The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Edo State, Johnson Alalibo, has expressed concern over incidents of political violence in the state ahead of the September 19 governorship election, cautioning the youths to avoid being used to perpetrate violence. He said to promote democracy, we must promote peace.
Speaking on Wednesday as a guest of honour during the “Vote, Not Fight Campaign,” organised by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) at Best Western Homeville Hotel, Government Reservation Area (GRA), Benin-City, Alalibo regretted that “In Edo State, we have started seeing untoward activities by political actors and operators. The youths are more vulnerable to be used for electoral violence. If we want free, fair, credible and peaceful election in Edo State on September 19, the youths must shun violence during the campaigns and the poll. The politicians should avoid offensive language in their jingles and campaigns. To deepen democracy, the election must be devoid of violence.”
Alalibo also urged the security agencies and other stakeholders to continue to support the electoral body, while lauding NDI for the timely campaign.
In his contribution, Edo State Commissioner of Police, Johnson Babatunde Kokumo, stated that INEC and security agencies were on hot seat in order to get the September 19 election right, thereby promoting democracy and moving Nigeria forward. He called for credible information from members of the public, about criminals and illegal activities.
Kokumo, who was represented by the Assistant Commissioner of Police, ACP, in charge of the state’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID), Ayo Faniyan, also disclosed that Edo police command was ready for the election, with the officers and men to be neutral, as always. He admonished all stakeholders to join hands to promote democracy.
NDI’s Senior Programme Manager, Bem Aga, in his goodwill message, disclosed that the institute was to promote and strengthen democracy, and pleaded with Nigerians, particularly Edo residents, to vote and not fight. He cautioned that the crucial election should not be seen as war. While urging politicians not to use the youths for violence, Aga admonished young people to always be smart enough to remember that they represent the future of the society. He tasked them to be at the forefront of advocacy for non-violent elections and to mobilise their peers to ensure peace.
The NDI chief declared that there would not be development without peace and that nobody would benefit from violence. He called on Edo residents, especially the youths, to choose peace and stay away from violence, hate speech, misinformation, disinformation and fake news that could lead to violence.
In his welcome remarks, the Executive Director of Connected Advocacy for Empowerment and Youth Development Initiative, Israel Orekha, noted that the organisation decided to partner NDI to ensure violence-free September 19 election in Edo.
Orekha said “Electoral violence has remained a major concern for the people of Edo State since Nigeria’s return to democratic rule in 1999. Competing political interests have been consistent with their approach of recruiting Edo youths to settle political scores. With just a month to the September 19 off-cycle governorship election in Edo State, many people have reasons to fear that the election may not be peaceful.
“Government-related challenges like high unemployment, under-employment and poverty rates have made many Nigerian youths disillusioned and unwilling to participate in political and electoral processes. These need to be corrected through civic and voter education.” Orekha also reiterated that Nigeria’s youths had been victims and perpetrators of electoral violence over the years, alleging that youth supporters of the leading governorship candidates in Edo State had been complicit in the acts of violence committed so far.
Edo State Director of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), Grace Eseka, who was represented by the agency’s Assistant Director, Political/Civic, Ethics and Value, Ose Akhahon, revealed that officials of NOA had been moving round the state’s 18 LGAs to preach non-violence and credible election on September 19.