By Friday Idachaba, Lokoja.
PASTORAL Resolve (PARE), a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) has called on Nigerians, especially youths, to eschew political and electoral violence that could adversely affect the conduct of free, fair, credible and acceptable elections in the country.
Programme Manager of PARE, an NGO implementing the Community Initiatives to Promote Peace (CIPP) Project in Kogi and five other states, Muhammad Munji Sanusi, made the call on Thursday in Lokoja.
It was at a one-day Town Hall Stakeholders Sensitization meeting on Prevention of Violence Before, During and After February 25 General Elections, organised by PARE under the CIPP Project, funded by USAID with Mercy Corps providing technical support.
Sanusi reminded Nigerians that election processes were meant to provide opportunity for the citizens to make informed choices in selecting leaders to whom they would surrender their collective mandate to provide quality leadership.
He said election periods should not be seen to present opportunities to unleash violence from incubated conflicts as it was neither a time to kill or cause harm but a process, for selecting leaders that would lead.
The Programme Manager said that with about 29 days to the elections, community members, the electorates and particularly, youths in Kogi should opt for and embrace peace and look forward to a peaceful conduct.
According to him, the aim of the town hall meeting is to build capacities and develop a strategy for communities to adopt in ensuring that the upcoming elections are peaceful saying, “Our major objective in the CIPP is promotion of peace in the communities.”
Sanusi however observed that ethnic and religious affiliations have dominated the Nigerian political landscape for too long without any positive impact and urged politicians and the electorate alike, to steer away from the centrifugal pump that is further dividing the country.
Also speaking at the occasion, Mr Hamza Aliyu, Executive Director, Initiative for Grassroots Advancement (INGRA) said that violence during elections could be mitigated by addressing local dynamics especially in lopsided opportunities for representation.
Aliyu said that the Programme was timely as it tended to build the capacities of community members to appreciate and deal with electoral violence related issues when they arise.
He urged them to avoid creating enmity over political leanings adding that elections come and go but the communities remain and individual relationships also remain.
Mr Israel Edwin Okpe, Senior Programmes Officer of PARE said the CIPP project was being implemented in six states of the Federation including Kogi, Benue and Plateau in North Central; Kano, Kaduna and Katsina in the North-West.
He said that the participants to the town hall meeting were drawn from members of Peace committees in Bakumba, Gadan-Sagari, Adankolo and Lokongoma communities in Lokoja Local Government and were being sensitized on the need to be peaceful during elections.
“Election violence affects them all directly or indirectly. So, we are using this avenue to call on our community members to be peaceful. This is because when people are not informed they tend to take laws into their hands”, he said.