At the beginning of 2015, Nigeria was anticipating the upcoming presidential election and wary of violence that it might produce. Rivers State, in particular, was identified as a flashpoint for potential conflict. In response to this, PIND collaborated with the Nigeria PSWG in a participatory process to develop possible scenarios of election violence in the community and mitigating approaches. This effort encouraged greater participation in the election process and mitigated violence in the local community.
As part of the PSWG, a subgroup was organized to acquire local perspectives around the political and social triggers for violence. Emen Okon was one of the 40 locals who were consulted to inform the PSWG. PSWG led her and others through a series of exercises that helped identify violence scenarios, contemplate program design, review strategies, and look at the best way to intervene.
Lessons from these exercises were shared at a forum that convened key stakeholders including government officials, the security sector, the political parties, political candidates, and CSOs. “Everybody brings experience to the table. Each member organization has a different constituency,” Emen shared. The subgroup presented their scenarios and offered recommendations for interventions that the 108 stakeholders in attendance could undertake to alleviate the risks. “The forum provided the opportunity and the platform to know what the stakeholders were doing and how best to address Nigeria’s election violence issues,” Emen remarked. Following the forum, the stakeholders and the subgroup worked together as a network to begin putting their plans into action. “The campaign was intense,” Emen recalls. Some organizations held peace rallies. Radio jingles against violence in politics hit the airwaves. Others conducted voter mobilization and registration. Posters covered surfaces all over the state.
Despite all the efforts, everyone was still nervous about violence that could occur during the election. However, as Emen was driving around town to observe the scene, she saw the changes first-hand. She credits the campaigns for a peaceful atmosphere in the election.
“People came out. People were confident. The election scenes were calm.”– EMEN