Electorate in Igboland, particularly Ndi Imo, have been warned to stop brooding over their political past or counting their electoral misfortunes at previous general elections in the country. They should instead wake up to the reality on ground, which is to wisely organize themselves for future elections, starting with voter registration and collection of Permanent Voter Card (PVC).
The advise was given by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Resident Electoral (REC) in Imo State, Prof. Francis Chukwuemeka Ezeonu, while contributing his views at a one-day seminar organized by the Justice Development and Peace Commission (JDPC) of the Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri, on “Good Governance.” The occasion took place at the Obiri-Odenigbo Maria Assumpta Cathedral Owerri on Thursday May 31.
The REC, who decried voter apathy among Ndi Imo, regretted that the number of people who have registered for next year’s general elections in the state was too poor and worse still, many of those who had done so were yet to collect their Permanent Voter Cards.
He reminded them that every eligible voter has right to transfer his registration to any voting point more convenient for him within this registration period. Prof Ezeonu announced that the commission has given approval for unclaimed PVCs to be collected by their owners through their traditional rulers, who know everybody at the grassroots. The REC said that credible election has five major steps namely: Registration of voters, identification of voters on the Election Day, the voting proper, counting of the ballots and announcement of results. The professor who said that the 2019 election would be the “Test case of the new face of INEC” listed the progress recorded in taking Nigeria’s electoral system to greater heights since the return to civil rule in 1999.
They are: in 2011 the introduction of the Direct Data Capturing Machine and in 2015, the Smart Card Reader designed to authenticate and identify the voter. The REC said that since it was not possible for him to be at every voting point on the day of election, voters themselves are the most important observers of any election and should therefore ensure that they watch carefully all that happens throughout the day of election. “It is you the electorate that will be everywhere, so play your role,” he advisd.
Speaking at the occasion, the Catholic Archbishop of Owerri, His Grace, Most Rev. Anthony JV Obinna described Nigerian politics as a confused and deceptive election system, saying that Capitalism is a corrupt and corruptive system. He said that there are many loopholes in the country’s constitution which create confusion; adding that the legislators make laws to benefit themselves and not the masses.
The prelate called on politicians to come up with simpler ways of elections that would not be so expensive or involve bribery. He called on eligible voters to go and get registered, collect their PVCs, exercise their franchise by coming out to vote on the Election Day and protecting their votes by remaining till the ballots are counted and results announced. He thanked the organizers of the seminar for a job well-done.
Two distinguished personalities delivered papers at the seminar. They are: Rev. Fr. Dr. Alex Okoro, the parish priest of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church Emekuku, who is also the Vicar for the Emekuku zone one and the Director of Catechesis in the Owerri Archdiocese and Mr. Vitus Ekeocha, Director National Orientation Agency (NOA) Imo State.
Fr. Okoro’s topic was “x-raying hazards of volunteerism in election observation and remedies, while Mr. Ekeocha lectured on ‘Guarding Against Hate Speech (violence) before, during and after 2019 general elections in Nigeria.”
Fr. Okoro stated that election observers need to have some security details attached to them to assure their safety.
The security personnel’s must not be connected in any form with any of the interest groups. If possible, foreign security should be employed in most volatile areas. He also called for proper remuneration of those monitoring the election for effective observance, as this is bound to reflect greater trust in their reports and findings. Laws should be passed to protect their interest and their complaints must be met with required attention so that they will be respected as they carry out their duties.
In his own paper, Mr. Ekeocha listed the following as necessary in combating hate speeches during election period: Good governance and transparency, avoiding inflammatory speeches by the leadership and effective exercise of regulatory control by concerned agencies. They also include: sustained sensitization and re-orientation of citizens by NOA, CSO. He also discussed the dilemma of the ICT revolution.