With exactly one month to the general election, a coalition of civil society organisations under the aegis of West African Democracy Solidarity Network on Wednesday stated that Nigeria must avoid unnecessary agitation during the electoral process.
The organisation, a coalition of 30 civil society and other civic organisations in the ECOWAS region, included the Center for Democratic Development and YIAGA Africa.
According to them, conducting a free, fair and credible poll would ensure that there was no outbreak of violence and agitations in any part of the country.
The coalition also called on the Independent National Electoral Commission to ensure credible conduct of the exercise through transparency.
The coordinator of WADEMOS, Kop’ep Dabugat, made the observations in Abuja during an interactive session between members of the WADEMOS Election Working Group and journalists ahead of the 2023 general elections.
The session was part of the coalition’s three-day solidarity mission to Nigeria, from January 25 to 27, ahead of the February 25 presidential elections.
While stating that the 2023 general elections in Nigeria were crucial not just for Nigeria alone but for West Africa and the African continent, he said Nigeria must get it right for the sake of the continent.
Debugat said, “We see that this is a very unique election in West Africa, given the number of voter turnout, which is even more than the population of several countries. So the implication is that, once anything goes wrong in Nigeria, it affects the whole West Africa.
“As it is said, when Nigeria sneezes, the whole West Africa catches cold. So, it is important that we ensure that these elections move smoothly. We have a free, fair elections so that people do not agitate unnecessarily and violence does not erupt.
“This is because if violence erupts, we have a serious problem on our hands, because it would be something the whole of West Africa and in fact, Africa continent cannot contain. So it’s important that the election stakeholders get their acts right and ensure that we have a free, fair, credible elections.”
While expressing concern over the growing insecurity in the country, he urged political parties, candidates, and their supporters to eschew violence and seek positions peacefully.
“Politicians should make peace the centrepiece of their political campaign. They shouldn’t be violent and should ensure that they give their supporters the right education on how to vote”, he said.
The coalition also urged publishers and media owners to invest in fact-checking of news stories to mitigate misinformation, disinformation and hate speech.