Exclusive: Why UN hopes 2019 General Elections in Nigeria will be Peaceful


Mohamed Ibn Chambas, United Nations’ secretary general’s special representative for West Africa and Sahel, expresses hope that the 2019 general elections in Nigeria will be peaceful, urging the federal government to ensure a fair, credible and violence-free polls

By Anayo Ezugwu

The United Nations, UN, has advised the Nigerian government to ensure fair, credible and violence-free general elections in 2019. Mohamed Ibn Chambas, United Nations’ secretary general’s special representative for West Africa and Sahel, said the world body wants the election to be conducted in a political manner without recourse to violence.

Chambas, in an exclusive interview with Realnews in Lagos, said the UN’s interest is to ensure that the elections reflect in deepening democratic culture in Nigeria and West Africa at large. He said UN was quite pleased that the party primaries were not violence. “Naturally, this is a moment of much heightened political activities. Nigeria is preparing in earnest for general elections in February. Party congresses have just been held more or less.

“Anywhere when party congresses are held, there will be issues arising from it – disappointments, failed ambitions and clash of egos. So, I imagine that each party is very busy now trying to manage all these consequences from the primaries and selection of candidates. From UN point of view, what we’re interested in is to ensure that this reflected in deepening democratic culture and that internal democracy was deepened within the parties.

“But especially, that all of these transpired in a political manner without recourse to violence, and so far we’re quite pleased that these intense internal election political selection processes were not violent. Of course, you always have to measure it against previous exercises. And in 2015, I must tell you that the National Human Rights Commission in its report expressed alarm at the level of intra party violence ensuing from it.

“This time around we’ve been very keen to media report and we’ve seen a considerably lower level of casualties, lower level of violence emanating from selection processes that various political parties have used. And that is healthy, and perhaps, it is an indication also that this whole process will be very peaceful. And this is our wish as United Nations,” he said.

Chambas expressed hope that democracy has come to stay in Africa. He said the African continent has moved from autocratic military personal rule to multi-party competitive democracy. He acknowledged that democracy comes with its challenges but assured that Africa is climbing the learning gear.

“Don’t forget that in so-called mature democracies, in many of them, it’s only in the last two or three decades that women and minorities like blacks in the U.S were fully enfranchised. And even today, there are still remnants of this fight for civil rights in mature democracies. So, we should see it as a continuum. It is an evolving process. For me I think that some progress is being made.”

But Chambas regretted that the level of poverty in Africa is still very high in many countries, including here in Nigeria. Consequently, he said there is a temptation for people to sell their votes as a result of poverty and this takes the continent down towards the narrow part of corrupting politics and manipulation.

He also attributed the issue of vote buying to lack of efficient political education and awareness, and high level of illiteracy prevailing in the society. It’s a challenge, but we have to keep fighting it. The media has a role to play in that. The civil societies have a role to play. Political parties themselves must put in place measures to restrain themselves from excessive monetisation of politics.

“Then the state must put in place effective regulatory mechanisms. Some people have even called for special tribunal on electoral violations. This is the call across West Africa, including here in Nigeria. But in other words, these are healthy debates going on about what to do to minimise the role of money in our politics.

“And, incidentally, in Europe and America, the likely debate there is about campaign financing. So it is an issue in a democracy. How do you make sure that the role of money is not overbearing as to influence the real outcome of election and in a way deny the people of their true choice?” he said.

– Dec. 21, 2018 @ 00:05 GMT |

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