Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
As the nation prepares for the forthcoming 2019 general elections, the SING Foundation has asked the government and other stakeholders to ensure violence-free elections, particularly in the Niger Delta region.
Speaking, on Wednesday, in Abuja, a member of the Board of Sing Foundation, Barr. Kayode Ajulo said the big issue in Nigeria at the moment is the 2019 elections.
Ajulo added that with the primaries concluded and the legal ban on campaigns set to be lifted, one major issue in the Niger Delta region is election violence.
He said based on the trends over the years, the state and non-state political actors must pay more than usual attention to the issue of electoral violence, knowing that for an election to be credible, there must be mass participation and the votes cast must be allowed to count.
Ajulo’s words, “However, one major hindrance to effective participation is the threat of violence which makes people afraid of casting their votes, or where they manage to vote, they do not do their civic duty of ensuring their votes count.
“The challenge is before all actors and stakeholders in the political process, especially considering the recent challenges in Rivers and Bayelsa states where there have been incidences of violence, leading up to inconclusive elections and outright cancellation.
“Seeing that the ultimate aim of elections is to reflect the wishes and interests of the long-suffering people, anything short of giving them the confidence to cast their votes in a free and fair process would be a robbery against them.
“All and sundry, therefore, owe it a duty to ensure that the process is credible.”
Ajulo further said in ensuring violence-free elections, the government must ensure that security agencies are intelligently deployed to give the people a discernible sense of security rather than the norm of intimidation by the security agencies that are creation of law and funded from taxpayers’ money.
Ajulo also said security agencies must at all times carry out their responsibility with a consciousness that they are created to serve the masses and not to collude with politicians and their thugs to discredit the elections.
He also said politicians should ensure that their campaigns are issues-based, aimed at pointing out their plans and programmes.
Ajulo added that the people of Niger Delta must continue to show their courage in participating in their numbers and work with relevant actors to ensure their votes count and reflect their will.
In her remarks, the Director of Research, SING Foundation, Dr. Itari Turner, said the nation have an emergency situation at hand.
Turner added that addressing the emergency start by fully engaging with the electoral process and the laws of the land.
Turner further said the Niger Delta question is talked about around Nigeria and beyond, saying it remained poorly understood as it is framed within the narrative of struggle for a larger share of resources gotten from the region.
According to Turner, “Imperfect the system may be, but we must constructively engage it to build the homeland of our dreams that fully takes advantage of the limitless opportunities that remain deposited within.”