Ahead of the September 28 commencement of campaigns, the European Union (EU) yesterday cautioned politicians to avoid hate speeches and other actions capable of affecting the outcome of next year’s elections.
It also enjoined politicians not to interfere in the activities of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
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The union which yesterday launched a €39m support fund for strengthening Nigeria’s democracy, said next year’s poll was a pivotal moment in the nation’s history.
The launch of the fund known as Phase II of the EU Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGN) marked the closure of the first phase.
The programme is meant to support the government and key stakeholders, including the Electoral Management Bodies (EMBs), the National Assembly, political parties, judiciary, media, Civil Society Organisations(CSOs), and security agencies.
While Phase I of the programme implemented from 2017 to 2022, coincided with the 2015-2019 and 2019-2023 electoral cycles, Phase II will cover the 2023-2027 electoral cycle.
The admonition by the EU and the launch of the second phase of the support fund coincided with the Federal Government’s reassurance of its commitment to free and fair elections in the country.
Head of the EU delegation to Nigeria and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Samuela Isopi, said politicians should make their campaigns issue-based and take a firm stance against violence and hate speeches
Isopi said: “We must all support and respect the fundamentals as INEC fulfills its constitutional mandate. INEC must be allowed to operate free from outside pressure, and in turn, must demonstrate full neutrality and professionalism.
“Tremendous progress has been achieved. The new electoral act is a major step forward and its full implementation together with the technical reforms introduced by INEC have the potential to make the 2023 general election a milestone in Nigeria’s democratic history.
“We hope that everybody will make the right choices for Nigeria. The EU is ready to do its part. Nigerian authorities have already invited the EU to deploy an Election Observation Mission, as we have consistently and regularly done since 1999.” ,
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Stating that the outcome of the elections in 2023 was for Nigerians to decide, she maintained that Nigeria had the responsibility to lead and inspire other democracies in Africa.
“As the largest democracy in Africa, elections in Nigeria matter. They matter to Nigeria and Nigerians, they also matter for Africa as their outcome will be watched and felt well beyond its borders,” the EU boss added.
Isopi also said that the EU was “particularly keen to see greater participation of youths, women, and people with disabilities,
“The mobilisation we have been witnessing across the country, especially among the youth to register in view of the next elections is a strong sign. it is a message from the Nigerians, from the youth in particular, that they believe in democracy.
“It is also a sign of trust in the electoral process that has made tremendous progress over the past few years and months, thanks to the reforms and the technical innovations introduced by INEC to make elections more transparent and more credible, and to reassure voters that their vote count and will be respected,” she said.
INEC Chairman. Mahmood Yakubu applauded the support of international development partners in enhancing the training and capacity building of officials and stakeholder engagements for pa eaceful elections.
Yakubu added that “advertisements will soon be placed in national newspapers and the commission’s website to invite applications from interested domestic organisations to observe the same election.”
Yakubu’s predecessor, Attahiru Jega , who raised concerns over the “do and die attitude” of political parties and politicians, called on all stakeholders to ensure free, fair, and credible elections in the country.
He said: “One of the major challenges which we need to address related to the behavior and disposition of politicians, and political parties,
“We have come a long way from both sides in terms of upscaling the integrity of elections but when we reviewed the attitude, disposition, and the inclination of our politicians and the political parties, we find that really a lot more needs to be done. in respect of due process, mobilisation of ethnic and religious identities, how money is used negatively in electoral processes, and how youths who ought to be actively involved in politics are engaged in violent participation in our political processes.
“The politicians need to change their mindset and engage the electoral mindset that elections must not be won by hook or crook else, the challenges will continue.”
Fed. Govt restates commitment to free, fair polls
The Federal Government yesterday restated its commitment to free and fair elections next year.
It, therefore, urged Nigerians to douse the tension surrounding the polls which will commence on February 25.
Nigerians, said the government, should take a cue from the recent elections in Kenya where the loser approached the court to seek redress instead of resorting to self-help.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, stated this during the finals of a Polo tournament at the Keffi Polo Ranch, Keffi, Nasarawa State.
He said: “On the coming elections, the only responsible thing for the people to do is to make sure that they register o vote so that their voices may be heard.
“People are called upon to avoid anything that will further aggravate the already tense situation we are in as a country.
“We should take a cue from what just happened in Kenya where a declaration was made at the end of an election and instead of resorting to self-help the loser went to court and the court had the opportunity to give its verdict and the loser accepted the verdict in the interest of their nation. I think that is a very good lesson that we should imbibe here.
“At the end of the exercise in 2023, there will obviously be a winner. So, the loser must either accept the loss in good faith or approach the Court to be heard.”
Mustapha described the Osun State governorship election in which the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) lost to the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) as a testament to Federal Government’s readiness to be neutral next year.