By Emmanuel Oloniruha
Former Military Administrator of Plateau and Katsina State, retired Maj.-Gen. Lawrence Onoja, has urged political leaders to promote credible and transparent electoral process that guarantee citizens’ participation in governance.
Onoja made the call in a keynote delivered at a National Peacebuilding Conference with theme: “Electoral process, governance, democracy, security and conflict resolution in 2023 general elections” in Abuja on Tuesday.
The conference was organised by the Institute for Crisis Resolution, Peacebuilding and Conciliation (ICRCP) in collaboration with the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) Jabi.
“Internationally, democracy is a licence for gaining access to international diplomacy, finance, trade, investment, sports, entertainment, tourism, humanitarianism, defense and security.
“As countries rush to obtain this tagging of being democratic, Nigeria should distinguish its brand of democracy with adherence to critical principles of democracy that include rule of law, justice.
“Respect for human rights, provision of welfare, and human security for the citizens, transparency and accountability, open government, citizens participation and inclusiveness.
“It is imperative therefore, that political leaders encourage, imbibe, accept and celebrate transparent, credible and open electoral process as a fundamental national security commitment and minimum benchmarking, guaranteeing the equal participation of Nigerians in the governance of their affairs, “ Onoja said.
He said that electoral process was very crucial and central to democracy, governance, security and conflict resolution, adding that the reason for the use of court in conflicts resolution was the absence of democratic governance of commonwealth and privileges.
Onoja added that as Nigerians continue to struggle for a functional government that would guarantee them food security, health security, community security, economic security, political security, environmental security and personal security, it was important for the relevant state institutions to begin to function effectively.
“The processes of voting and declaration of the winners of election during the 2023 general elections have come and gone, but there are election conflicts still before the courts, “ Onoja said.
The retired major general who said that the 2023 general election was a defining moment for Nigeria in view of the several threats to peace, security, and development that confronting the nation on the eve of the election, commended President Tinubu, Atiku Abubakar of PDP and Peter Obi of Labour Party for toing the path of peace.
He also called on the judiciary to be firm and diligently discharge their duties on litigations before them based on evidence to enhance citizens’ trust in government and also win their supports to collectively fight common enemies of the country.
“We are confident that the judiciary this time around will discharge its duty creditably well in resolving all electoral conflicts.
“This will build citizens’ confidence in the electoral body, the electoral process, democratic institutions, democracy and the new administration that emerges from electoral process.
“The credibility of the conflict resolution process will also serve as covering force to all Nigerians to join government in the fight against threats to peace and security confronting the country, especially terrorism, insurgency, separatist agitation, militancy, banditry, and other criminal activities.
“It will also dampen the voices of division and strengthen the voices of National Cohesion.
Onoja expressed belief that President Bola Tinubu-led administration would sustain the good works it had started with economic reforms by initiating an open and transparent palliative regime to cushion the negative fallout on citizens.
Also speaking, the ICRPC Director-General, Prof. Andrew Zamani, said that as a professional group and major stakeholders in the Nigeria Project, the commission believed it must interrogate electoral processes in Nigeria since independence.
Zamani said the interrogation was with the view to identifying the election best practices and flaws, to strengthen the country’s democracy.
“Election processes reveal our collective attitudes towards power, justice and equity.
“In this regard, it is incumbent on the Conference to extend its search light beyond elections managed by INEC and Independent State Electoral Commission to party governance and democracy.
“It is important to interrogate the influences of patriarchy, godfatherism, money and filial bigotry on the party governance and leadership recruitment process in the country.
“It will not be too much to examine the role of the judiciary and extrajudicial factors in the resolution of conflicts arising from contentious election results.
“In doing our discoveries will not unrelated to the general state of the rule- of- law in Nigeria.”
Zamani said that the growth of Nigeria as an economic power house in Africa was dependent on having strong institutions capable of ensuring an electoral process that works
“Our electoral process must be transparent and reflect the choice of the people as this assures them that their votes count and it guarantees the legitimization of the government that is formed from such elections,” Zamani said.
In his remarks, the ICRPC Registrar-General, Dr Abdulwaheed Odewale described the conference as a vibrant platform for diverse voices towards a more peaceful and democratic society where the ballot prevails over the bullet.
Odewale said that the knowledge shared and experiences exchanged during the conference would undoubtedly shape the policies and practices that would guide the future of Nigeria.
“We have delved into the complexities of our electoral process, recognizing the pivotal role it is meant to play in upholding democracy and ensuring the collective will of the people.
“Through comprehensive discussions on security challenges, our understanding is deepened on the vital need for a safe and stable environment that encourages citizens’ participation, “ he said.
Odewale urged participants of the conference to carry the spirit of unity, resilience, and determination, as well applied knowledge gained at the event to be catalysts for positive change and better approaches to elections in Nigeria.
“Our collective responsibility lies in upholding the principles of fairness, transparency, and non-violence, ensuring that our democracy thrives and flourishes.
“ I am confident that the insights gleaned from this conference will reverberate across our nation, inspiring us all to actively contribute to the peaceful coexistence and progress of our beloved Nigeria.
“Together, we can build a future where the ballot box triumphs over the bullet, where every voice is heard, and where conflict gives way to conciliation, “ he said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that some new members were inducted as fellowe of the ICRCP. (NAN)(www.nannews.ng)