The ECOWAS Commission has pledged sustained collaboration with Nigerian political actors and stakeholders towards holding a violent-free and credible general elections in February and March 2023.
The pledge was made by the ECOWAS Director, Political Affairs Dr. Aderemi Ajibewa at the start of a 4-Day dialogue and mediation training and interactive workshop organized for members of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) and other political stakeholders from the North-west and North-east geo-political zones, on 13 December 2022 in Kano State, Nigeria.
Represented by a Principal Programme Officer Mr. Ebenezer Asiedu, Director Ajibewa urged participants to pay attention to the use of dialogue and mediation in addressing election-related disputes as the 2023 general elections fast approaches. He notes that “The sustenance and enhancement of ECOWAS’ strategic engagement with the electoral process in Nigeria is an indication of our commitment and preference towards using dialogue and mediation in resolving electoral disputes and violence”. This, among others are well espoused in its 2001 supplementary protocol on democracy and good governance, and the 2008 ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Framework (ECPF).
Lamenting that electoral disputes have become a major source of conflicts in West Africa, with violence often triggered or heightened by political patronage, communal and sectarian tensions, he further stressed the need to work together to forestall attendant electoral violence, while noting that the major task before the participants was brainstorming and collaboratively identifying contending issues around the forthcoming general elections and work out strategies to mitigate potential electoral violence before, during and after the exercise.
The IPAC national chairman Alhaji Yabagi Sani took special notice of the timing of the workshop while opining that the stakeholders are the “custodians of today’s democracy in Nigeria”. He observed that for significant reasons, the current electioneering processes in Nigeria has attracted genuine attention of key stakeholders of the electoral process more than any other time in history.
The opening ceremony was enriched by goodwill messages given by the Kano state Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Daniel Itse Amah who assured of adequate security provision and detailed intelligence gathering efforts aimed at ensuring violence-free elections. The representative of the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) Mr. Sulaiman Alkali deplored the winner-takes-it-all syndrome and disclosed that the Commission is currently saddled with more than 600 electoral-related litigations. In his goodwill message, the Head of the liaison office of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) Dr. James Aji restated the strategic importance for ECOWAS and UNOWAS to work collaboratively to promote peace and enhance the stability of the region.
The training and interactive engagement workshop is being facilitated by Dr. Willie Eselebor, an independent conflict resolution expert, supported by Dr. Brown Odigie and backstopped by a team from the Directorate of Political Affairs, ECOWAS Commission.
The Workshop will among others provide opportunities for reflections on ECOWAS electoral assistance, management of electoral disputes and interventions as well as practical techniques and skills for dialogue and mediation while also featuring simulation exercises, role-plays and the unearthing of IPAC’s place in the monitoring of the Nigerian Peace Accord.