The Nigerian government must as a matter of urgency rally all stakeholders to ensure better security in the country ahead of the 2023 general elections.
This was the summary of contributions at the weekend when scholars, security experts and election managers spoke during an online symposium with the theme: 2023 General Elections: Enhancing Internal Security for Credible Polls.
Speakers at the event included a former National Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Lai Olurode, a Professor of Political Science at the Usman Dan Fodio University, Sokoto; Ilufoye Sarafa Ogundiya; a Senior Research Fellow at the Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research, Hakeem Tijani and the Commandant General of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, Abubakar Ahmed Audi.
At the virtual event which was organized in honour of the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola who clocked 65, Ogundiya, in his paper, averred that Nigeria must as a matter of urgency, allow democracy to make sense to the people for them to embrace peaceful elections.
He said, “Where democracy is yet to make sense, elections won’t make any sense,” adding that the general insecurity in the country and especially in the North poses a major challenge to credible conduct of elections.
Ogundiya alluded to a recent alarm raised by the Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, Mahmood Yakubu, over the threats to the exercise.
Giving statistics, Ogundiya said between 2011 and 2021, 58,562 persons were killed by terrorists in seven Northern states of Borno, Zamfara, Kaduna, Adamawa, Yobe, Benue and Plateau.
Saying the next elections would pose serious challenge to the Nigerian state, Ogundiya said the Nigerian insecurity has many dimensions which he listed as economic, psychological, emotional and political dimensions.
“There is a problem on the ground which we cannot run away from,” he said, noting that “There is no region in Nigeria where there is no security challenge.”
For the coming elections, he listed the implications as increased apathy, disenfranchisement, poor voters’ turnout and election management complications.
The insecurity in some parts of the country, according to him, must be looked into especially the case of what they call “ungoverned spaces.”
“How do you conduct elections in ungoverned places?” The professor of political science demanded.
He said even the lives of the security men themselves must be secured before they can be expected to provide security across the land.
He said though INEC might say it is ready for elections, a lot would depend on the assurances that the security agencies can provide.
“How about election materials themselves? INEC is not responsible for security of its materials. As far as security of materials is concerned, INEC has no control,” Ogundiya said
In his submission, Olurode, who served as National Commissioner of INEC, said security forms part of what he called “critical stakeholders of election.”
“As far as I know, I think INEC is 85% ready for the election. But INEC has security challenge to face, when you consider the number of policemen to secure poling units. The police in Nigeria are overwhelmed,” he said
Apart from security agencies, Olurode listed other critical stakeholders to elections management as political parties, voters and the courts.
Olurode said economic insecurity also stands in the way of credibility of electoral processes adding that voters who are vulnerable are prone to financial inducements to change their political decisions.
Adding that the courts are also a threat to proper conducts of elections, Olurode said many Nigerians erroneously believe that the courts are manned by people who have no political biases.
“That is not true. When political parties are done with their things about primaries and all that, where do you run to? Is it not the courts? That makes the court an integral part of election management in Nigeria,” he said.
While speaking, Hakeem Tijani of NISER, Ibadan, said recent surveys have demonstrated a progressive growth in apathy by Nigerians to elections.
He said a recent study showed that of many African countries, Nigeria came out worst in rate of apathy with 34% in turn out.
The Commandant General of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, Audi, in his presentation, said no country is crime free urging Nigerians not to give up in the face of insecurity.
Audi said under the present administration, the battle against banditry and terrorism has been fought relentlessly.
He said though terrorism and banditry have contributed their quota to the anxieties over conduct of 2023 general elections, politicians themselves have fueled the crisis that make elections looked terribly challenged.
Audi said, “What type of politics are we practicing? We practise adversarial politics and unless we fashion out our own type of politics, we have to embrace hygiene in politics. We must drop prebendal politics and work on our strategy that will help the economy to grow.”
The NSCDC boss said his corps stays neutral in all election issues adding that “as election managers, people need to see that we are neutral as managers and we must not be seen to be partisan and expected to provide security for everybody.
“On our part, we are ready and through our platforms, we are ready to provide a level-playing field for all voters, citizens,” Audi stated