BY OKEY NDIRIBE
Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, yesterday lamented over the apathetic attitude of Nigerians towards elections.
The INEC chairman stated this while inaugurating the National Inter-Agency Advisory Committee on Voter Education and Publicity (NICVEP), which was established to ensure proper coordination and monitoring of voter education nation wide and to ensure participation of marginalised groups.
Jega further linked the hurdle of conducting elections in Nigeria to the attitude of both the electorate and political class adding that the low level of awareness by citizens was a major reason for voter apathy.
The INEC boss while emphasizing the relevance of the committee said although democracy has come to stay in Nigeria , the majority of Nigerians seem apathetic to elections, going by statistics available from voter turnout at various polls conducted during the period.
According to him: “One of the major reasons for apathy and resultant low participation in elections can be attributed to the low level of awareness on electoral matters by citizens. Elections are guided by rules and regulations which stake holders are expected to comply with. It is therefore necessary to promote positive attitudes and responses among the citizenry, encourage compliance with the regulations as well as discourage apathy, violence and all forms of malpractices.”
Jega stressed that the purpose of the committee was to educate people, and enlighten them not only about the specifics and mechanisms of the electoral process but to also inform and empower them on their rights and responsibilities in the electoral process.
He said that establishment of the committee was one of the several events listed in the commission’s Strategic Plan of 2012-2016 to ensure free, fair, credible and acceptable elections in 2015 adding that it will also help INEC fulfill its statutory mandate as specified in sections two and 154 of the Electoral Act 2010 which empowers the commission to conduct civic education and promote knowledge of sound democratic practices.
Among the terms of reference of the committee are review of the framework and advising the commission on areas of improvement, proffering advice on effective strategies for public enlightenment and voter education. In his own remarks at the occasion, Iyimoga admitted that the committee has its work cut out for it beginning with next week’s commencement of the distribution of Permanent Voters Cards in 10 states. This would be followed by the national roll out of the Continuous Voters Registration (CVR) between May 28 and June 1, 2014.
He also stated that the governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun are scheduled for June 21 and August 9 2014, respectively.
Said he: “We would have achieved our objectives, if there is less apathy and increased voter turnout and participation in subsequent electoral activities;if there is less invalid votes and if such marginalised groups as women, the disabled or physically challenged, albinos and youths show more interests by participating, not only as voters, but also as candidates, agents and observers.”
He said that Intensive and sustained voter education ought to precede these major activities adding that the commission already had a bilateral relationship with some of the NICVEP members and had begun some level of consultations and enlightenment.
The composition of the committee chaired by an INEC national commissioner, Dr. Chris Iyimoga, includes representatives of National Orientation Agency; Federal Ministry of Information; Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development; Federal Ministry of Communication; Federal Ministry of Education and National Broadcasting Commission.
Others are: Nigerian Communication Commission; Nigerian Television Authority, Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, News Agency of Nigeria, Nigerian Guild of Editors; Nigeria Labour Congress; Nigeria Union Journalists, and Federal Ministry of Youths Development.