By Nathaniel Gana
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has called on the National Peace Committee (NPC) to engage with political actors well ahead of the 2023 General Election to minimise incidences of electoral violence.
Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, made the call on Wednesday 23rd March 2022 when he received a delegation from the NPC, comprising representatives of the Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs and the Kofi Annan Foundation, led by the Head of the NPC Secretariat, Reverend Father Atta Barkindo.
The INEC Chairman, who appreciated the NPC’s contributions to peaceful elections through the Peace Accords initiative introduced in 2015, also noted that nations are lucky when they have moral voices, whose authority does not necessarily draw from statutory provisions but exists purely in the form of moral persuasions to which citizens listen.
“That is why I think it is a big plus for us as a nation to have a national peace committee and the calibre of people involved in it,” he said.
Prof. Yakubu averred that one of the ways the General Abdulsalam Abubakar-led Committee could help the Commission mitigate security challenges is by engaging with some political actors.
According to him, while signing the Peace Accord on the eve of elections remains a brilliant idea, “some of those who perpetrate violence on election day are not necessarily candidates in the election, but people engaged by beneficiaries of the election,” he said, adding, “so if we can engage with the actors early enough, I hope that we will be able to turn a new leaf in that respect”.
Recalling how the NPC started in 2015 and its impact on the peaceful conduct of political actors, the INEC Chairman said, “when they (Peace Committee) started in 2015, it was an excellent initiative, supported by not just people in Nigeria but by people from so many countries around the world, including the late Kofi Annan himself. He was here for the signing of the Peace Accord in 2015”.
He continued: “We thought that we should replicate it in the 2019 general election and we did. We then started a discussion to see if we could devolve the Peace Accord. At that time, our concern was with the incendiary statements not only on social media but even in the traditional media, coming from the politicians, particularly on the Edo governorship election in September 2020. And the Peace Committee for the first time agreed to devolve.
“We were with them in Benin for the Edo governorship election, and very happily, I must say, instead of the chaos and anarchy that people expected would follow the outcome of the election, as soon as we declared the result of the election, people started dancing on the streets of Benin. To a large extent, I attribute that to the role played by the Peace Accord”.
Prof. Yakubu further implored the NPC to play its traditional role for the Ekiti and Osun Governorship elections scheduled for 18th June and 16th 2022, respectively.
He said: “We will keep working with the National Peace Committee on how we can deepen this engagement and conversation. But, let’s put out the fire when we notice something smouldering before it turns into a big fire”.
Earlier, Bishop Kukah’s representative, Reverend Father Barkindo, appreciated the support of the Prof. Yakubu-led Commission towards cascading the Peace Accord from the national level to the states. He noted that the support and successes endeared the Kofi Anan Foundation and the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs to the NPC.
He said his delegation was at the Commission to deepen the existing relationship between the NPC and INEC. He also sought to know some of the Commission’s challenges in its plans for the 2023 general election and how the NPC could assist the Commission in monitoring social media patterns.
The team members from the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and Kofi Annan Foundation include Senior Political Adviser Nicolas De Torrente, Electoral Adviser Rahel Brugger, and Senior Adviser Sebastian Brack.