The president, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev. Dr. Samson Ayokunle and the president, Vision Africa (VA), Bishop Sunday Onuoha have warned that elections may not hold in Nigeria come 2023 if insecurity is not addressed.
Both religious leaders stated this at the Inclusive Security Dialogue (ISD), organised by Global Peace Foundation and Vision Africa with a focus on “steps to violence-free elections” ahead of 2023.
According to the CAN president, security chiefs must educate those under them to prioritise the future of Nigeria over the selfish interests of politicians who want to use them as tools against peaceful elections.
He warned politicians to shelve their desperation to win elections and therefore advised Nigerians to take note of the money bags whose statements are that of desperation and desist from voting for such individuals.
He said, “This is the right time to do whatever we need to do to make sure that elections in 2023 are not a threat. The election that is to be won is not about any political party, it is about the future of Nigerians so if you put a mischief there because of your excessive love for your party, then you put Nigerians in great harm.
“Let us reject the money bags whose hands are soiled in corruption, who have wealth in excess that they cannot explain how they got it.
“We have the power of our votes to reject them this time around. Let us shine our eyes and not follow the crowd, let us be very deliberate when we are going to vote, don’t just follow political party; I am looking forward to the total emancipation of Nigerians to the point that we will look beyond political party when we want to vote, but the quality of the individual that each political party is presenting.
“It will go beyond ethnicity, religion, but zero in on the quality of that individual. We should look at their antecedence before committing our future into their hands with our votes.
“Insecurity, if it is not taken care of, there will be no election in 2023. In the present state we are, I see politicians more concerned about declaring interest. Which nation are you going to rule in 2023? Are you sure that the bandits and terrorists will not overwhelm us before 2023 the way things are going?
“Care must be taken to ensure that security agencies do not bamboozle anyone during the election and let us also plead with security chiefs to educate those under them not to destroy Nigeria by being used by any politician to carry out their personal interests.”
He stated that INEC must be seen to be transparent, unbiased and fair and adhere to the electoral laws strictly and not use them to manipulate or suit any individual, adding that background checks must be done for the ad-hoc staff that would be used for the elections.
He commended the government and the National Assembly for the passing of the electoral act into law which is a step in the right direction towards ensuring a free and fair election, but said that it is not enough in ensuring free and fair elections. “The party in power must be sincere in ensuring level playing ground for all contestants for the forthcoming 2023 general elections, ” he further said
The President, Vision Africa and Facilitator of the ISD, Bishop Sunday Onuoha on his part, emphasised the need to expand the list of stakeholders – leaders and influencers of the polity, in brainstorming solutions to a violence and crisis-free election.
He stressed the need to invest time in promoting a culture of peace in this time when the fortified walls and mechanism gates do not protect the elite.
He said that Nigeria under this insecurity stands the risk of not holding a fair election come 2023.
“The circulation of small arms and light weapons is contributing to the security challenge we have today. We must de-escalate tension and invest our time in promoting a culture of peace and not that of violence.
“It has become difficult to travel around the country due to insecurity. Fortified walls and highly mechanized gates do not protect the elite anymore.
“Faith leaders and traditional rulers are being kidnapped, and some are even killed. How can anyone conduct any meaningful election under this kind of insecurity?
“Poverty and unemployment could mar our elections because many have seen politics as a time to collect from the candidates.
“Our farmlands are not safe, our railways are not safe, our highways are not safe, and now, our airports are not safe either. We must be careful not to wake up one day to hear that non-state actors have blocked Mr. President from coming out of the villa.
“As of today, most of our national leaders no longer go back to their villages. Many are now Abuja-based, but even Abuja is no more a safe haven. Our fortified walls and mechanized gates will do little to ward off a well-calculated and organized band of marauders.
“We do not need a 4-year degree course of study to end the wanton destruction that threatens to destroy our heritage!
“Our children are at home and away from learning and catching up with their peers around the world, and we are politicizing their future over very petty and flimsy arguments.
“We may never be able to fully assess the psychological impact of these recurrent and counter-productive ASUU strikes, as it continues to endanger the future of our young and truncate their ambitions and life goals.
“To tackle these problems, first and foremost, we must deliberately choose to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. “Men of good conscience and consciousness must rise above ethnic sentiments and religious fanaticism to address these bedeviling challenges as our common enemy. Regardless of which region we were born in (a factor none of us could control), we all have the same basic needs, and we all feel pain and hurt the same way.
“In dealing with the security situation in Nigeria, we must stop ethnicising it. Criminals and extremists are found in every ethnic group and there are also men of good character in every ethnic group.
“Let men of goodwill from every part of our country come together for the sake of our shared humanity, because without one, the other suffers, ” the cleric said.