United States Institute of Peace (USIP), a non-partisan independent institute, has urged candidates contesting for various positions in the general elections to focus on providing good governance and not just access to power.
Dr Christ Kwaja, the Interim Country Manager of the group said this on Sunday in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.
Kwaja said that at the heart of good governance was the livelihood, security and the peace of the country and its people.
“Those contesting in the forthcoming elections should conduct their rallies and campaigns in peaceful manners and not incite violence of any kind.
“All candidates must conduct themselves in peaceful manners and not build up violence ahead of the elections.
“Nigerians are looking for leaders that would lead in a peaceful manner, leaders that would defend justice in a way that every religion and ethnic group would be given a sense of belonging.
“Nigeria is not just for one ethnic group or one political party or one religion, Nigeria is a multi-ethnic, multi-religion and a multi-politics society,” he said.
He added that, “politicians must recognize this and be conscious of these factors in their dealings with one another.
“The focus of contesting should be on providing good governance and its ingredients and not on accessing power,” he said.
Kwaja said that as the country was geared towards conducting another election, it was important for the government to safeguard democracy by ensuring peace.
According to him, the peace of Nigeria in the next few days is very important because no country is large enough to contain Nigerians.
“The more the politicians heat up the polity, the more they weaken the fabric that holds the country’s democracy together and the people are at the receiving end when it comes down to violence.
“What we are saying from the stand point of the USIP is that what unites Nigeria as a people and as a country is far more stronger than what divides it.
“The government should look at those strings that ties Nigeria together, its unity in diversity, like the last stanza of the National Anthem says to build a nation where peace and justice shall reign.
“The government should strive to uphold this mandate of providing and ensuring peace, justice and unity for the citizens and the safety of the country’s democracy.
“Because if you don’t enjoy a peaceful election, you will not enjoy the outcome of the elections and for an election to be called credible, people must be alive to enjoy the fruit of the election.
“The government must ensure that the conduct of the Feb. 25 elections is not just fair and free, but also peaceful,” he said
He said that it was the role of the government at all levels and election stakeholders to ensure that the peace of the country was well managed in a way that the outcome of the elections would be acceptable and enjoyable.
Kwaja said he believed that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was doing its best likewise the security agencies and personnel.
He however urged the security agencies to garner and build more trust with the public.
According to him, security is a public tool, so security agencies and their personnel must be conscious of the roles that citizens can play in ensuring peaceful elections.
“What this means is that they should ensure that they work with the people and ensure that they speak the hearts and minds of the people which can only be achieved when the people have confidence in them.
“And that is when the security have built and gained the trust of the people, because it is that trust that the security agencies and their personnel can use to secure the people before, during and after the elections.
“And we are optimistic as an institute that if all of us work together the outcome of the 2023 general elections in Nigeria will be enviable,” he said.
Kwaja said that the international community had no powers to decide for Nigeria on how it should run the elections but that they were available to guide Nigeria and give advice.
He said that the international community could give advice from other models and election best practices around the globe where their structures had worked and yielded good results that sustained democracy.
“These advices will benefit Nigeria since the models are in line with best practices on democratic elections.
“One of the best practices we saw recently is in Kenya, the election was properly conducted and today they are moving forward and that is what we want to see.
“These practices includes together in purpose, the harmony and a central focus of peace at all the levels of government
“Because the unrest at the national level is usually a spill over of what we see at the local and state levels, so all levels of government must work together simultaneously to ensure peace.
“There must be a strong connection between the national dynamics as well as the localised experiences and realities before, during and after the elections,” he said.
Kwaja said that the institute was working and supporting local partners in Nigeria to ensure peaceful polls by providing technical support through its Nigeria Working Group on peace building and governance, a team of eminent Nigerians.
He said that the team were working on policies and advocacies and some members were also members of the country’s National Peace Committee working to ensure sustainability of Nigeria’s democracy.
“Some of them in the team are working with civil societies, some are working with policy makers and so we have this people doing their beats at different levels.
“And when we sit, we rub minds and we look at areas of needs and we deploy whatever support is required at that level.
“Our biggest priority is to amplify the voices of individuals and groups that are committed to working for peace.
“And as the elections draw closer this should be the priority of all other groups to ensure that the essence of peace is amplified,” he said.(NAN)