Former Nigerian diplomat, Ambassador Joe Keshi, has warned that if the negative outcomes of the 2023 elections were not genuinely addressed, the country may not continue to enjoy sustainable peace and unity.
Keshi, who decried reported cases of electoral violence and other anti-democratic behaviours such as suppression of voters in parts of Nigeria during the just concluded elections, stressed the need for justice to be done to assuage the feelings of those who were hurt and are currently aggrieved.
The veteran diplomat who appeared on Arise News show on Thursday, was responding to the declaration by the United Kingdom Minister of State for Development and Africa, Andrew Mitchell MP, that the UK is prepared to take action against those who engage in or incite electoral violence and other anti-democratic behaviours in Nigeria.
Keshi said that because Nigeria is a member of the global community, it doesn’t live in isolation and its action must be checked by the international state actors when the country’s leaders fail to apply the laws and use the institutions to protect democracy, and rights of the citizens and generally promote peace and stability.
Recall that the British High Commission in Nigeria had within the week announced that it is collating information with a view to taking action against some individuals adjudged to have engaged in anti-democratic behaviours in the presidential, National Assembly, governorship, and State Assembly elections in Nigeria.
Such actions could include a visa ban on individuals found to have been involved in electoral violence or encouraged it.
The British High Commission in Abuja, in a statement, noted that there were positives to take away from the elections but said that violence and voter suppression were observed in many states including Lagos, Enugu and Rivers during the governorship and State Assembly Election.
The High Commission said Members of its observation mission personally observed violence and voter suppression in numerous voting locations.
It condemned the “use of inflammatory ethno-religious language by some public and political figures”.
“There were notable points of concern. Members of our observation mission personally observed violence, and voter suppression in numerous voting locations.
“We witnessed and received credible reports from other observer missions and civil society organisations of vote buying and voter intimidation the destruction and hijacking of election materials and the general disruption of the process in numerous states including Lagos, Enugu and Rivers,” The British High Commission said.
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It also stated that the observers witnessed incidents of harassment of journalists, and stressed that “Freedom of speech and a free press is crucial for a healthy democracy, and journalists must be able to go about their work without being threatened.”
The British High Commission called on Nigerian political leaders to not just distance themselves from conducts and messages that stoke ethno-religious tensions, but also “prevent those who speak on their behalf from doing so.”
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Ambassador Keshi said that if the government fails to obey the laws established to sustain democracy in the country then some external factors might force them to begin to do the needful such as the international community coming up with sanctions as witnessed in some other countries in the past.
“If our governments (federal and state governments) refuse to obey the laws they have established, something else needs to happen to force them to begin to do that. And if the international community is going to do that for us, we just have to accept it. Among those who violated the rules were state governors, police officers, INEC officers, and others. If they begin to deal with these people, ban them from coming to their countries, and even go as far as extending the ban to their families, then people will begin to take these laws very seriously.
“In the absence of law enforcement doing the right thing, then somebody else has to do it for us and that’s exactly what they want to do,” Ambassador Keshi stated.
He said that the measures being taken by the international community are to help the country maintain peace and stability since the leaders have failed to enforce the laws and ensure there are consequences for negative actions.
He lamented that what happened during the last governorship and State Assembly elections has created deep division along ethnic lines and must be genuinely addressed for the country to remain peaceful and stable.
“If our leaders fail to do the needful, if we do not address the consequences and the outcome of this election and the tribal division that we have created and the way people are feeling from outside, I can make a prediction that in 20 years time, there will be no Nigeria.”
He said the president-elect ought to have spoken out against the electoral violence that took place, before or on election day, particularly in Lagos, to quell the chaotic situation and not calling for healing and reconciliation after the deed had been done and his party seems to have won.
He said that genuine healing should be very inclusive and based on the principle of justice for people to take it seriously and embrace. it.