ELECTIONS are important events in a democracy. They provide citizens with an opportunity to choose freely their political leaders.
ALTHOUGH participatory politics provides better alternatives in leadership choices, underlying tensions in a society and high-stake competition also results in violent and fraudulent elections.
IN the light of this, therefore, responsible societies desirous of growth and development evolve measures in their democratic systems, particularly electioneering campaigns that will ensure peaceful, free and fair elections.
THE Nigerian system, however, has not yet developed to this level. Often, the transition periods, which cover party primaries and general elections are fraught with undemocratic practices that tend to threaten the system, and the existence of the country as a united and independent nation.
UNDERSTANDING this, therefore, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, at the start of the ongoing democratic transition, thought out measures that will reposition the system and set it for accelerated growth.
INEC made it a standard practice for all political parties and their presidential candidates to sign peace accords ahead of the campaigns. The peace deal was sealed with the General Abdusalami Abubakar-led National Peace Committee at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, and it was for all political parties and their presidential candidates.
THE intent was to make political actors to shun actions that could threaten the peace of the nation and strengthen democratic governance as the nation heads to another round of elections.
COMMON issues of concern as experienced in past elections especially in the digital age are the rising level of fake news and misinformation in the country, personality attacks, use of foul language in speeches and songs, as well as expression of religious and tribal sentiments.
President Mohammadu Buhari also observed: “The rise of fake news and misinformation continue to pose significant threat to the pattern of democracy in Nigeria,” and that, “democracy in the country has shifted focus away from issue-based campaigns to amplifying the potentials for personal attacks, insults, and incitement.” “It has also significantly diminished the civility and decency in public discourse and debate”.
WHILE we restate the ugliness of these practices, we make haste to say the 2023 general election is more than an election, it is an opportunity to serve Nigeria, to defend Nigeria and to uphold her unity and progress.
All Nigerians, political parties, politicians, security agencies, INEC and all stakeholders should therefore ensure that Nigeria is placed first above any other consideration. Thus, the continued existence and unity of the country must be considered sacrosanct.
INEC, and all stakeholders must be conscious of destructive tendencies of personal attacks, insults and incitement, fake news, and should take decisive measures against such practices to halt the trend.
THIS is important because if we fail now we may not have the opportunity again as a nation, and at best, we might be forced to start it all over again. Therefore, everything must be done to support the National Peace Committee, INEC and other agencies involved in the elections to ensure peaceful, free and fair elections in Nigeria this year.
LET all refrain from name calling, personal insults and character assassination, as well as promotion of fake news. The contribution of everyone is thus needed to deepen our democracy.