Yiaga Africa’s Board Member, Ezenwa Nwagwu has tasked the people of Anambra State to surprise the rest of Nigerians by massively turning out for the upcoming gubernatorial election in the state on November 6, 2021. Ezenwa who is also the Chairman, Partners for Electoral Reforms said this during Yiaga Africa’s weekly radio programme, ‘WatchingTheVote Hour’ aired on Ogene 98.3FM in Awka, the state capital, stating, “the entire Nigeria knows you as having the lowest turnout in elections, it is time to change that narrative.”
Nwagwu emphasised that the people of Anambra must realise that in voting, they are electing a leader who would oversee the resources of the state. He stated that apathy, ignorance or lack of interest in politics only diminishes the power citizens hold as stakeholders in the state. He hailed the intellectualism of Ndi Anambra as the land that produced intellectual giants like China Achebe and so emphasised that for that, Ndi Anambra should know the importance of good education, proper economic allocation and other aspects of leadership that makes a good state.
In his words, “apathy subverts your confidence in making these demands on your leaders. It also reduces your right to complain.”
Speaking on voter apathy, he said that protesting by avoiding politics is the wrong kind of protest. “The best protest is to participate. Citizens must know that they are their own problem.”
He admonished the people of Anambra for their low participation in the 2017 election, where only 22% of the registered voters eventually voted. “This means that only about four hundred thousand people decided the fate of about five million people.” According to him, “if only five people come out to vote on the election day, only those votes would be counted and the majority of those five votes will be declared winner.”
He added that citizen groups such as the Nigeria Union of Teachers, Nigeria Union of Journalists, Nigeria Medical Associations must take it upon themselves to mobilize their members and have a citizens Charter of Demands, where they present party candidates with a list of their demands and expectations, and are ready to hold these politicians accountable when they get into power.
He advised Ndi Anambra to realise the power they have when they come out enmasse to vote. “If you stay off the ballot as a protest, a leader will still emerge. Ensure that you are a part of that decision.”
On civic education, he said that civil societies and other institutions must stop carrying out civic education like just a ritual that happens when elections draw near. “When citizens start to ask questions about state budgets and allocation of resources, employment and more, only then will they wake up to knowing that it is their responsibility to elect who will make that happen for them,” he said.
He explained that the biggest obstacle to political participation is lack of knowledge and lamented that political parties do not embark on issue-based engagement, where they talk about tangible and real things that they plan to implement when they are put in power. He also faulted religious bodies and citizen groups who fail to effectively sensitize and mobilize their members to vote and participate in politics.
Regarding the sanctity of the ballot, Nwagwu explained that vote rigging and vote buying would not be happening if votes did not count. He challenged people with that mindset to try something new by participating now, and not only to criticise.
“Your power is in your Permanent Voters Card, use that power,” Ezenwa encouraged.
He addressed the theory of insecurity and violence accompanies every election, and said that it is important to understand the political-economic aspect of insecurity, where in many security agencies only make theories of insecurity, just to get monetary allocation. He encouraged Ndi Anambra to scrutinise every theory of insecurity, so as to get all the right facts.
He challenged Ndi Anambra to take responsibility as citizens.
“Cease this election to determine the narrative, instead of continuing to let politicians determine the narrative,” Ezenwa admonished.
Watching The Vote (WTV) is a citizen-led election observation initiative of Yiaga Africa aimed at enhancing the integrity of elections using technology and evidence-based research methodology tools for election observation.