•Harps on innovative response to shifting national electoral context
The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) findings have revealed that Nigeria’s 2019 elections may be marred by violence if urgent measures are not taken to address issues of potential conflicts.
Global Sentinel on Thursday, obtained a statement on the outcome the study tagged: “Nigeria’s 2019 Elections: Change, Continuity and the Risks to Peace,” from Dr. Chris Kwaja, the co-author and USIP’s senior advisor and senior lecturer at the Centre for Peace and Security Studies at the Modibbo Adama University of Technology in Yola.
According to the statement, the study examined the risks of election violence for Nigeria’s upcoming elections, scheduled for February and March 2019.
It said the researchers have began a series of meetings to disseminate the findings of a major research study on Nigeria’s 2019 elections.
The USIP research team have also briefed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and representatives of the federal government on Wednesday and will hold public meetings in Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt this week.
Based on interviews conducted in Adamawa, Anambra, Ekiti, Kaduna, Kano, Lagos, Plateau, Rivers states, and in the Nation’s Capital , Abuja, researchers found that the approach to confronting electoral violence in Nigeria has changed little since 2015, despite significant shifts in the political and security context.
They listed these shifts to include: changing narratives about insecurity and the increased prominence of intra-political party disputes relative to the previous elections, which suggest that significant electoral violence is likely to occur in the period before balloting.
The USIP’s team leader in Nigeria, Ms. Oge Onubogu, said: “This important research complements USIP’s ongoing work in Nigeria to support strategies that prevent and resolve violent conflict.
“It demonstrates the need for urgent innovation by all involved, and especially by institutions like INEC, the police, and the security agencies.”
Onubogu stated that a majority of respondents felt that peaceful elections in 2019 were contingent on the performance of INEC, and that both political parties and politicians needed to do more to demonstrate the political will to mitigate violence.
“Many people told us that any regression from the performance of 2015 could result in violence, given higher expectations for these elections,” said Kwaja.
He said that even though the risks of violence are high, the picture varies considerably across the country.
Increasingly, he stated, the conduct of local government elections may affect the prospects for election violence in the general elections.
He stressed that though separate from the nationally administered polls, more credible local democratic processes could allow for grievances to be better addressed, possibly defusing some of the causes of violence in the national elections.
At the same time, Kwaja said successful cases of innovative violence mitigation are being attempted across Nigeria.
“These examples demonstrate that there is nothing inevitable about electoral violence in Nigeria. They point the way to adapting to the context at the state level,” Kwaja said.
In the same vein, a visiting expert at USIP and the study’s lead author, Aly Verjee noted there is a clear need for intensified international diplomacy to pre-empt and mitigate electoral violence.
“The US and other international supporters of the electoral process need to better coordinate their approach to mitigation and augment their diplomatic efforts now,” Verjee said.
The study suggests that in the near term, such efforts should convey expectations for political parties to effectively address their internal divisions, and advocate for intensified election security planning.
The also advised that African leaders should be encouraged, supported and ready to mediate disputes, and work toward peaceful acceptance of the electoral process during the campaign, polling and results announcement phases of the process.
The study, “Nigeria’s 2019 Elections: Change, Continuity and the Risks to Peace,” will be published in full later this summer and available on www.USIP.org.
The United States Institute of Peace is an independent national, nonpartisan institute, founded by the US Congress and dedicated to the proposition that a world without violent conflict is possible, practical, and essential for US and global security.