Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, has called on Nigerians and the people of the South East not to adhere to the call by the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, to boycott the 2019 presidential election.

HURIWA said it is the citizens’ human right to take part or withdraw or boycott an election, adding that the right to boycott election must not be enforced by extra-legal means and nobody must be stopped from participating in the coming election.

The organization urged Nigerians who are tired of the poverty situations that afflict millions of people in the country, to ignore the call by IPOB and stand up and be counted in the historical decision to elect a new set of political leaders.

HURIWA stated this during a press briefing in Abuja on Wednesday, by its National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubuike.

He said, “We are aware of the call for election boycott by the Indigenous people of Biafra. We acknowledge that as citizens individuals have the human right to take part or withdraw or boycott an election.

“But the right to boycott election must not be enforced by extra-legal means and nobody must be stopped from participation in the coming election. Any attempt to use crude tactics to stop the electorate from voting is hereby totally and absolutely condemned.

“We urge all Nigerians who are tired of the poverty situations that afflict millions of Nigerians to stand up and be counted in the historical decision to elect a new set of political leaders to deliver good governance; restructure the unworkable federation that Nigeria represents at the moment and deliver rapid economic growth.

“All Nigerians who boycott election are public enemies because their action will foist on us a choice of leadership that will keep us as slaves in perpetuity.

“We will return to this boycott issue and to show all Nigerians that it is futile to stay away from participation in the electoral process that will bring about the emergence of s crop of leaders that would pilot the affairs of the federation after the February polls.

“First, we support the pro-active roles of the Army as adopted by the COAS to stave off electoral violence. The NA is a professional outfit and the Army chief is aware of the significance of his operatives working under the legal frameworks of adherence to rules of engagement and in ABSOLUTE COMPLIANCE TO THE PROVISIONS OF THE NIGERIAN CONSTITUTION.

“TO that extent we support him and urge him to always maintain professional decorum and check any excesses on the part of his operatives that will soil his illustrious career.

“The Nigerian constitution authorizes the military to play these roles and the provisions as enshrined in section 217 (1) of the 1999 constitution goes thus: “There shall be an armed forces for the Federation which shall consist of an army, a navy, an Air Force and such other branches of the armed forces of the Federation as may be established by an Act of the National Assembly.

“Gentlemen of the media, you will agree with me that the threats of insecurity is real, genuine and frightening because even those who hold positions of authority like governor of Kaduna state has issued death threat against foreign observers.

“The Nigeria police force has spectacularly failed to carry out its obligation thereby compelling the military to step in. But doing so, the Nigerian Army being a professional institution created by the constitution must not breach the fundamental rights of Nigerians as enshrined in chapter 4 of the constitution.

“Democracy has also been explained in the Black’s Law Dictionary as that form of government in which the sovereign power resides in and is exercised by the whole body of free citizens directly or indirectly through a system of representation, as distinguished from a monarchy, aristocracy or oligarchy.

“It is also argued that it is a form of government usually representative, in which the powers of the majority are exercised within the framework of minorities the enjoyment of certain individual or collective rights, such as freedom of speech and religion known as liberty or constitutional democracy.

“The New Standard Encyclopedia on its part states that democracy has three different but related meanings. Firstly, it is a form of government in which those who control the government are elected by the people and are responsible or answerable for their actions to the people. Secondly, it is a form of government in which there is no privileged class and in which individuals may rise by the ability to positions of power and influence.

“Thirdly, it is an ideal way of life that stresses equality, liberty, individual rights, tolerance, freedom of discussion and compromise. In addition, democracy has been described by the Chambers English Dictionary as a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people collectively, and is administered by them or by officers appointed by them. It is a state of society characterized by recognition of equality of rights and privileges, namely political, social and legal equality.”

“The doctrine of compact was further explained by Justice Willes in Dawkins v. Lord Rokeby3 when he said “But with respect to persons who enter into the military state, who take His Majesty’s pay, and who consent to act under his commission, although they do not cease to be citizens in respect of responsible, yet they do by a compact which is intelligible and which requires only the statement of it to the consideration of any one of common sense, become subject to military rule and discipline.”

“An election boycott is the boycotting of an election by a group of voters, each of whom abstains from voting.

“In general elections, individuals and parties will often boycott in order to protest the ruling party’s policies with the hope that when voters do not show up the elections will be deemed illegitimate by outside observers. This tactic, however, can prove disastrous for the boycotting parties.

“This tactic, however, can prove disastrous for the boycotting parties. Lack of participation rarely nullifies election results and the distorted voting is likely to further detach boycotting groups from the organs of power, leaving them susceptible to political irrelevance.

“Election boycotts have no place in a functioning democracy; participation being at the heart of democratic process. However, boycotts could have a role to play in a democracy that is not functioning as it could be and where fair competition is impossible.

“The problem lies in determining at what point conditions for a fair election are being violated to such an extent that a boycott is justifiable. Even if justifiable, it should be considered as a last resort. In most cases opposition parties have concluded that participation in the electoral process- even if unequal. It is more beneficial than boycotting it.

“Choosing to be outside the electoral process is a highly risky political tactic and can come with high costs.

“Both degree of sympathy and interest in any boycott by the wider electorate is a crucial factor in determining the impact of any boycott

“Boycott is accompanied by other measures which hinder ability to govern or there is a minimum voter participation required.

Boycotts there often impact legitimacy but not the final result. There is also a very danger that resorting to boycott can have a long- term and damaging effect on the democratic process.

“The situation is mostly like to affect international organizations and civil society groups, as election authorities may be legally bound to provide to provide voter education despite the circumstances. Elections pose an existential crisis for opposition parties–not the ruling ones– whether the people are ready to vote or not.

“For example in South Africa, the African National Congress party was favored to win, which posed a challenge for the opposition party head of Inkathah, Mangosuthu Buthelezi. He wanted more autonomy for his province, so Buthelezi used the boycott threat to leverage its position to ultimately participate in elections.

“The gains in boycotting elections were recognized before the election because it was the threat, rather than the Inkatha/opposition party actually carrying out the boycott, that facilitated their goal: beating the ANC party in the province, KwaZulu-Natal, the province that had lobbied for more autonomy. Inkatha leveraged its negotiating role because of THREATENING–not implementing–the boycott.

“Since 2010, election boycotts continue to fare poorly. Algeria’s and Libya’s 2014 elections witnessed both a voter and party boycott.

“Algeria: Six parties boycotted because they feared vote tampering would occur to guarantee the incumbent’s win. In a self-fulfilling prophecy, the incumbent (Abdel Aziz Bouteflika) won with even less opposition.

“Libya: In March 2014, Libya’s ethnic Amazigh decided to boycott Libya’s Constituent Assembly. Consequently, 2 out of the 6 seats designated for the Amazigh remain empty and without a voice.

“Elections boycott does not achieve the goal of getting the contested party out of power. Unlike South Africa’s example where the threat of — not the actual boycott — proved successful.

“When the opposition and voters boycott, they forget that elections are not just a one-time effort. There is always the next election cycle. So why sit on the sideline and relegate the party voice to “non-participant”?

“In addition the danger on boycotting elections are resorted to too easily and become less than exceptional events, thereby undermining the constitutional process.”

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