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Curtailing electoral violence

The killings and destruction that trailed the 2019 primary elections in most parts of the country present a perturbing contradiction to the electoral aspiration of majority of the citizens as tension continue to rise about the general elections amidst a deeply tensed security environment and an already ailing economy.

Besides, the recent wave of incendiary remarks emanating from political elites has further enliven the palpable tension and anxiety of both local and International Electoral Stakeholders.

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Aggressive languages and hate speech between and among political parties and supporters; rumours of politically motivated attacks; violent activities of politically-charged youth; drug abuse are usually the absurdity that prelude elections in this part of the world.

The role of political elite in orchestrating and inciting election violence is well profound in our electoral landscape. In reality, they place high premium on electoral fraudulence rather than free and fair contest.

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Despicably, the altitude of impunity in the country has emboldened this aberration. With the flurry of crimes escorting elections in recent years, it is intriguing to note that members of the political class responsible for instigating this plethora of violence as well as their foot-soldiers who undermine the electoral process by perpetrating these violent acts are never dragged before the law. This portends that mayhem has occupied a significant portion in our electoral process.

By desecrating the very essence of democratic principle and bequeathing common perpetrators of violence the economy and political artillery of the country, a fundamental disjuncture between the civil society and the state is activated thereby allowing corruption and impunity reign supreme. This, perhaps, is the radioactive by-product of some structural and attitudinal dislocations in our society as many of our leaders are products of violence-prone election.

Unless we improve the metrics for evaluating preventive measure and address the underlying drivers of conflict, elections will remain a flashpoint for violence and tension in the country. The argument of building up the material capacity of the security sector is only advisable in cases where a well-trained and equipped police force presents a domestic guarantee for election security rather than a tool of manipulation in the hands of an authoritarian incumbent.

For instance, in spite of the heavy presence of security personnel in recent elections in the country, there were tenable cases of assaults so much that security officers were indicted of intimidating voters. Such is the outright criminality that has come to characterize Nigeria’s politics and the extent to which officials and institutions of government accept, encourage and participate in those abuses.

Consequently, the propensity of violence increases when security officials abet electoral injustice. Nonetheless, election as an irreducible feature of democratic governance can sow the seeds of good governance if properly managed; it is the nexus and conduit-pipe through which a progressive society is attained where accountability, social justice, rule of law, gender equality and quality leadership is deepened.

However, media organisations and consortium of civil society organizations have a key role to play in reducing election-related conflict dynamics and promoting a peaceful electoral environment. If given the civic space to participate and accorded the opportunity to express their objections, they bear the magic touch of ensuring that an electoral process is transparent, inclusive and peaceful by raising awareness of youths, women and other electorates to clearly understand the power repose in them in reforming governance.

By doing this, Nigerians would have a fore and deeper knowledge of causes, manifestations, dimensions and consequences of electoral crisis.

Beyond this 2019 general elections, an intensified synergy-building, networks and partnerships between peace building players, CSOs /other development partners, the private sector and Government officials that will provide an in-depth understanding of conflict prevention, management and mediation techniques. This constructive peace building initiative will overthrow the conflict suppressing system and enrich electoral stakeholders with decision- making in order to reduce the tendencies of tensions, malice and grudges among political parties, politicians and political supporters.

Finally, to change the narrative of our democratic adventure, citizens must display undaunted desire to challenge fissiparous forces that war against electoral orderliness.

Kehinde Akinfenwa, Lagos.

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