2023: Stakeholders in Edo advocate sustained voter education to curb electoral violence 

Political stakeholders said continued proper education among Nigerian youths and quick solution to the pervasive hunger in the country, might help to address political violence ahead of the 2023 general elections.

The stakeholders, who said this in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria ( NAN) in Benin, advocated for sustained intensive enlightenment of the public on the ills of political violence and need to further reform the Electoral Act.

The Assistant State Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), in Edo, Mr Victor Osheobo, told NAN that there were two dimensions to political violence in Nigeria.

“One is sponsored by politicians while the other involves the youth willingly engaging in violence to extort political actors.”

According to Osheobo, some politicians out of desperation pay thugs to disrupt electoral process not going in their favour.

“We have sponsored violence by politicians who are desperate for power.

“They use violent means to entrencht themselves to become candidates. As a result, in the primaries, they deploy violence to actualise their purpose.

“After the primaries, they carry the violence into general election proper by recruiting youths, arming them, paying them pittance, housing them and giving them the erroneous impression that when they get into power, they will follow them to wherever they are going. Of course, those are lies.

“There is the other type of political violence that youths engage in; extorting politicians. They also make themselves available for anybody who is willing to pay, to engage in stealing of ballot boxes, disrupting the electoral process, going to key opponents and all that,” he said.

The APC spokesman noted, however, that the menace was caused by lack of proper education among the youth and pervasive hunger in Nigeria, calling on the stakeholders to intensify enlightenment of the public on the ills of political violence.

“We need to have responsible leadership in our country; we need to have a government that is concerned with providing for the welfare of the citizens.

“We need to have a government that takes the interest of the citizens into consideration. All the problems we are having in the country is because of hunger.

“Insurgency is because people are hungry; armed robbery is because of hunger, kidnapping, banditry are for the same reason.

” As we move towards 2023 elections, violence can be curbed if we have God-fearing politicians, who are genuinely interested in serving.

“Also, the law enforcement agencies must be up and doing. We have had a situation where security personnel, who are not supposed to follow politicians to venue of elections, do that with reckless abandon even carrying ammunitions.

“Some politicians sponsor illegality so that they can benefit from the illegal process.

“So law enforcement agents are supposed to be up and doing; assert themselves, and do what they are statutorily supposed to do,” he said.

Similarly, APC’s state Secretary,  Mr Lawrence Okah, who also advocated enlightenment for the youth in the country on the need to eschew violence, noted that violence should no longer be part of the electoral  process after many years of the nation’s democratic development.

“We need to talk to our youths mostly, to take it easy. We are no longer in a dark age when we start fighting to get result.

“We need to discuss where we are going to. After all, we can come to a round table to discuss and address any area of grievance,” he said.

Okah advised politicians fond of engaging youths for violence during election to take it easy or better still, engage their biological children for such assignment.

Political activist, Mrs Louisa Eikhomun-Agbonkhese, founder of Echos of Women in Africa, an NGO, said there was urgent need for reform in the social and political systems to prevent occurrence of violence during elections.Eikhomun-Agbonkhese, said the reform had become imperative because of the erreanous belief by some persons that “political violence is a part of the social and political process and it is built in the system as an antidote to the violence of the state”.According to her, a just treatment to all sections of the society is  important to tackle political violence.She noted that political violence could be in the forms of guerrilla warfare, coup, insurgency, terrorism, rebellion, revolution, rioting and civil war.“it is necessary that the government should take remedial measures to reduce dissatisfaction and anger of the people.“Social and economic grievances could be remedied by initiating basic reforms in social and economic fields.“It includes giving equality of opportunity to the people, reducing the tax burden, equitable distribution of wealth and removal of all disabilities imposed by the state and society.Mr Bishop Akhalamhe, Chairman of Zenith Labour Party in Edo, said a reduction in the allowances and salaries of political office holders would reduce incidences of violence.He argued that if the neceassry government agency responsible for wages and salaries drastically reviewed downward the salaries  and  remuneration of political office holders, politicking would become less fanciful and less expensive.Akhalamhe noted that aside the violence factor, the introduction of money politics had also denied Nigerians the opportunity of having quality leadership.According to him, party delegates have become a big problem in the electoral process, adding that ” they vote for the highest bidder instead of those with good ideas and plans for the country.“The problem we have in this country are party delegates; it has become so difficult to get quality leaders because those with selfish interest buy their way to power for satisfy  their greed.“Unfortunately, these quality leaders have no money to spend on delegates. Even the electorate have also become involved in finacial inducements because of poverty in the land.” They accept your ideology and plans but abandon you midway because you don’t have money to share,” Akhalamhe said.According to him, if we do not jettison this kind of politics, it will be very difficult to have good leaders.“The only way we can reduce incidences of violence and money politics in Nigeria, is for the relevant authorities to make politics become unattractive by cutting down the salaries and allowances of political office holders“If this is done, patriotic Nigerians who have interest of the nation at heart will be able to emerge from a violent-free and less expensive electoral process, while Nigeria will be better for it,” he said.(NAN)