News

October 17, 2022

2023: Democracy under threat in West Africa, warns The Electoral Forum

2023: Democracy under threat in West Africa, warns The Electoral Forum

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…As WACSI insists Nigeria’s position in continental geopolitics can’t be underestimated

By Luminous Jannamike, Abuja

THE Electoral Forum, TEF, has declared that the West African sub-region and indeed Africa was currently going through perilous storms as a result of the actions of some politicians in some parts of the continent.

It took this position against the backdrop of reported violence at political campaign rallies and attacks on facilities belonging to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the nation prepares for the 2023 general elections.

The Chairman of the Forum, Prof. Adebayo Olukoshi, who stated these at the launch of the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) Node (Nigeria) in Abuja weekend, warned politicians against undermining the unity of the country.

The WACSI Node, a concept of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), seeks to strength the Nigerian civic space and connect civil society organisations and actors (not only NGOs) to the various service offerings it provides.

Olukoshi, who is a professor at the Wits School of Governance, University of the Witswatersrand in South Africa, urged political actors, not to take actions or make decisions that would make Nigeria a problem in West Africa, rather than a beacon of hope for the sub region.

While warning that democracy in Nigeria and indeed West Africa required urgent attention, he stated: “Our concern with regard to 2023 is to ensure that however, it goes and whatever form it may take, first and foremost, the unity of this country is not in any way undermined in any way by the actors in the field.

“And secondly, that the importance of Nigeria, not only with regards to the responsibility that it has to its citizens, but also, for the rest of Western and Central Africa in particular, is one that must be uppermost in the minds of all of the political actors, as not to take actions or make decisions of a kind that will make Nigeria a problem to West Africa, rather than a beacon of hope for the sub region”.

Speaking also, The Executive Director, WACSI, Nana Afadzinu, said the 2023 elections in Nigeria would pose a key test of the strength of the country’s democracy.

According to her, Nigeria’s position in Africa’s geo-politics cannot be underestimated, adding that a strong civil society in Nigeria portends a good omen not only for the country, but for West Africa and indeed the continent.

She said: “This is a critical time in our democratic journey and the role of civil society is even more heightened and questioned in the response to the post-covid challenges, global economic crisis, and growing discontent among our people as many express their angst with the lack of dividends from our democratic project.

“In the past two years, this situation has created fertile ground for the return of military coups in some parts of West Africa. One has to mention what has also been termed constitutional coups- the manipulation of constitutions by incumbent governments to prolong their terms of office.

“These are clear signals that there is democratic retrogression, and in a region plagued with other challenges, including Islamic militant insurgency, disputed elections, restriction of media freedom and civic space, inadequate citizen participation in their own governance and weak oversight institutions. The region is at a crossroad and for Nigeria, the 2023 elections would pose a key test of the strength of the country’s democracy.

“Civil society in Nigeria has a significant role to play in responding to these challenges. Over the past decades, civil society has grown in importance and is well regarded for its various roles in society.”