The need for peaceful conduct of the 2023 general election in Nigeria was the focus of the Dr. Goodluck Jonathan Foundation 2022 Peace Conference, at a gathering of eminent Nigerians and other African nationals in Abuja on Tuesday.
Themed, “Nation Building: The Role of Elections in a Multi-Ethnic Context,” speakers spoke on the significance of non-violent polls not only to Nigeria but the entire West Africa sub-region.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan, in his brief remarks, warned of the dire consequences of fake news and unguided utterances in the build up to the polls saying, “the biggest threat to democracy in Nigeria today is not guns but fake news and propaganda.”
Reflecting on the state of democracy in Africa, the former President stated that the globally accepted mode of governance is undermined in the continent by “insecurity, unconstitutional change of government, electoral fraud, violence, lack of good governance, media suppression, misinformation and hate speech.”
“In Nigeria, electoral violence has been a consistent feature of the nation’s election cycle. The just concluded party primaries by political parties generated many issues, from complaints of imposition of candidates to protests of ethnic marginalisation and religious dominance,” he said.
On his part, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Kukah, said Nigeria must get the 2023 elections right as anything short of credible polls would not be good for the image of the country.
He said he was ready to take bullets for Jonathan based on how the former President agreed to sign a peace accord ahead of the 2015 presidential election despite the short notice.
In a recorded message, a former Military Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (retd.), said “the forthcoming 2023 general election represents an opportunity for Nigeria to consolidate its democratic success.”
He added, “While we celebrate the ability of this great nation of ours in its peaceful democratic transitions and all the actors who play by the rules, it is equally important that we should not rest on the gains of old. As political actors, some have the habit of appealing to tribal, religious, ethnic and cultural sentiments.
“Therefore as we are about to formally commence campaign for the 2023 general elections, the ECOWAS calls on Nigerian political actors and their supporters to avoid the weaponisation of ethno religious biases that will jeopardise democracy but to embrace issue based campaigns that centre on good governance and quality representation.”
On his part, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, lamented the intrusion of the political space by persons who have no genuine interest to better the lots of the people but are motivated to seek public office solely to pursue their personal interest.
In his keynote address, former Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel, Dr. Mohammed Chambas, noted that nations stay together when citizens share enough values and preferences.