The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) commission has engaged the leaderships of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) and other stakeholders in identifying ways to a peaceful atmosphere before, during, and after the 2023 general elections.
The leaders drawn from the Northwest and Northeastern states of Nigeria were taken on training and interactive engagements on dialogue and mediation for national peace held in Kano on Tuesday.
The 4-Day program is geared towards violent-free 2023 general elections in Nigeria with the enhancement of participants’ dialogue and mediation skills and platforms for addressing contentious issues, thus contributing to the prevention and mitigation of electoral-related conflicts and violence before, during, and after the polls.
Speaking, the ECOWAS Commission Programme Officer on Mediation, Directorate of Political Affairs, Dr Brown Odigie, said the commission is concerned with the situation in the country, hence the need to bring stakeholders on board.
“We are committed to a peaceful electoral process in the region and Nigeria being an important and strategic member of ECOWAS, the commission is concerned that with the findings on the happenings in the nation, one of the key recommendations is to ensure that we interact with critical stakeholders and engage them on the need for the prevention of electoral violence by the use of mediation and creating room for dialogue among political actors and stakeholders.
“More importantly also, to address contentious issues around the electoral process and to ensure that we all work together with the hope that the political actors will appreciate the commitment of ECOWAS using mediation in resolving electoral-related disputes and conflicts,” he said.
Odigie had also in an earlier statement made available on behalf of the Commission, stressed that the training and interactive exercise are also expected to help create a healthy opportunity for participants to take cognizance of and appreciate the ECOWAS Constitutional Convergence Principles and Frameworks for transparent and peaceful elections, as espoused by the 2001 supplementary protocol on democracy and good governance, as well as the commitments of ECOWAS to the processes of dialogue and mediation in resolving electoral disputes and conflicts.
The statement noted that the stakeholders are also being brought together for a brainstorm, against the backdrop of electoral contestations which have become a major source of conflicts in West Africa, with grave potential for violence, triggered or heightened by the high premium on political power in the political discourse of both politicians and their supporters.
On his part, the National Chairman of IPAC, Yabagi Sani expressed worry over how the democratic system is being driven on the path of sabotage.
“Looking at the democratic space itself and all the institutions, you will discover that the political parties produce all the other organs of governance. The onus is on us to ensure that democracy survives and serves the purpose of the citizens of the country and that cannot happen without peace. Monetization of the process is so obscene that it will ruin the purpose of democracy.
“If you allow money or violence to take over the situation, what you end up with is compromised in a manner that is not anticipated in the principle of democracy in this country.
“Money has been allowed to be used excessively and violence has not been dealt with in the manner that is supposed to because as we speak today, the bill with the Commission for electoral offences is still in the works and hasn’t been passed into law yet.”
In the same vein, ACP Daniel Amah, who represented the Commissioner of Police, Kano State Command, listed some of the causes of the election conflict in Nigeria including winner-takes-all syndrome, zero-sum approach to gaining political power, and lack of political ideology.
Amah also listed a lack of discipline by political actors, excess monetization of the polity, and too much focus on attacking personalities rather than on issues.
Also speaking, the representative of the United Nations Office in West Africa and Sahel (UNOWAS) Liaison Office in Nigeria, Dr James Aji, harped on the importance of Nigeria’s peace and stability not only to the sub-region but the whole African continent.
According to Aji, “this is because Nigeria is like the engine that drives other issues in the region. This is why, he said, UNOWAS is working with other stakeholders to ensure peaceful and credible elections in the country.
The workshop which is part of the ECOWAS‘ strategic and operational support for the country’s peaceful 2023 general elections, is a follow-up to a similar one with members of the Inter-Party Advisory Council and other relevant stakeholders from the Southwest geopolitical zone of the country held in Lagos state in November 2022.
It would be recalled that participants at the Lagos Meeting committed to peaceful general elections by echoing messages of hope, confidence, and trust in the electoral process including upholding the content and spirit of the Peace Accord signed by political parties and presidential candidates on the Prevention of Violence and Promotion of issue-based Campaigns.
The training and interactive workshops are being supported with funding from the Government of the Kingdom of Denmark under the Danish Africa Programme for Peace.
In a related development Pre–the election Fact-Finding Delegation from the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) led by the Former Chairman of the Electoral Commission in Ghana, Mr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan was in Kano.
The high-powered delegation was in the state to assess the level of preparedness and established issues ahead of the 2023 general elections.