Participants at a Lagos gubernatorial town hall meeting on human rights and the 2023 elections have described the upcoming general elections as the most important and critical elections in this generation.
The meeting was organised by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in Lagos over the weekend and attracted the gubernatorial candidates of 15 political parties eyeing the Lagos State Government House.
The political parties contesting the Lagos governorship election in 2023 are the All Progressives Congress (APC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Accord Party (AP), African Action Congress (AAC) and African Democratic Congress (ADC).
Others are the African Democratic Party (ADP), Allied Peoples Movement (APM), Labour Party (LP), New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), National Rescue Movement (NRM), Social Democratic Party (SDP), Young Progressives Party (YPP), Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), Action Peoples Party (APP) and Boot Party (BP).
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The Executive Secretary of NHRC, Anthony Okechukwu Ojukwu (SAN), said that since the UN’s General Assembly resolution proclaiming the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a “common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations”, human rights had become major political and legal commitments for governments and policy makers globally.
He said, “Free and fair elections are key tenets of a democratic system of governance. The right to participate in the governance process, including voting and standing for elections, is central to democracy. This principle is emphasised by Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Section 14(2)(c) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
“Elections are germane in creating an enabling environment for the fulfilment of human rights. It has been recognised by the United Nations that the right to vote and be elected is interwoven with the enjoyment of a plethora of other key human rights which include the right to freedom of association, right to peaceful assembly, right to freedom of movement, right to freedom of information and the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
“Consequently, elections should be a time of critical national self-reflection on our commitment to the social contract of democracy and the achievement of human rights.
“The National Human Rights Commission and the United Nations systems as gatekeepers of human rights have decided to the human rights message to our political parties and candidates contesting the presidential and gubernatorial elections as our future leaders to discuss the place of human rights in our democracy and as a common standard of political commitment which every leader should sign onto.
“To put it succinctly, the fulfilment and enjoyment of human rights are critical indicators of a properly functioning democratic system as a thriving democracy equally provides the best environment for the Protection and Fulfilment of Rights.”
Chinwe M. Efobi, Chairperson FIDA, said that any form of violence against women before, during and after the elections would be seen as violation of their human rights, which FIDA would not tolerate.
Roselin Omolola mentioned the plight of the disabled and physically challenged, and said that we had laws to protect persons with disabilities, but that most states in the country did not follow the laws.
The governorship candidate of NRM, Akinwunmi Braithwaite, said that there was the dire need of paradigm change in governance and vowed that Lagos would prosper again if he is elected.
He said, “Our state has become a place where homeless urchins scavenge the streets that are overrun by rubbish, while growing numbers of disenfranchised adults and youths sleep underneath the few bridges that exist. There is so much disorder and chaos, with a looming existential threat posed by those who have nothing to lose, as was demonstrated during the October, 2020, riots that followed the #EndSARS’ Lekki massacre.”
Funso Doherty of the ADC noted that poor governance led to insecurity and poverty which were linked to human rights violence.
Some of the candidates promised social welfare for the aged and the vulnerable with mental health issues, among other promises.