Sheriff Mahmud Ismail: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 05 December 2022:
Led by Sierra Leone’s former president, Ernest Bai Koroma, along with the former vice president of The Gambia, Fatoumata Tambajallow, the West Africa Elders Forum (WAEF) last Sunday December 4 2022, started their Pre-elections Assessment Mission to Nigeria with a meeting with the leadership of Nigeria’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The PDP delegation led by its presidential aspirant, former vice president, Atiku Abubakar and its national chairman, Dr Iyorchia Ayu, expressed deep satisfaction over WAEF’s proactiveness. They also noted the commitment of statesmen and women such as President Koroma and Vice President Tambajallow to the peace and democratic good governance in Africa.
This is the seventh consecutive general election since the country returned to democracy in 1999, the longest uninterrupted democratic governance in Nigeria’s history.
Compared to the 2019 elections in which there were 73 presidential candidates, there are only 18 political parties so far, for the 2023 elections. However, the contest is already shaping out as a four-horse race involving the All People’s Congress (APC), the Labour Party (LP), the Peoples Democratic Party, and the New Nigeria People’s Party.
It is important to note that this is going to be a transitional election in which the incumbent President Buhari is not contesting. A Nigerian Think Tank, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), said the 2023 elections will be the most challenging to conduct in Nigeria, saying the raging insecurity, preparedness of the electoral body, INEC, and conduct of presidential candidates will shape the outcome of the polls.
“Insecurity remains a critical issue, particularly in the northwest and southeast. Further challenging this operation are the prevailing structural, infrastructural, and cultural ecosystems in which the polls will take place.”
WAEF’s Assessment Mission will hear, take note of all concerns and engage the relevant authorities in pursuit of peaceful and credible elections.
The meeting held at the headquarters of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Wuse 2, Abuja yesterday Sunday, also included the Special Adviser to the PDP Candidate, Alhaji Ahmadu Maina Waziri, its Director of Administration, Ambassador Ibrahim Bashir, its Director of Publicity, Senator Dino Melaye and the Principal Secretary to the Candidate, Alhaji Ibrahim Yahaya Zamgo.
The delegation of the West African Elders Forum (WAEF) this afternoon held a conversation with a cross section of Abuja based civil society organisations in Nigeria. The meeting which took place at the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation (GEJ) head office included YIAGA Africa, the Centre for Democracy and Development, the Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room, the Policy and Legislative Advocacy Centre, the Nigerian Women Trust Fund, the Women’s Right Advocacy and Protection Alternative and the CLEEN Foundation.
Also at the GEJ headquarters, the delegation met with former Governor of Anambra State and the presidential aspirant of the Labour Party Mr Peter Obi, along with his party chair, Julius Abare (Photo above). Mr Obi emphasized on the need for peaceful, credible, inclusive and transparent elections.
At the Independent National Electoral Commission, the WAEF delegation further interacted with the Chief Electoral Commissioner, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, together with the full complement of commissioners and senior cadre of staff of the Commission. All the deliberations were particularly insightful and provided the delegation with a colourful picture of the state of preparedness of INEC, as well as the challenges stakeholders are concerned about.
The delegation acknowledged the sheer logistical challenges in conducting presidential elections in Nigeria. The total number of registered voters in Nigeria is greater than the total number of registered voters in the rest of West Africa by 20 million. For the February 2023 polls, over 94 million people have registered to vote in over 146,000 polling stations across 491 constituencies.
The WAEF delegation welcomed INEC’s determination to effectively utilise technology, particularly in the critical phases of transmission and publication of results. WAEF further noted INEC’s assurances that the stakeholders concerns are being addressed and that every eligible voter shall be accorded the right to vote peaceful transparent, inclusive and credible elections.
In the meantime, the WAEF Forum also added its voice in urging all registrants to endeavour to collect their Personal Voter Cards (PVC) from 12 December to 22 January as stipulated by INEC. At the same time, it encourages the Commission to, as it has indicated, increase the number of points of collection of PVCs.
WAEF has expressed its determination to stay engaged with the Commission and other stakeholders now, during and after the elections until a peaceful transition is achieved. The Forum delegation, led by former president Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, included the former vice president of the Gambia, Fatoumata Tambajah and the former head of the United Nations Office of West Africa and the Sahel, Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas.
This is former President Koroma speaking: