A recent report by a prominent Nigerian group has predicted that the 2023 general elections in the country will be marred by violence, citing the current security climate. Nigeria has a long history of election violence, with only a few instances of peaceful polls in its democratic dispensation. The report notes that the 1993 presidential election was judged the freest and fairest in the country’s history, but violence followed the military’s decision to annul the polls. Six years later, a successful presidential election was conducted for the first time in 20 years.
The report highlights the myriad of security crises facing the country, including the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East, the raging counterterrorism campaign against bandits in the North West, militant Fulani groups, bandits, and the ever-expanding factional Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) in the North Central, and youth gangs in the South. Additionally, the report notes the activities of the secessionist Indigenous People of Biafra in the East, who have targeted not only the state but every symbol associated with it, including the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The report suggests that political violence often escapes scrutiny under the air of general insecurity, and recalls recent attacks on political figures, including the deputy governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress in Rivers State, Dr Innocent Barikor, who escaped death in Port Harcourt, the alleged killing of the 2003 Labour Party candidate for Onuimo Local Government Area state constituency in Imo Christopher Elehu, and the alleged attack on the campaign convoy of Atiku Abubakar, the Peoples Democratic Party presidential candidate, in Maiduguri.
Against this backdrop, the report suggests that it is nearly impossible to conduct a hitch-free election in every part of the country. INEC is reportedly preparing itself for supplementary elections in areas where voting might not hold due to violence, a solution that is within the realms of acceptance for thinly-stretched security services already battling insecurity on multiple fronts.
The report concludes that the 2023 elections taking place in the country’s deeply insecure terrain will surely have a profound impact on the credibility of the polls and the legal proceedings that may arise under the present circumstances. Given the history of election violence in Nigeria, it is crucial that all stakeholders, including political actors, security agencies, and civil society organizations, take proactive measures to mitigate the risk of violence and ensure peaceful, free, and fair polls