The Sing Foundation, as an organisation that has worked for years to defend the interests of the people of the Niger Delta as a key component of a united and prosperous Nigeria, has worked on several elections in the region both formally and informally.
Our work in elections, and the trends we have observed in the elections conducted post 2015, necessitates this urgent message to all players in the political ecosystem in the light of the upcoming elections. The series of inconclusive elections in Rivers state and the violence that have characterized the elections in that state readily comes to mind, and these should strengthen the determination of all and sundry to ensure that these ugly episodes are not repeated in the build up to 2019. The brazen threat of “Hitler style” takeover in Akwa Ibom state is a major source of concern to well meaning citizens of Nigeria and international observers. In a nation where periodic elections are the only means to attaining political office, to begin to threaten violence is a clear warning on a clandestine plan to subvert the will of the masses of the country and must be resisted by all well wishers of Nigeria. The gubernatorial election of 2015 in Bayelsa, which was almost scuttled by violence and irregularities, is also another case in point and we salute the people of the state who stood strong to confront those who attempted to steal their mandate. As another round of elections approach, we call on the good people of Bayelsa to be ever more vigilant, even as the enemies of the people regroup and strategize. The Federal Government and its agencies, must not be used to further personal interests and ambitions of a few at the expense of the people on whose authority and in whose interests government exists. The voice of the people in choosing who leads them must be heard loud and clear and government must ensure that its agencies help amplify that voice rather than silencing it. President Muhammadu Buhari must ensure that he signs the amended electoral act to ensure that the irregularities in previous elections are checked and rectified, for a much stronger democracy that delivers for the greatest good of the greatest number of our citizens.
INEC must ensure that its independence is given real meaning in terms of the conduct of elections and ensuring that such elections reflect the will of the people. If elections are successfully conducted in the troubled northeast, the Niger Delta cannot be treated as an outlier in Nigeria.