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Nigeria Activist Calls for Peaceful Elections

Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan gestures, during an election campaign rally, at Tafawa Balewa Square in Lagos, Nigeria, Jan. 8, 2015.

A prominent civil rights activist has called on Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan and his main challenger retired General Mohammadu Buhari to ensure that their supporters refrain from violence in the run up to the February 14 presidential and gubernatorial elections.

The comments of Ishaya Bajama, leader of the Jar Consensus and Coalition Forum, came after both President Jonathan of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Buhari from the main opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) called for peaceful polls. They made their appeal at an election workshop on non-violence in the capital Abuja on Wednesday.

“It sends a policy statement that we are not interested in violence…but it will not be a conclusive solution to the problem,” said Bajama. “I suggest that apart from signing [a peace agreement] they need to go to their political groups and emphasize this [message]. [They also need to create] a structure that can ensure what they are saying is acceptable and is complied with.”

Bajama said incumbent state governors and their rivals should agree to call on their supporters to refrain from attacking opponents ahead of the elections.

He also proposed what he called cordial debates on the national, state and local levels to help “ventilate” and diffuse any possible tensions which could lead to violence.

“There should be a watchdog [to ensure they implement] this and let them be seen working together," he said.

He said a “winner takes all” approach to governance is to blame for the electoral violence. Bajama called for governments on the federal and state levels after an election to discourage post-election turmoil.

“There should be some level of party inclusiveness in the government of each of the state,” he said. “The more it is emphasized, the more it is mainstream, the more it might reduce [attacks by] some of these people.”

Meanwhile, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced it has re-registered about 10 million voters to participate in the upcoming polls.

But, critics say the newly released figures may not be accurate, and could be used to manipulate the elections.

Bajama said prospective Nigerian voters should have confidence in the efforts by the INEC to administer a credible vote.

“The electoral body is trying to explain itself as to how far it is trying to be as honest as it can be. We should push for them to be better at what they are doing, we should also have some level of trust in what they are doing. And we should participate in the process of [sealing] any gaps,” said Bajama.

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