By Peter Okutu, Abakaliki
The Communication and Knowledge Management Specialist, for United States Agency for International Development, USAID, State2State Activity, Obinna Chukwuezie yesterday called on political actors to play down on muslim-muslim, Christian-christian narrative and sentiments to avoid electoral violence in the 2023 general election.
Chukwuezie, who stated this during a 3 day workshop on “Conflict Sensitivity and Do No Harm” at San Diego Hotel, Abakaliki, explained that the political actors’ focus should rather be on the character, credibility and competence of the candidates that emerged during the last parties primaries across the country.
The purpose of the State2State Activity is to increase accountability, transparency, and effectiveness in targeted states and Local Govemments (LGAs) in Nigeria, focusing on three key sectors in basic education, primary health care and WASH.
According to him: “They should focus on character, credibility and competence; the three C’s and less of Moslem Moslem, Christian Christian narrative, which fuel passion and make people to start hating and attacking each other. This is what we are calling on the actors to do.
“We organize this workshop in view of the forthcoming election. The election is one that is generating lots of interests and enthusiasms among Nigerians. It has high potentials of generating electoral violence.
“The presidential candidates came from the three geopolitical zones. Atiku is a Northerner, Fulani, Tinubu is Yoruba, Peter Obi is an Igbo. When you have candidates like these, if care is not taken, the campaigns will start to take the form of ethno-religious sentiments and narratives.
“And that’s why we want to start early before the campaigns start in October, according to the Electoral guidelines. We want to start to douse tension to avoid such possibilities from happening within that line.
“We want to start now to mitigate the conflict mode; that’s why we are training Journalists. When Journalists tow the path of mitigating crisis, there’s likelihood of aborting such divisiveness and narratives along the ethnic lines and reduce the likelihood of electoral violence.
“Political actors should call on their fans and supporters not to express ethnic sentiments, so that it will not lead to religious, violent clashes.
On the reasons for the application of conflict sensitivity during reportage by Journalists, Chukwuezie listed “Complexity of society, different values and interests/differences, good ideas and bad results as reporting will have to be conflict sensitive because we are faced with our own citizens raising arms against their own nation.”
According to him, “Conflict sensitive journalism is not an effort to hide the truth. It is being professional and ethical – avoiding inflammatory expression and focusing on how peace can be achieved.”
In his remarks, the Chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, Ebonyi State Council, Mr. Tony Nwizi applealed to Journalists in Ebonyi State to practice solution based journalism, in order to assist affected Communities and government find lasting solutions to conflicts in the State.
He stressed the need for Journalists to form a common front geared towards mitigating crisis and upholding the factors that engenders peaceful coexistence among war-torn Communities in the State.
“Am making a passionate appeal to all the Journalists in Ebonyi State to come together and propagate with our reportage, what will engender peace rather than what will promote and escalate war.
“2023 is very critical to the future of this State and so, our reports should be able to galvanize peace and not instigate violence. Ebonyi is a peaceful state and Journalists in the State, as developmental partners have the responsibility through their profession, to follow the path of peace.”