoNigeria Initiative, a pro-Nigerian advocacy group, has warned that rising violence in recent weeks across Nigeria since the commencement of electioneering is capable of derailing next year’s polls.

Atedo Peterside, the convener of the group, said in a statement on Thursday that it was imperative that stakeholders exercise restraint and not engage in acts capable of causing rancor, divisiveness and violence.

He advised political actors to engage in peaceful and violence-free campaigns.

He condemned the escalating violence and divisive rhetoric relating to campaigns in recent weeks, saying these could pose a threat to Nigeria’s democracy if not checked.

Atedo called for the implementation of section 128(d) of the 2022 Electoral Act, which clearly protects the rights of candidates to campaign without the threat of violence, adding that campaigns should be on progressive ideas that are objective, balanced and seek to promote national unity.

The group listed insecurity, mass disenfranchisement via PVC collection, deliberate sabotage of operations of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), campaign and election violence as perceived major threats to 2023 elections.

The statement said: “GoNigeria Initiative, a pro-Nigerian advocacy group aimed at promoting political participation, legitimate elections and good governance condemns the escalating violence and divisive rhetoric related to campaigns for the 2023 elections.

“We call on politicians and all stakeholders to eschew hate speech and violence and we echo the call of the Independent National Electoral Commission that political parties and political leaders conduct their campaigns peacefully without rancour, divisiveness and violence.

“With the 2023 elections still over 90 days away, GoNigeria is concerned about various threats to credible elections including the increasing incidence of hate speech and other divisive communication designed to amplify ethnic and religious differences.

“The reports of attacks on campaigns, including the violent physical assault of those merely undertaking the tasks of putting up campaign posters is reprehensible and if not addressed legally, will embolden further violence.

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“Already there are concerns that the rise in pre-election violence will deter voters and is an indirect form of voter intimidation. The situation, if it persists unaddressed, constitutes a threat to national unity and democracy.

“As advocates for full citizen participation in the electoral process, GoNigeria Initiative fully aligns itself with the desire of Nigerians for free, fair, credible and verifiable elections and it is encouraging to hear INEC’s plans as this will help douse tensions.

“We are cautiously optimistic that INEC will be fully prepared for the 2023 general elections and will deliver on the promises made to Nigerians in the chairman’s Message dated 16th November, 2022.

“INEC alone cannot ensure peaceful and rancor free elections; as such, we call on all political leaders, actors and their agents to exercise restraint in the interest of our dear country Nigeria, and hinge their campaigns on progressive ideas that are objective, balanced and promote national unity.

“Energy should go into debating and/or selling candidates’ programmes and policies not hurling insults or ridiculing each other.

“We enjoin all Nigerians to stand united against violence and hate speech and work towards peaceful, free and fair elections regardless of political leanings or associations.

“Elections, parties, candidates, will come and go, but Nigeria will remain and it is our collective duty and responsibility to protect Nigeria and our nascent democracy.”

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