As Nigeria enters the final stages of campaigning and preparation for the upcoming general elections, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission has called on all political aspirants and political parties in Nigeria, especially in South-East and South-South geological zones to more than ever before embrace peace and works for a fair outcome of the 2023 elections in Nigeria.
The Head of Mediation and Coordination of Regional Political Affairs, MCRA, ECOWAS Commission, Dr. Onyinye Onwuka made the call on Wednesday in Owerri during the ongoing Mediation and Dialogue training for political actors in Southeast and South-South Zones, in support with the Inter-Party Advisory Council, IPAC and other stakeholders.
Onwuka who spoke on behalf of the President of the Commission, Amb. Omar Alieu Touray; and the Commissioner – Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Ambassador Abdel – Fatau Musah, at the fourth and final of the series of training and interactive engagements, also tasked the political actors to renew their commitments to upholding the contents of the signed Peace Accord and the Electoral Act and Guidelines, stressing that these are what would guarantee peaceful and credible polls.
This, she explained, was part of strategic support and intervention toward a peaceful 2023 general elections in Nigeria.
Onwuka also professed the preparedness of the ECOWAS Commission to sustain her partnership with relevant stakeholders in ensuring the prevention of election-related conflicts and violence, not only in Nigeria but the entire West African region.
To this end, she said they are prioritizing creating opportunities and platforms for such interactions to be held which she noted would include supporting initiatives aimed at equipping stakeholders with the necessary skills and competencies for the management of election-related disputes through inclusive dialogue and mediation.
In the same vein, the National Chairman of IPAC, Engr. Yabagi Sani agreed with the ECOWAS Commission on the importance of Nigeria to West Africa, and the entire world, noting that all Africans and the world look up to Nigeria to deliver a peaceful, free, fair, transparent, and credible election.
According to Sani, ECOWAS is being proactive and alive to its responsibilities through the dialogue and mediation training focused toward peaceful 2023 elections.
He said, “So like I said, this training is very timely and appropriate to prepare various political parties and key players in the exercise of the 2023 elections on the need to always go the way of peace through dialogue. This is because once we can communicate; you find out that problems are largely solved.”
He assured that the participants who are mostly political actors would internalize the essence of the training and work towards free, fair, and credible polls in the country.
On his part, the Head of the Department, of Election and Party Monitoring, EPM, Mr. Victor O. Nwokeabia, who represented the Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, Imo state, Prof. Sylvia Uchenna Agu, described the program as fundamentally crucial to the in-coming election, noting that no meaningful election could take place in an environment prone to violence.
“I believe that after this event, you will all go home, and inform your candidates and members of your political parties on the importance of alternative dispute resolution,” he stated.
Nwokeabia assured that INEC was ready to conduct a violent-free election, assuring that it would no longer be business as usual with BVAS.
He added that other electronic devices procured by INEC for free and fair elections would be used to give Nigerians the best election this year.
Also speaking, the commissioner of police in Imo State, CP Mohammed Barde who spoke through CSP Mike Abattam assured that the security agencies would leave no stone unturned to contribute their quota for a credible election.
He however pleaded with the media for accurate, objective, and unbiased reportage of the election, avoidance of hate speeches by politicians, and the need to educate the people on their rights as established in the constitution.
According to him, “As we prepare for the polls, there must be information flow by the media during the pre-election, election itself, and post-election.”
The workshop featured lectures on Dialogue and Mediation processes for the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC)– Nigeria by Professor Joy Onyesoh, Dr. Onyinye Onwuka, and Dr. Brown Odige as well as a goodwill message from Ambassador Musa Sani, Nuhu- -Nigeria’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to ECOWAS through the Senior Councillor, Permanent Mission of Nigeria to ECOWAS; Mr. Makwe Samuel Victor. This brings to an end the series of the trainings aimed at peacefully 2023 polls having taken place in Lagos for the Southwest, Kano for the Northwest and parts of Northeast, and Jos for North Central and parts of Northeast.