By Tony Okafor, Awka
A joint body of South-East Council of Traditional Rulers and Igbo Archbishops and Bishops has sued for peace in the governorship polls holding on November 11, especially in Imo State.
The South-East leaders in a statement circulated on Thursday called for free, fair and transparent governorship polls in the areas concerned.
The council’s statement was signed by
HM Obi Nnaemeka Achebe(Chairman, Anambra State Traditional Rulers), Most Rev. Dr. Chibuzo R. Opoko(Methodist Archbishop of Umuahia), Igwe Amb L. O. C. Agubuzu,(Chairman, Enugu State Traditional Rulers Council),and Most Rev. Dr. Valerian M. Okeke (Catholic Archbishop of Onitsha ).
The statement read in part,”On November 11th, 2023, the electorate in Bayelsa, Kogi and Imo States of the Federal Republic of Nigeria will go to the polls to excise their civic duties by electing the Governors of their respective states.
“The Joint Body of South East Council of Traditional Rulers and the Representatives of the Igbo Archbishops and Bishops on Peace and Conflict Resolution (The Joint Body) hereby calls on all Nigerians to do their utmost to ensure that the elections take place in a free, fair and transparent atmosphere.
“This would enable the best candidates to emerge to lead in probably the most perilous times for the country in decades.
“The aftermath of the highly contentious General Elections in February and March this year was characterised by a deluge of disputed results that in turn precipitated a plethora of court cases which have left the nation mired in a deepening distrust for public institutions.
From the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to the Judiciary, the last hope of the common citizen, our nation’s socio-political fabric has been stretched to the point of sundering.
“On the economic front, the challenges have been unrelenting as the harshness of an inclement economy have savaged most of our people, yet inexplicably leaving the privileged and financially secure unaffected, and aloof and indifferent to the implications for their fellow citizens.
“Indeed, it is the beneficiaries of the flawed 2023 General Elections that are themselves at odds with the masses who voted them into office. Divorced and disconnected from the accountability of servant leadership, Nigeria’s political class have adorned the amour of gladiators in pursuit power by all means.
“The reality of a politically-aware and yet disenfranchised younger generation questioning the usurpation of their civic rights and responsibilities to vote and be voted for in the electoral process; the power and influence of pervasive, decentralized social media on youth who represent that largest voter demographic in the history of Nigeria’s democracy; and the emergence of alternatives to the hitherto dominant political parties that have held power at the national level, have raised the stakes and fragmented the electorate.
The Igbo leaders said,”The ensuing robust electioneering campaigns by the parties as well as the animated debates by the populace in the various news media, have crystalized the issues that challenge the emergence of a new political ethos and behaviour. We ask, “Can our political class and the electorate rise to the demands of the times?”
“The Joint Body has in the past stepped into the context described above in exercise of its role as the moral compass for the polity. At this critical juncture in the unfolding articulation of the complex dynamics of the Southeast geo-political zone of Nigeria, the Joint Body is suing for peace. The public may recall that when the situation in Anambra State was about to boil over and threatened the success of the Gubernatorial Election in 2019, it was the Joint Body that stepped into the breach, resulting in a Peace Agreement between the political class and other stakeholders, including non-state actors.
“Today, Imo State is uncertain of the desired goal of an orderly, peaceful, harmonious, and unifying Gubernatorial Election. We must all act and let peace reign.
“Specifically, “We implore the Federal and Imo State Governments and their relevant agencies to do their utmost to ensure that the election is free, fair and transparent. This would eliminate or minimize any post-election disputes and enable the winner to gain the immediate support of the electorate in confronting the challenges at hand.
“We beseech all registered voters to come out in full force to exercise their constitutional rights and responsibilities of voting for the candidates of their choice without fear or favour. We urge the electorate to resist any intimidation or efforts to compromise their conscience with cheap financial or material gestures that could provide momentary comfort but impoverish and compromise them for four years or longer through bad governance.
“We remind the electorate, the political class, and candidates for elective office that they share the highest responsibility for strengthening our nascent democratic culture through their lawful conduct.
“We call on the leaders of all political parties and their candidates to remind their supporters, stakeholders, and party faithful, to commit unequivocally to non-violence and maintenance of peace during the elections and beyond.
“We call on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to rise to its statutory mandate in delivering a flawless election with all the technology and human capacity at its disposal. It is crucial for the body to re-assure the people of Imo State and Nigerians of the integrity of its processes called into question by the flawed 2023 General Elections. INEC must act to forestall illegal tampering with the election results.
“We reiterate that the security agencies have a solemn duty to guarantee the peaceful and free movement of people who come out to exercise their civic duties, as well as prevent troublemakers from disrupting the elections, or attacks on any section of the people based on ethnicity, religion or party affiliations before, during or after the election.
“We urge that they devote particular attention to the already reported instances of insecurity, violence, kidnapping for ransom, shedding of innocent blood, and attacks on public buildings and uniformed officers.
Continuing, the council said,” We make the above demands based on the fact that much of our current circumstances is linked directly and indirectly to the primary challenge of forging a pathway to an inclusive and prosperous nationhood. It is in the name of Almighty God therefore, that we, the Joint Body, are calling on all traditional rulers in Imo State to work in concert with their town and community leadership to ensure a conducive environment for the elections in their domains.
“We also call on all religious leaders of Islamic, Christian and other religions, to admonish their faithful to be of good conduct as they perform their constitutional duties of participating in the electoral process in their numbers.
“In conclusion, we urge all Nigerians to pray fervently for Almighty God to guide us to freely and transparently elect leaders in Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi States imbued with vision, wisdom, courage, compassion, and the fear of God, to restore good governance and lead their States towards the attainment of their full potential to the benefit of their constituents, the electorate and to the glory of the nation, Nigeria as a leader of African and Black peoples the world over. “