EnuguThe Rt. Rev. Christian Onyia, the Bishop, Diocese of Nike in Enugu State (Anglican Communion), says that the 2023 elections, to a larger extent, did not meet the credibility criteria.
Onyia said this on Saturday while delivering his Bishop’s Charge at the 2nd Session of the 6th Synod of the Diocese ongoing at the Church of the Beatitudes, Trans Ekulu, Enugu.
According to him, as expected in every contest/competition, winners have emerged. Nonetheless, it is more honorable to accept defeat in a competition if the process and the resultant outcome are seen to be fair, open and credible.
The bishop said that it remained unfortunate that the “2023 elections, to a larger extent, did not meet the credibility criteria”, adding that most of the provisions of the new electoral law on the conduct of elections were not met.
He said, “Apparently, there is a lack of political will to implement the law.
“The elections witnessed among others, late arrival of voting materials to the polling units, poor conduct of INEC officials, malfunctioning of BVAS devices, change of location of polling units, and non-compliance to electoral guidelines on the upload of election results to IRev.
“These controllable/avoidable irregularities happened despite the huge budget and cash release to INEC and assurances to conduct fair and credible elections by INEC and other state institutions.
“Many of the accredited voters were disenfranchised from exercising their civic rights as a result of violence and voter suppression.
“Unfortunately, videos available online showed that these things happened while the responsible security agents present at the venue did nothing to address the issues and restore order.”
Onyia lamented that the 2023 elections witnessed the lowest voter participation since the return of Nigeria to democracy in 1999; noting that only 26.7 per cent of registered voters turned out for the Presidential and National Assembly elections.
He said that voter turn-out in the South East is even worse because it was less than the national average of 26.7 per cent, especially for a region that had continued to cry of marginalisation, non-participation in the electoral process “is unacceptable”.
“Specifically, voters turnout for South-East States were 23.5 per cent for Anambra; Enugu – 22.19 per cent; Ebonyi – 21.11 per cent; Imo – 19.41 per cent and Abia – 18 per cent. You need to fully participate in the electoral process in order to determine and choose credible and inclusive leaders.
“The low voter participation got worse during the Governorship and State Assembly Elections.
“The low voter participation does not only indicate the loss of confidence by Nigerians on the institutions charged with the responsibility to conduct a credible election but a failure of democracy to deliver development in Nigeria.
“State institutions and politics have continued to exclude instead of include, with the sole intent to perpetuate State capture by the political elites,” he said.
The bishop also decried the appalling direct involvement and partisanship of traditional rulers and religious leaders in the just-concluded elections, adding that “it is despicable and condemnable”.
He said, “Some Church leaders turned the pulpit as a place to campaign for political parties and their preferred candidates.
“In some other places, traditional rulers who are known supporters of the ruling party, imposed midnight curfews to perform ‘Oro’ rights, slaughtered animals and strategically placed the sacrifices at voting centers to scare voters.”
Onyia noted that clearly, most politicians, by their actions, believe that the judiciary cannot dispense justice anymore; adding that the new slogan of ‘go to court’ by someone who is aware that electoral fraud had been committed raises integrity risk on the judiciary.
The bishop said, “I encourage the judiciary to rise up to the occasion and redeem its battered image by dispensing justice without fear or favour.
“This will not only boost the confidence of voters/Nigerians in our judiciary and electoral process, but will also increase their turn out rate in next elections.”
He said that the institutions of government must be and be seen to be transparent, accountable to the people and impartial.
According to him, I encourage INEC to embark on voter register audit, even as it pursues and prosecutes election offenders to serve as a deterrent to others.
“To all the candidates who lost the elections or were rigged out; kindly pursue your case through legal process. Do not encourage/participate in violence or any other illegal act. Nigeria is destined for greatness, Amen,” he added. (Flowerbudnews)