Members of the civil society and media practitioners in Borno State have expressed fears that the forthcoming 2019 elections might turn violent if relevant authorities fail to take preemptive steps.
This concern was raised at a media and CSO roundtable on citizens’ understanding and participation in the electoral process organised by the Partnership to Engage and the Reform and Learn (PERL), a non-governmental organisation.
Participants at the roundtable that held in Maiduguri comprised representatives of the media, Civil Society Organisations, National Orientation Agency (NOA), State House of Assembly, religious and faith based organisations, private sector, service delivery partners among others.
Danjuma Gambo, a professor at the Department of Mass Communication, University of Maiduguri, chaired the plenary during which concerned participants shared their past experiences on how elections were conducted in the state, and analysed the current political indicators concerning 2019 polls.
Analysing the salient issues which had direct bearing on the electoral process, as well as what various stakeholders could do to engender a credible election in the state, participants however expressed worries that recent happenings within the political circle in the state were indications that the coming polls might be marred by violence.
This uncomplimentary forecast arose from some of the key hypotheses raised by stakeholders while looking at how various persons or organisations could work harmoniously and make influence in the electoral process.
Participants cited a recent incident when a young man was stabbed to death by some armed persons during a political gathering in Maiduguri.
Though the convener of the political gathering has been declared wanted by the police after he fled, his relatives had been arrested and may still be in police custody
Mr Danjuma said, “stakeholders have more work to do in the face of prevailing inadequacies in the electoral process especially the pre-election time so as to mitigate the potential dangers ahead of the election.”
He said “going by the discussions we have had, there is more work to be done concerning citizens engagement in the electoral process in Borno State.
“It is therefore very important that all stakeholders in this hall must agree to step up their game for a more constructive engagement of the citizen on electoral processes in the state especially the pre-election time so that the expected outcomes will be favorable to all.”
Earlier, the team leader for PERL, Elizabeth Sara, pointed out that citizens must always demand good leadership from public officers and refrain from making personal demands from politicians.
“We must try to stop this trend of people going to politicians to make personal requests such as assistance for naming ceremony, assistance to marry. In order to drive development, persons should approach politicians with community issues that affecteveryone in that community so that such development, if carried out will change the lives of the entire people in the community instead of one individual,” she said.
Meanwhile, the facilitator of the roundtable and PERL’s representative in Borno state, Ase Taide, said “the timing is very important and we cannot wait until election time to engage citizens on their rights.”
The meeting also noted that NOA should strive to engage with relevant stakeholders like INEC, Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC), the media and others.