2023 Elections: ACF laments religious, ethnic factors, calls for paradigm shift
Northern leaders, under the umbrella of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), yesterday, lamented the roles played by religious and ethnic factors in the just concluded 2023 general elections in Nigeria, saying there is the need for a paradigm shift in order to deepen the nation’s democracy in future.
The ACF criticised the use of religion and ethnicity to determine the outcome of the polls in some parts of the country, including Lagos State, saying though the candidates that lost in the elections may have their grievances on election results but the court may not be able to handle the influence of religion and ethnicity on the polls.
In a statement issued by the Secretary General of ACF, Alhaji Murtala Aliyu said, “Unfortunately, there is one particular problem thrown up by these elections that cannot possibly be addressed by the courts, the deployment of ethnic and religious sentiments as a driver of politics in Nigeria.
“As we have seen in Lagos and elsewhere, ethnic and religious zealots have a way of turning political and election campaigns into life and death struggles. They issue threats of violence and at times actually attack supporters of rival candidates with a view to intimidating and stopping them from casting their votes. It ought not come as any surprise that voter apathy and absenteeism were unusually high in many areas as well as why voter turnout was very low across the country.”
Aliyu said: “In Lagos where the problem created by ethnic and religious politics has continued to fester, acrimony and bad blood between Yorubas and Igbos have become a matter of concern to the security agencies. In the wake of the ethnic crisis, Yoruba and Igbo partisans freely profile one another and accuse themselves of criminal conduct, including as cheats, bandits, kidnappers, and land-grabbers, etc.
“Ironically, ethnic profiling and accusations of criminality without evidence have always been levied against hapless Northerners, especially, the so-called herders or economic migrants by the South and mostly supported by the press. They stigmatised Northerners, convicting them for offenses they know nothing about.
“Northerners were forced to live under the shadow of guilt and criminality without trial. Perpetrators of these injustices couldn’t have known that a day such as this would come when they will inflict injustice not on Northerners but against one another. All of which underscores the very serious consequences of politics rooted in religion and tribalism.”
He continued: “It is a political virus. Nigerians must do everything within their power to eliminate this virus and go on to inoculate ourselves against reinfection in the years to come. This time, it is truly a matter of life and death. Let us as Nigerians love and care for one another. Let us focus on the what unites us and not our differences.”
Besides, Aliyu argued: “History will report that the 2023 general elections that held on February, March 25 and 18, 2023, was the biggest and certainly the most keenly contested election ever to be held in Nigeria.
“The figures are tremendous: 87 million voters, 18 presidential candidates, 28 state governors, 469 members of the National Assembly and 993 members of State Houses of Assembly. Voting took place in 176, 000 polling stations in 8, 809 wards. Some 1.5 million political party agents were accredited to bear witness to every event. Additionally, thousands of foreign and local observers were on hand to monitor and assess the credibility of the exercise.
“True, there were difficulties and mishaps: polling stations opened late, BVAS failed to upload results real time, there were scattered violence, there were vote buying, voter intimidation, etc. And yet, while these problems are a serious source of concern and must be investigated and addressed, they have to be viewed in their right perspectives.
“We are pleased to note that candidates that felt dissatisfied with the outcome of the elections including presidential candidates of the PDP, Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi of the Labour Party, have resolved to go to court, not the streets, to seek redress. That’s the right and honorable thing to do,” Aliyu added.