Fears of Nigerians over the fate of the 2023 General Elections amidst insecurity scourge has apparently begun to surface with pointers of threats. Resounding notations of the 2023 General Elections projected to suffer disturbing glitches by insecurity menace have been taking course, as many fear the prevailing situations if left unchecked, would bastardise the processes.
Touches of these threats may seem not to be a facade as bellicose actions from illegal state actors have begun to take course. Imo state on Thursday, April 14, 2022, had a reflection of such fear as report revealed how hoodlums numbering over four stormed the Ihitte Uboma local government area, shooting dead a staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), named Okorie Anthony, at the venue of the ongoing Continuous Voters Registration (CVR) exercise. Report revealed from a viral video that the hoodlums said the actions were a signal message that there will be no 2023 election. The development has led to bringing to halt the exercise in the local government area, among others, in the State.
INEC, National Commissioner and Chairman of the Information and education committee, Mr Festus Okoye in a statement in Owerri confirming the sordid development, said the incident happened at Nkwo Ihitte (PU 004) in Amakohia ward (RA 02), adding that two other staff were still missing. “The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has suspended the continuous voter’s registration exercise in Ihette Uboma Local Government Area of Imo state. This is sequel to the report of the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Francis Ezeonu, to the effect that on the 14 April 2022, a staff of the commission Mr Anthony Okorie, involved in the ongoing CVR, exercise was shot dead by unknown gunmen at Nkwo Ihitte (PU 004) in Amakohia ward (RA 02) of Ihitte Uboma local government area of the state. The REC, further reported that the state office is making efforts to locate the whereabouts of two remaining staff involved in the registration. Before this incident, the commission has suspended the CVR, in Orsu and Njaba local government areas of the state, on account of insecurity while the exercise is taking place only in the INEC LGA office in Oru East, Oru West, Orlu, and Ohaji/Egbema local government areas of the state,” the Statement read.
Stakeholders have not ceased raising alarm over the threats that insecurity poses for the 2023 General Elections. It would be recalled that concerns over insecurity in the Country have been raised by INEC on the threats that the scourge could pose to the management of electoral processes. On Monday, 1st, February, 2022, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had expressed worries over the challenges that insecurity may pose to elections in 2023, if not addressed. The INEC National Commissioner, Information and Voter Education, Bar. Festus Okoye at the opening ceremony of a two-day workshop for the Commission’s staff of Voter Education and Publicity including the heads of Departments and Publicity Affairs Officers from the Northern States on Strategic Communications and Operationalization of the Communication Policy facilitated by the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES-Nigeria), had said: “As we move closer to the 2023 general election, all the critical stakeholders and the security agencies must resolve to degrade and or neutralise the security threats across the federation. Our people must be assured that they can vote in a peaceful atmosphere. The Chairman of the Commission has pointed out and consistently emphasised that the current level of insecurity in the country remains the greatest and most potent threat to the conduct of free, fair, and transparent elections in the country.”
The Christian Association of Nigeria, (CAN) had in March lamented insecurity in the country, identifying it as the biggest threat to the 2023 General Elections. CAN President, Revd. Samson Ayokunle, had in March when a delegation of the European Union led by the EU Chief Election Observer, Ms. Maria Arena, met with the leadership of the apex Christian body in Abuja, said CAN was disturbed by the negative situation, whereby the security of lives and properties could no longer be guaranteed across the Country. The EU team had sought to know CAN’s position concerning the preparation of all the stakeholders – the Independent National Electoral Commission, the security agencies, and the political parties – towards the forthcoming elections next year. The CAN President had lamented that the security situation in the country might prevent a credible, free, and fair election, if voters were not allowed to go out to exercise their franchise, because of fear of being harmed, kidnapped, or killed.
“We call on the Federal Government and the security agencies to wake up to the security challenges in the Country where the terrorists, bandits and kidnappers are operating with impunity and nowhere is safe and secure again. If the trend continues, many voters may not participate and the outcome of the election may not be credible. We have been struggling with this situation now for the past 13 years, yet, we are still where we are,” the CAN President was quoted.
In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Comrade Arabambi Abayomi, the Labour Party, Abeokuta branch on Sunday, April 03, 2023, had feared that if the escalating wave of terrorism across parts of the Country be left unchecked, it has the potential to derail the 2023 General Elections. Worried by the spate of incessant attacks recently, the party condemned what it described as “very weak responses of government to terrorism.”
The statement had partly read: “Labour Party subscribes to the fact that the first and the very most important duty of government is to constitutionally provide and ably guarantee the safety and security of the citizens, but it is unfortunate that the APC led government had left Labour Party with no choice but to strongly condemn the level of its highly shocking and extremely nauseating incompetence shown against the continual killings of the citizens across the nation by the terrorists. It has now come to a stage that as a nation, this must not be condoned any more. The time has come for the government to do what is standard and needful immediately, as security is the main demand for a true democratic rule, but this is one area in which the federal government had been found highly wanting. The frightening impotence of the APC federal governments in the face of escalating terrorism may derail the 2023 elections.”
It is no doubt that insecurity is now threatening the running of democracy in the Country. Except issues are addressed to restore situation to normal across various parts of the Country before 2023, it no doubt that the exercise of franchise in the elections would be left at the mercy of insecurity, as many Nigerians who are depressed from the disarray of turbulence may have no choice than to stay away from polling boots. Such would no more be reflective than a system which have broken down to deny citizens perform their constitutional right as enshrined in a democracy.
The degeneration of insecurity in the Country is growing in concern with dynamic clamours, such as those demanding the possession of firearms for citizens for self help. Rising in full weight of response to arrest the heat is a demand the government must fulfill, as failure in same is failure to fulfill its mandate to protect lives and properties, a primary purpose for which it was elected.
It is indisputable that the prevailing scourge of insecurity across the Country with bellicose threats leave nothing but harsh conditions of hostilities, which in all its dimensions, portend no good omen for the conduct of elections. Both the safety of electoral officers and electorates appears not guaranteed. Where citizens are constrained from exercising their civic right of franchise due to fear of not being safe doing same, the definition of what makes up democracy has become incomplete and defeated. It behooves the government to rise beyond limit to restore sanity, reliable enough, for the conduct of elections and its management. The democratic requirements of elections would only be effectively feasible where all citizens, including the populace, the political stakeholders and the management officials, can reliably perform their duties and obligations without any sense of fear or panic over any mayhem or threat.