2023: Southeast Traditional, Religious Leaders Call For Peaceful Election
Southeast Traditional Rulers and Bishops

2023: Southeast Traditional, Religious Leaders Call For Peaceful Elections

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Eight days to the 2023 Nigeria’s general elections, a joint body of Southeast Council of Traditional Rulers and Representatives of Igbo Archbishops and Bishops has called on all stakeholders to ensure free, fair, and transparent polls for the sustenance of peace and democracy in the country.

The group in a statement released on Thursday, 16th February, urged all eligible Nigerians to turn out en mass on Election Day and choose their leader.

The statement was signed by His Majesty, Obi Nnaemeka Achebe, Chairman, Anambra State Traditional Rulers Council; Most Rev Dr Chibuzo Opoko, Methodist Archbishop of Umuahia; His Majesty, Igwe Amb L. O. C. Agubuzu, Chairman, Enugu State Traditional Rulers Council; Most Rev Dr Valerian Maduka Okeke, Catholic Archbishop of Onitsha.

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The joint body noted that some interesting developments in the build-up to the 2023 general elections have shaped issues that would confront the country’s new political leadership. According to the group, such developments include increasing awareness by the younger generation of their civic rights and responsibilities to vote and be voted for in the electoral process; the power and influence of social media, and the emergence of alternatives to the hitherto dominant political parties that have held power at the national level which has raised the stakes and fragmented the electorate, thereby spurring robust electoral debates in various platforms.

With these developments, the group said it is imperative that all hands must be on deck to ensure that the election is properly conducted to pave way for good governance in the country.

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“With less than two weeks to the 2023 General Elections, 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.

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“This would enable the best candidates to emerge as our new President, Governors, and legislators to lead the nation in addressing the numerous socio-economic challenges that we currently face,” part of the statement read.

The group implored the Federal and State Governments and relevant agencies to do their utmost best to ensure that the elections are free, fair and transparent, adding that it would eliminate or minimize “post-election disputes and enable the winners 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 electorates 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 offices that they share the highest responsibility for strengthening our nascent democratic culture through their lawful conduct,” the group stated.

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The traditional and religious leaders lamented that the Peace Accord signed by political parties at the beginning of electoral campaigns has been gravely violated, leading to violent attacks on citizens on different occasions. They called on the leaders of all political parties and their candidates to remind their supporters, and stakeholders of the need to be committed to non-violent conduct and the maintenance of peace during the elections and beyond.

The body also called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to rise to its mandate of delivering “a flawless election with all the technology and human capacity at its disposal.”

It specifically urged the electoral body to guard its digital system and the entire electoral process to “forestall illegal tampering with the election results.” It also stressed that the Commission should create “simple and handy instructions” to guide, especially, first-time voters on how to cast vote in order that their votes would not be invalidated.

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The group equally appealed to security agencies to guarantee free and peaceful movement of people who would go out to vote on election day, by providing adequate security in all parts of the country to prevent hoodlums from causing violence and disrupting the polls.

“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, and
prevent attacks on any section of the people based on ethnicity, religion, or party affiliations before, during, or after the elections.

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“We urge that they devote particular attention to the Southeast, North East and North Central geopolitical zones where insecurity, violence, kidnapping for ransom, shedding of innocent blood, attacks on public buildings and uniformed officers, have prevailed for a long time.

“We make the above recommendations based on the fact that much of our current circumstances are linked directly and indirectly to the primary challenge of forging a pathway to an inclusive and prosperous nationhood,” the group further stated.

They also called on all traditional and religious leaders across the country to play significant roles in their respective areas of jurisdictions towards making the forthcoming elections a successful one.

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