The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) issued a bold declaration stating that Nigeria’s general elections in 2023 will have an impact on the western region of Africa and, by extension, Africa as a whole. ECOWAS bases its pronouncement on a personal investigation conducted by the delegation of the organisation’s pre-election fact-finding mission to Nigeria, led by the former Chairman, Electoral Commission of Ghana, Kwadwo Afari Gyan, who visited the independent National Electoral Commission headquarters in Abuja on Monday.
Remi Ajibewa, Director of Political Affairs for the delegation, stated that they were in Nigeria to conduct fact-finding ahead of the country’s 2023 general elections in accordance with the Ecowas supplementary protocol. Ajibewa went further to acknowledge the article 11,12 and 13 of the protocol which mandates the commission to deploy electoral fact finding missions to every member state of the ECOWAS, that is about to conduct elections; especially Presidential elections.
He said: “we all know the importance Nigeria holds; given the fact that, as they used to say, if Nigeria sneezes, the whole West Africa catches cold and we dont pray that will be the result. So, we are here to listen to you; to see the area of challenges that we might also report. And this is why we are here. And in the cause of our being here in Nigeria, there will be visits first to ECOWAS Commission, which we have done: that is to brief the head of mission. Basically, the reason why we normally do that is that we believe INEC is our friend, so, some of the things that we’ve had, we also put across to them as areas of discussion.
“So in the course of our stay, we’ll also be visiting the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria. We will be visiting the Resident Electoral Commissioners; we will be visiting the security agencies; we will be visiting the traditional and religious leaders. We will be visiting the civil society; having discussion with them, all to know the preparedness of these stakeholders we are meeting. But in particular, we will not miss out the political parties; given the fact that they constitute the sort of important role.
“Then in the course we’ll be meeting the media, speaking with the Bar Association, the courts as well because of their role,” he said. Mr Ajibewa said the delegation’s visit to Nigeria was not the first as that was done during other previous elections in the country, including the 2019 general elections.
Responding, Mr Yakubu said INEC has invited interested international organisations across the world to come and observe general elections. The INEC chairman disclosed that it was a demonstration of the commission’s openness and ritual to receive international observers.
“Election Observation is an important part of ensuring transparency and credibility in elections. We have always benefited from the insight of election observation missions. For instance, you are here on fact-finding; we will hear from you what you have found so far, which will help us in concluding our preparations for the election. And I look forward also to receiving any report at the end of the process in February and March so that we can learn even more from the inside,” he said.
The chairman assured the ECOWAS team that Nigeria’s 2023 general elections will be technology driven. “Let me restate the commitment of INEC Nigeria to free, fair and credible elections driven by technology. The 2023 general elections in Nigeria will be driven by technology not only as a matter of legal requirement but also as a matter of course, for us in the commission. So, I want to assure the ECOWAS team that we are committed to delivering a credible election in the next four months and a few days, which will be Nigeria’s seventh successive elections, since the restoration of democracy in 1999.”
Mr Yakubu, who commended ECOWAS for its commitment to credible elections in Nigeria, said it was the first to arrive Nigeria for the election. “ECOWAS has demonstrated that seriousness and commitment to ensuring that we get it right electorally in this region in the next few weeks, I’m sure many more organisations will come,” he said.
Mr Yakubu also stressed the need to restore democratic government in all West African countries including Mali, Burkina and Guinea.