As the country gears up for the 2023 general elections, renown research and policy advocacy group, Nextier SPD, has warned of possible spike in election-related harassment, intimidation and violence.
Topping the list of areas where this may occur is Lagos State, in the assessment of the group, which also predicted that other States and cities in the country will experience it at varying levels.
It linked the trend to some incidents of clashes between party supporters, promotion of hate speech and clampdown on democracy activists by politicians and even state security agents.
Using Lagos as a case study, Nextier said the 2023 election will be keenly contested in Lagos State for several reasons. First is the huge population of the State.
It noted that as of 2022, the population of Lagos State is approximately 17.5 million. Indeed, Lagos has become one of the most populated cities in the world. As democracy is largely a game of numbers, this huge population has critical implications for electoral politics in Lagos State and the Presidential election.
It stated that already, gladiators of Nigeria’s three dominant political parties are engaged in swaying the choices of the Lagos voters in 2023. Noting that, the ruling All Progressives Congress’ presidential flagbearer (Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu) was governor of Lagos State between 1999 and 2007.
“Besides his reputation for patron-client politics, which has produced several ‘godsons’ including current Lagos State governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Tinubu has enormous wealth and local networks to his advantage.
“The defection of the famous ‘Lagos4Lagos Movement’ to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the emergence of the Movement’s leader, Abdul-Azeez Adediran popularly known as Jandor, as PDP’s gubernatorial flagbearer for the 2023 election has significantly reduced Tinubu’s influence in the state.
“Besides the Jandor factor, the Igbo people have a huge population and businesses in Lagos. Despite allegations of Igbo residents in Lagos by members of the APC, the Igbo are poised to support the presidential candidature of the Labour Party, Mr Peter Obi, who is the Igbo ethnic group.
“The Lagos youth have become more vocal and politically conscious since the 2020 EndSARS protest against police brutality.
“In the last two years, the youth have deployed social media and physical mobilisation to galvanise enormous support for Peter Obi and other like-minded progressives,” NexTier SPD stated in its latest research findings.
The latest reseach which was spearheaded by Dr Iro Aghedo, an Associate Consultant at Nextier SPD and a Senior Lecturer Department of Political Science at the University of Benin, Edo State, Nigeria and Dr Ndu Nwokolo, Managing Partner and Chief Executive at Nextier SPD and an Honorary Research Fellow at the School of Government and Society, University of Birmingham, UK, equally asserted that some policy measures would be required to address the growing electoral political violence in Lagos State in particular.
Going by this trend, they suggested that politicians and their supporters who perpetrate political violence should be prosecuted and sanctioned: including members of the political elite who promote hate speech, deploy thugs to harass their opponents and perpetrate any form of violence should also be prosecuted and sanctioned appropriately.
“No matter their socioeconomic status. Inviting politicians to merely sign peace accords without holding them to account for violence linked to them or their supporters should be stopped.
“If politicians who have weaponised violence in Lagos State had been sanctioned in the last couple of years, the act of electoral violence and thuggery would have been drastically reduced by now,” the group submitted.
The Policy group equally warned that ahead of the 2023 general elections, many politicians and their supporters have started to deploy violence against members of opposing parties, as exemplified in Lagos Sstate.
It cautioned that to ensure free, fair, credible and peaceful elections in 2023, politicians who perpetrate such violence should be prosecuted and sanctioned to serve as a lesson to others.
”In addition, we recommend that the increasing persecution of Igbo people in Lagos should be stopped since all qualified Nigerians are entitled to franchise no matter where they reside.
“Lastly, we recommend that government agencies and civil society groups extend their campaigns and sensitisation to motor parks so that drivers who are often deployed as touts should turn a new leaf,” they noted.