Imo, Bayelsa, Kogi avoid violence in tomorrow’s elections
Tomorrow, November 11, 2023, voters in Imo, Kogi and Bayelsa states, will vote in the governorship elections to determine who among the candidates of the various political parties will govern the respective states in the next four years. The elections come nine months after the last general elections, which took place in February and March […]
Tomorrow, November 11, 2023, voters in Imo, Kogi and Bayelsa states, will vote in the governorship elections to determine who among the candidates of the various political parties will govern the respective states in the next four years. The elections come nine months after the last general elections, which took place in February and March this year.
In INEC reference, these are termed off-season elections because all three states broke off the election circles following court judgements that ordered fresh elections. Although the tenure of the incumbent governors in the three states ends on different dates, INEC stated that, in line with sections 178(1) and (2) of the 1999 Constitution, which mandate that it “conduct such elections not earlier than 150 days and not later than 30 days before the expiration of the last holder of the office, the commission decided that the three elections would be held on Saturday, November 11, 2023’’.
In Bayelsa and Imo states, the incumbent governors, Duoye Diri and Hope Uzodinma, respectively, are seeking to renew their mandates, having served their first terms in office. In Kogi State, on the other hand, the incumbent Governor Yahaya Bello is giving way to a new occupant of the governorship seat, having served his mandatory two terms in office.
As a lot is at stake in the three states, the competition amongst the candidates has been keen, and this has, expectedly, generated a lot of interest across the country. Aside from the interest it has generated, we call on registered voters in these states to ensure that they come out and exercise their franchise. It must be stated that voting is one way through which we can deepen our democracy.
We also urge INEC to live up to its billing by ensuring that the elections commence in the three states as scheduled and that all staff required for the exercise are duly deployed.
But while INEC has assured that it has made arrangements to conduct the elections to the best of its ability, one area in which the electoral body has raised alarm is the spectre of insecurity accompanying the campaigns.
Ahead of the elections in the three states, there have been reports of violence and threats of further violence by agents of the contending political parties and their candidates. In Bayelsa, alarmed at the threat of violence in the elections, the Bayelsa Traditional Rulers Council issued a statement saying: ‘‘We do not think that law enforcement institutions should allow political actors to violate all the laws of the land and walk away free in the name of politics’’.
Similarly, Kogi State has been identified as one of the states in the country with a high possibility of volatility during elections. In the coming elections, the tempo of violence heightened as the campaigns progressed. In Imo State, the pervasive atmosphere in the buildup to the elections is one of fear and anxiety.
INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmud Yakubu, speaking on the elections, said, “The three states of Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi are not the easiest states in Nigeria to conduct elections. The difficult geographical terrain and prevailing insecurity are compounded by negative mobilisation by political actors. Violence and other undemocratic activities such as vote-buying, attacks on election officials, and disruption of the electoral process must stop.’’
It is a good thing that peace accords have been signed by either the candidates or their running mates in the respective states. We urge all parties to take that act seriously. They should avoid violence in whatever form and enjoin their supporters to be peaceful before, during and after the elections. Elections must not be seen as a do-or-die affair. Anyone who loses tomorrow can contest during another circle of elections. The most important thing is that the choice of the people is allowed to prevail.
We call on all stakeholders, especially traditional rulers, religious leaders, and civil society organisations, to speak to the candidates and voters about the need to comport themselves appropriately. We also call on security operatives to be neutral.
They must carry out their duty with a high sense of professionalism. They must note that they are not in any of those states to do the bidding of any politician, but strictly to protect the lives and property of all citizens, and that must be strictly adhered to. They should not prioritise any candidate above the other.
We also call on President Tinubu, in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief and chief security officer of the nation, to regard this as a litmus test for him by ensuring that these first set of elections under his tenure are conducted in a free and fair manner in line with democratic best practices.