Past Nigerian elections have been marred by violence, with the exploitation of identity politics for political gain. Previous failures to prosecute perpetrators of election violence has led to an environment with little accountability.
Ahead of the 2023 elections, our partner, The Kukah Centre, has been working with the National Peace Commitee (NPC) to engage with prominent presidential candidates and political party representatives on encouraging peaceful elections - championing issue-based campaigns, rather than divisive identity politics. They have also been running workshops with party leaders around issues such as security at polling stations, and electoral guidelines and regulations.
On 23 February, 18 presidential candidates signed a second peace accord in the capital, Abuja, agreeing to accept the outcome of the elections and to commit all party members to the support of a peaceful transition. The country's current President, Muhammadu Buhari, and other African and international leaders and diplomats attended the event.
The pact is to ensure “the conduct of free, fair, credible, transparent and verifiable elections cognisant of the need to maintain a peaceful environment before, during and after the 2023 general elections” and “to place national interest above personal and partisan concerns”.
Father Atta Barkindo is Head of Secretariat of the National Peace Committee:
“People must accept the outcome of the vote so that the country can move forward, so that progress and development can come for our people, and our people can enjoy the benefits of democracy.”
The promotion of peaceful and participatory elections has also been taking place among the electorate, led by our partners Hope Interactive and United Members of Women Advancement in Yobe and Borno States. Their focus has been on encouraging and supporting women’s participation in the election process, using radio broadcasts, workshops and street walks to reach thousands of women with information about how to collect their Permanent Voters Cards, how the electoral system works, and why their vote matters. These programmes saw an upsurge in people, and in particular women, collecting their voting cards in preparation for the elections. One female listener stated:
“I was always interested in selling my vote because I believed my vote doesn’t count, but after listening to all that you’ve said, I repent, and will henceforth vote for the person I believe has the capacity to rule appropriately.’’
Our partners have also focused on encouraging women to take an active role in politics - currently only five percent of Nigeria’s federal lawmakers are women, one of the lowest representation rates in the world. They’ve established mentorship programmes, connecting women with experience in politics, law, and civil society with young women in conflict-affected communities, to support them to become leaders for change. Fatima shehu Daya is part of the mentorship scheme:
“My knowledge of participating in politics has increased, I can even stand with confidence to educate more women to see the need to come out and vote for the right candidate so that our society can be transformed.”
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