As Nigerians await the seventh general elections since the return of democracy in 1999, next year, the Tony Blair Institute has identified some security challenges the country must not overlook for a peaceful conduct of the election. A successful 2023 general election will make Nigeria to have 23 years of uninterrupted democratic process in the
As Nigerians await the seventh general elections since the return of democracy in 1999, next year, the Tony Blair Institute has identified some security challenges the country must not overlook for a peaceful conduct of the election.
A successful 2023 general election will make Nigeria to have 23 years of uninterrupted democratic process in the history of Nigeria. Nigeria’s democracy has grown incrementally and has come of age even as different institutions are still evolving. In the same vein, stakeholders have been advised to take deliberate actions on salient security issues ahead of the polls.
The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, an international organization that supports the government and policymakers, said the 2023 election in Nigeria is significant in the history of the country, and the country must work to combat security threats hovering around its forthcoming polls. Since Nigeria is the largest country in Africa, there is no doubt that other countries in the continent are looking forward to the outcome of the elections. In a report, the Blair Institute noted as follows:
“Political instability in Nigeria could have a ripple effect in many other African nations. Alongside the socioeconomic implications, an aborted election, or one fraught with violence and malpractice, would weaken Nigeria’s political and moral authority to take a stance against unconstitutional takeovers of power elsewhere on the continent, Tony Blaire noted in its report titled: Democracy Under Threat: Why the Security Risks to Nigeria’s 2023 Elections Must Not Be Overlooked.
“While peaceful and credible elections have never been a foregone conclusion in Nigeria, there are additional threats next year, with the biggest among them the violent activities of several non-state armed groups who have publicly expressed a wish to scupper the country’s vulnerable democracy.”
The international institute indicated that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) must be on its toes to collaborate extensively with other agencies to conduct successful elections, amidst the raging security threats in the country ahead of the 2023 elections
The election umpires and security agencies were prompted to eschew partiality and embrace professionalism while they enforce more security decisions in the most volatile areas in the country.
Against the background, the Tony Blair institute also advised the Nigeria security outfits to utilise the remaining months before the elections to build a security framework that will eradicate violence in the vulnerable parts of the country.
“Nigerian security, law enforcement, and intelligence agencies should use the few months left before the February election to push back violent groups and secure vulnerable communities as well as liberate those already seized”, it stated in the report.
The report listed some non-state actors whose activities can generate threats to the general elections in 2023.
Amongst the security threats to look forward to are the activities of the Boko Haram insurgents. For more than two decades, the terrorist organisation has been a hard nut to crack for the Nigerian security framework.
Its operations have been largely prevalent in the northeast region of the country, where several attacks have forced many residents of the region out of their habitations.
In the past years, terrors inflicted by the insurgents have attempted to derail Nigeria’s democracy and elections in the past. For instance, a threat by Boko Haram forced INEC to delay the 2015 elections by six weeks. Apart from that, the insurgents have coordinated several attacks mostly in the northern part of the country.
Although the Nigerian government has announced that Boko Hara has been technically defeated, yet the past records of attacks from the insurgent group are enough reasons for Nigeria security agencies to be vigilant and proactive ahead of the coming elections in 2023.
“It will be impossible to deploy election officials and infrastructure to areas where they are active. Ultimately, this will disenfranchise many Nigerians unless measures are put in place to uphold the security and integrity of the democratic electoral process
The government and security agencies must be on the watch ahead of the 2023 elections, the report added.
In the past few years, the northwest and north-central of Nigeria have been besieged by some criminals, who have escalated violence in the regions. These gangs of bandits began their operations initially by attacking rural communities and extorting them, recently they have expanded their operations to towns and cities.
Their mode of operation is to kidnap students and commit arson on their victims, from whom they demand payment of ransom. The reports stated that the estimated population of the bandit is close to 30,ooo, and they are spread across 100 districts in the region.
Similar to Boko Haram, the operations of the bandits have forced many people to leave their ancestral location for IDPs camp nearby.
“Their activities could inhibit the INEC’s ability to organise polls in the remote areas of the North West, consequently disenfranchising voters. Third, the environment they have created is likely to prevent politicians from engaging with or campaigning in remote areas”, the report noted.
Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB)
The secessionist group established by Nnamdi Kanu was also pointed at as a likely security threat to the elections. Established in 2012, IPOB has been loud with its demand for secession since its creation.
A few years ago, the secessionist group announced the creation of its militant wing, Eastern Security Network (ESN). Since its establishment, government security agencies have accused the unit of coordinating several attacks on six states in the southeast of the country.
Although the group did not claim responsibility for the attacks they were accused of, they have threatened to disrupt the 2023 elections in the region if their leader Nnamdi Kanu is not released,
Charged with treason and felony by the federal government, Nnamdi Kanu has been in the custody of the Department of State Service since last year, IPOB had declared several weeks for sit-at-home Mondays. The sit-at-home Mondays have led to violence in the past, resulting in unprecedented violence in the region.
In addition, several facilities of the Independent National Election have been destroyed in the past few years by the IPOB/ESN as reported by law enforcement.
“If this is any indication, more attacks on the INEC’s staff, security forces, politicians and government officials can be expected in the coming months.
“IPOB may even impose another sit-at-home order on election days. If events manifest in this way, turnout will be hampered because residents will be too scared to vote”, the report noted
As a solution to the inherent security challenges that can threaten the democratic process in Nigeria, the report called on the government, the electoral commission, and the vulnerable communities to work with the security agencies to find a lasting solution to the threat.
The report also urged the National Peace Committee (NPC) to form a peaceful pact among the political parties, especially the presidential candidates. It also calls for Peacebuilding efforts in the communities experiencing conflicts and electoral violence.
Notwithstanding, the Tony Blair Institute noted that it will not ignore the role of media in electoral matters. It urged the media experts to focus on countering fake news which could escalate into violence.
“While it is impossible to completely eradicate these threats, Nigeria and its regional and international partners can move to minimise violence, division and practices that could undermine the election’, the report concluded.