Mr. Ethelbert Oney is a counter-terrorism expert based in the United States. In this interview with JULIANA FRANCIS, he speaks on the violence that marred the 2023 general election and how to curb such in future polls

What is your reaction to the violence that occurred during and after the 2023 general election?

The way and manner in which the 2023 election violence occurred require every Nigerian both home and abroad to shed tears because it was not supposed to be so. The election is not a do-or-die affair but because some politicians are desperate for power, they will do everything possible to clinch power or they get into power. Now, the election was not the only election that had gone wrong if the truth is told.

Even in the Western world, there is voters suppression but the difference is that they do not waste lives and destroy property because they know the value of lives and property and infrastructure in their designated location for Nigerian people, it is absolutely something different and we should be ashamed and worried about this when moving forward.

The 2023 elections were marred by different kinds of violence and those people who lost their lives are people’s relatives; it should not have been so.

It is well known that those who perpetuated the violence are those who know that they cannot win elections because if any politician knows that he or she will do well in an election, there would be no point indulging or encouraging violence.

I watched a video of the winners of the elections, where they were urging thugs to go out there and kick arses and snatch boxes.

Such words are incitement of violence and it has consequences but in our part of the world, everything goes mostly with people with such power, they are above the law but in reality, nobody should be above the law.

 The political parties and their candidates were made to sign peace accords, yet violence still occurred. What do you think happened?

Yes, political parties were made to undergo or sign peace accords but with the story of Nigeria, peace accords do not stand, The Abuja Peace Accord was a waste of time because peace accords in Nigeria never worked because some people believe they can do anything they want and go Scot free. The way the ruling party took power this time around was totally tribalistic.

I believe that the person who was pronounced the winner this time around adopted tribal politics because certain groups of people were prevented from voting and some were killed innocently but politics should not be a tribal issue because we are one Nigerian unless they want to divide the country.

If they want to do so that is a different scenario instead of pretending to be one Nigeria but in reality, they are doing something else based on tribal sentiments.

 How will you rate the performance of law enforcement agencies during the elections?

My rating of the law enforcement agencies is zero because it is so sad that security personnel kept a blind eye and let crime go on. In our own part of the world, law enforcement agencies are bought, so it is not surprising why they performed below expectations in the 2023 general election. It is very sad, so nobody should mention law enforcement agencies again, going forward. It is laughable that despite the powers they have, the law enforcement agents saw some people committing crimes and they turned a blind eye.

Some of them even participated in the violence. Election should be free and fair, it should let the best man win and everyone goes home and support the winner but in our country, it is not so. Some people believe that it is their birthright to rule; some believe that because they’ve got the money they can buy everyone but it is not supposed to be that way. So, my rating of the law enforcement agencies is zero because they truly disappointed everyone.

What steps should the security agencies and government take to end electoral violence?

The easiest way through which the government and law enforcement agencies can end electoral violence is by accountability. If those who encourage and sponsor violence are taken accountable and prosecuted, that will be a very big step and then the rest of the politicians will sit up but as it is, the ruling parties think they are about the law and even if you go to court, the judges are already appointed, so it is not going to work. So, the most effective way of stopping electoral violence is accountability, if those who encourage it or participate in it are taken accountable.

Do you think we can ever have a Nigeria devoid of election violence?

Yes, in the future we can have free and fair elections if the right people can be in power but it is the good people who have the heart and how to play politics, people who will get everyone involved, people who will sympathize with the masses, those people can never smell power because they do not belong.

But as for getting it right, having a free and fair election for the future, there will be a time we will have such but not with this current generation, not with the current politicians because they are power-mongers, bloodthirsty, and money-mongers. Therefore, it cannot work presently but, in the future, it is possible because even in the Western world they all passed through this process.

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