From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
As the nation approaches the general elections next year, a research and policy advocacy group called Nextier SPD has issued an early warning alert that there may be more harassment, intimidation, and violence associated to elections.
The latest research was spearheaded by Dr Iro Aghedo, an Associate Consultant at Nextier SPD and a Senior Lecturer Department of Political Science at the University of Benin, Edo State, Nigeria and Dr Ndu Nwokolo, Managing Partner and Chief Executive at Nextier SPD and an Honorary Research Fellow at the School of Government and Society, University of Birmingham, UK.
The group says it anticipates that Lagos may lead the list of places where such violence would occur, however it also projected that it might occur in other states and cities across the nation, but at varied degrees.
It connected the trend to a number of episodes of fights between opposing party members, the encouragement of hate speech, and the crackdown on pro-democracy activists by politicians and even state security personnel.
Using Lagos as an example, Nextier SPD claimed that Lagos State’s election in 2023 will be fiercely contested for a number of reasons. The state’s enormous population is the first factor.
It noted that as of 2022, the population of Lagos State is approximately 17.5 million. It added that Lagos has grown to be one of the world’s most populous cities. The group added that given that democracy is mainly a game of numbers, this enormous population has a significant impact on Lagos State’s electoral politics and the upcoming presidential election.
It claimed that the three major political parties in Nigeria are already sending their gladiators to influence Lagos voters’ decisions in 2023. Noting that Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the party’s presidential candidate, served as Lagos State’s governor from 1999 to 2007.
“Besides his reputation for patron-client politics, which has produced several ‘godsons’ including current Lagos State governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Tinubu has enormous wealth and local networks to his advantage.
“The defection of the famous ‘Lagos4Lagos Movement’ to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the emergence of the Movement’s leader, Abdul-Azeez Adediran popularly known as Jandor, as PDP’s gubernatorial flagbearer for the 2023 election has significantly reduced Tinubu’s influence in the state.
“Besides the Jandor factor, the Igbo people have a huge population and businesses in Lagos. Despite allegations of Igbo residents in Lagos by members of the APC, the Igbo are poised to support the presidential candidature of the Labour Party, Mr Peter Obi, who is the Igbo ethnic group.
“The Lagos youth have become more vocal and politically conscious since the 2020 EndSARS protest against police brutality.
“In the last two years, the youth have deployed social media and physical mobilisation to galvanise enormous support for Peter Obi and other like-minded progressives,” NexTier SPD stated in its latest research findings.
The research equally asserted that some policy measures would be required to address the growing electoral political violence in Lagos State in particular.
Going by this trend, they suggested that politicians and their supporters who perpetrate political violence should be prosecuted and sanctioned: including members of the political elite who promote hate speech, deploy thugs to harass their opponents and perpetrate any form of violence should also be prosecuted and sanctioned appropriately.
“No matter their socioeconomic status. Inviting politicians to merely sign peace accords without holding them to account for violence linked to them or their supporters should be stopped.
“If politicians who have weaponised violence in Lagos State had been sanctioned in the last couple of years, the act of electoral violence and thuggery would have been drastically reduced by now,” the group submitted.
The Policy Group also issued a warning that several politicians and their supporters have begun using violence against members of rival parties in the run-up to the 2023 national elections, as seen in Lagos State.
It issued a warning that lawmakers who engage in such violence should be held accountable and sanctioned in order to serve as a lesson to others in order to guarantee free, fair, credible, and peaceful elections in 2023.
”In addition, we recommend that the increasing persecution of Igbo people in Lagos should be stopped since all qualified Nigerians are entitled to franchise no matter where they reside.
“Lastly, we recommend that government agencies and civil society groups extend their campaigns and sensitisation to motor parks so that drivers who are often deployed as touts should turn a new leaf,” they noted.
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