While there has been appreciable improvement in Nigeria’s electoral process in recent years, every election no matter how small usually serve as a litmus test towards what can be described as ‘almighty’ 2019 general elections. As the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), political parties and other election stakeholders continue to prepare for the November 18 Gubernatorial Elections in Anambra state, it will be pertinent to right previous wrongs from all angles.
There is no gainsaying that the electioneering process is everybody’s business thus the clamor for citizen participation be it directly or subtly cannot be overemphasized. Going by the Continuous Voters Registration conducted in Anambra state a couple of months ago, the rate of turnout contradicts recent history of abysmal turnout for elections in the state. One will albeit hope that willingness to acquire Permanent Voters Card (PVC) by prospective voters is directly proportional to the desire to come out on election day to vote.
As expected, a recent visit to Anambra state revealed that political party campaigns are in top gear with party stakeholders all over the place with billboards seeking for votes. But its hard to see such political parties organizing voter education program to sensitize citizens on why they should come out to vote in the first place. More so, participation of women, youths and People with Disability (PWD) is another area that our electoral system has been lacking over the years. While youths are used as instrument for campaigns and dumped after elections, it becomes pertinent for youths to play direct role in the entire process in order to be part of the decision process that affects them.
In this vein, there is need to observe and report the pre-election activities that could possibly impart ion the success of the November 18, election in Anambra state. Some of the pre-election activities worthy of observation include voter education and sensitization campaigns by INEC, Civil Societies, National Orientation Agency and other electoral stakeholders. This will give the prospective voter, better information on when, where and how to vote and ultimately the need to come out to vote on elections day. This is also a clarion call on INEC, political parties and Civil Societies to pay more attention to sensitization of voters in a bid to improve the credibility of elections especially in Anambra state which has a bad history of voter turnout.
Another important pre-election activity that needs to be paid more attention, is early warning security signals which may include stockpiling or light arms or influx of armed personnel into the state. This sort of information needs to be disseminated to the authorities concerned in order to douse any form of tension and also take proactive steps to prevent electoral violence. Same goes for hate speech which have tendency of heating the polity and the need for politicians to eschew such kind of speeches to enable peaceful and credible polls.
While it is a cheering news that a some of political parties have women as their candidates or deputies for the Anambra Guber poll, it is also vital to play down any form of cultural or psychological barrier that could serve as barricade for full participation of women in the process. This is because electoral campaigns directed towards women, youth and even People with disability are also vital areas to check in order to see that every part of the society are carried along in the electoral process.
While majority of observer groups tend to focus on election day observation, the Youth Initiative for Advocacy Growth and Advancement (YIAGA) have taken a step further in observing and reporting pre-election activities that could have impact on the elections. No doubt election is a process whose outcome could be easily hampered right from even the CVR process, collection and distribution of voters’ card and any other sensitive activity that can impart on the elections.
Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement (YIAGA)