Today, September 28, 2022, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, will formally blow the whistle for the commencement of the campaigns towards the 2023 general elections. Political parties and their candidates will be free to come out openly and solicit for votes.
What we need is an atmosphere of free canvassing, safe meetings and soap-boxing. A gun attack on a political party’s meeting venue in Enugu by hooded gunmen surfaced on the social media. It was a worrisome reminder of the spate of unsolved political assassinations which claimed the lives of Chief Bola Ige, Chief Marshall Harry, Chief Aminasoari Dikibo, Chief Uche Ogbonnaya, OGB; Funsho Williams and others between 1999 and 2007.
Apart from the post-election violence which claimed many innocent lives in the North in 2011 and the gruesome murder by arson of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Woman Leader, Salome Abuh, in Kogi State in November 2019, we have had relatively peaceful campaigns and elections in the past decade.
We remind all political parties, candidates and their supporters to respect the constitutional right to peaceful and lawful assembly, association and propagation of political views of all Nigerians in all parts, irrespective of their political parties, ideologies and parts of the country the proponents are perceived to come from.
Nobody has any right to deprive any candidate the right to freely canvass for votes or support in any part of the country. If we allow anti-democratic elements to disrupt electioneering activities in any part of the country, it might lead to retaliatory measures which will not bode well for free and peaceful campaigns.
We must not yield to the temptations of self-help as this will breed anarchy. It will also worsen inter-ethnic and regional hatred which are weapons that evil politicians and leaders have used to perpetuate themselves in power at the expense of good and accountable governance.
After all, at the end of every election, the winners hypocritically sue for “peace and unity” though they rode on the crest of violence, religious, regional and ethnic divisions during the campaigns.
We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to lead the charge towards safe, free and fair elections in 2023. He owes it to Nigerians to ensure a peaceful, orderly and smooth transition to the next government. He should be a statesman with eyes on history and not a partisan politician. Nigerians have given him his coveted two terms of office. It is his turn to pay back by ensuring that the coming elections are better than the 2015 polls that brought him to power.
The police and security agencies should quickly apprehend the hoodlums behind the Enugu gun attack. If they and their supporters are allowed to get away with it, gun violence could take the centre stage.
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