By G9ija

The UK Development Director, Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office, Chris Pycroft, and US Consul General, Mr. Will Stevens, expressed the worry while speaking at a forum on Monday.

According to the diplomats, this portends grave danger to the 2023 elections.

They also condemned the multiple attacks on INEC offices and violent rivalry among political parties in the country.

Recall that INEC offices in Ogun and Osun states were attacked by unknown persons last week.

According to INEC, about 41 attacks had been carried out against its offices in 14 states between February 2019 and May 2021.

Speaking at the Northern Peace Conference on the 2023 General Elections in Abuja organized by the 2Baba Foundation in partnership with the J-Dev Foundation and the Child Protection and Peer Learning Initiative, Pycroft said the survival of democracy in Nigeria is critical to Africa and the world at large.

Themed, ‘Vote Not to Fight: Election No Be War,’ the event attracted eminent personalities including the INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, Northern Elders Forum’s spokesman, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, former Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, among others.

Prof said fears over the forthcoming election have heightened in Nigeria over the past few years even as he called on all stakeholders, particularly politicians to commit to peaceful conduct before, during, and after the elections.

He said, “As we approach the polls next year,  attacks on INEC facilities and personnel, violent clashes between opposing members of political parties, or broader security challenges are all factors that threaten the peaceful and inclusive and successful execution of the elections.

“The largest democracy in Africa occupies a critical place in efforts to consolidate democracy elsewhere across the world. Credible, useful elections will deepen citizens’ trust and reinforce the foundations for democratic consolidation in Nigeria.”

According to the diplomat, a peaceful environment enables people to cast their votes on election day, without fear of harm, intimidation, or coercion.

He pledged the support of the UK government to Nigeria both in ensuring the smooth conduct of the elections and in sustaining her democracy.

On his part, Baba-Ahmed called on the United Kingdom and the rest of the international community to match words with action in their commitment to credible elections in Nigeria.

The Northern Elders Forum’s spokesman called for adequate security measures to enable eligible Nigerians in various communities to participate in the electioneering process.

On his part, Abdullahi Zoro who stood in for INEC chairman, tasked political parties and their candidates to play by the rules for in his words, “the credibility of any government is determined by the credibility of the process that brings it to power.”

He pledged the commitment of the umpire to doing a good job, saying “INEC places a high premium in ensuring that the elections are free,  fair, and credible.”

Meanwhile, the US has insisted on credible and peaceful polls for the 2023 elections, saying the polls must reflect the will of the people.

Speaking at an open session of an election reporting workshop for journalists, organized by West Africa Broadcast & Media Academy in Ibadan on Monday, the US Consul General, Will Stevens, added that the US government looked forward to seeing free and fair conduct of the 2023 election in Nigeria.

Stevens said, “We really want to see a credible, transparent, peaceful election. That above all represents the will of the Nigerian people in our programs and funding our ballot process, and encouraging people to vote. So people participate in a democracy. They feel like they have a stake in that democracy.

‘’When they vote, when they read your reporting, they feel like they’re part of the project of Nigeria, just like the project of the United States. So I’ll leave you with the words of one of my heroes, American investor, and philanthropist Warren Buffett, who said, ‘’the smarter the journalists are, the better off society is.”

According to the Consul General, the US has also earmarked over $50mn for the training of journalists, Civil Society Organisations, and technical assistance among others to ensure transparent 2023 polls.