Ahead of the 2019 general election, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Tuesday commenced the training of its staff on how to analyse, mitigate and manage the escalation of violence and conflict throughout election cycles.
INEC – The electoral body said that the electoral process is by nature conflictual, fraught with several challenges that often test the skills of staff of Electoral Management Bodies (EMBs).
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Its Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, disclosed this in Abuja while declaring open a workshop on ‘Leadership and Conflict Management Skills for Electoral Stakeholders’, organised by the European Union (EU) Support Democratic Governance in Nigeria, European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES) and EU. The workshop holds between October 23 and 27.
Yakubu, who was represented by the National Commissioner and Chairman, Election and Party Monitoring Committee (EPMC), Ms. Antonia Okoosi-Simbine, said that in developing democracies elections are at times perceived as warfare that must be won at all cost.
He stressed that the commission had realised overtime that the cost of litigation arising from these conflicts and their negative consequences contributed in no small measure to stifling the growth and consolidation of the country’s democracy, hence, the creation of the Directorate of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).
The workshop, according to him, “is aimed at looking at ways in which representatives of electoral stakeholders can improve their leadership skills and take on board means for identifying, analysing, mitigating and managing the escalation of electoral violence and conflict throughout the respective electoral cycles”.
The chairman added that a cursory examination of the typical electoral cycle reveals that every phase is fraught with potential and real dangers.
Yakubu noted that an electoral cycle, which is a tool to visualise the various cyclical electoral components with different stakeholders interacting and influencing each other in each period, is now a veritable theatre of conflict.
He said: “So much contestation surrounds our elections with little or scant respect for rule of law and due process.”
The chairman said the three basic phases in the electoral cycle namely — Pre-electoral, Electoral and Post electoral period — throw up different choices with policy implications that are not often agreeable to the various stakeholders.
“It is also within this context that one notes that the target departments as this training, that is, Election and Party Monitoring (EPM) and ADR. EPM department deals directly with political parties who are almost permanently in conflict and crisis either from without (intra and inter party conflict).
“It is in order to give an adequate attention and focus to the proper management of these conflicts that the political party complaints and liaison unit was created in EPM department,” Yakubu INEC said.
On his part, the Project Coordinator of ECES, Mr. Rudolf Elbing, said that the workshop was aimed at strengthening the leadership capacities of electoral stakeholders, increase their level of confidence and self awareness, while also providing them with necessary tools to enhance dialogue development and dialogue-based decision making throughout electoral cycle.
He noted that given the competitive nature of elections, conflicts among stakeholders are bound to occur at various stages of the electoral cycle, which could be effectively managed.
Hence, Elbing said the need to strengthen the electoral administration skills to create the conditions for efficiency, effectiveness and sustainability in their outcomes in areas of institutional capacity building which will in turn improve drastically on the level of integrity, and credibility of the electoral process in the face of distrust from stakeholders and help minimise risks of degeneration of electoral conflict into full blown deadly clashes