By Victor Ahiuma-Young
Lagos: Ahead of the general elections, Organised Labour, Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, NECA, politicians, among other stakeholders have gathered in Lagos to strategize on free, fair and credible polls.
Among participants were All Progressive Congress, APC, African Action Congress, AAC, the Police, Media practitioners and Civil Society Organizations, CSOs.
At the one day workshop, organised by the Labour Writers Association of Nigeria LAWAN, with the support of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, FES, Foundation, with the theme, ‘’Beyond Voting: Roles of Citizens in Ensuring a Free, Fair, and Transparent 2023 Election’’, participants were unanimous that all stakeholders must work towards the success of the polls.
Speaking, the Director-General, Michael Imoudu National Institute for Labour Studies, MINILS, Ilorin, Kwara State, Mr Issa Aremu, called on the Media to continue its critical patriotic role in the fight and sustenance of the nation’s democracy, noting that the actual hero of democracy in Nigeria, is the media, considering the roles it played from military era to democratic struggles in the country.
According to him, “The media fought seriously for the nation’s democracy. Despite the observed challenges, they never gave up. They continued the struggle until Nigeria gained her democratic freedom. The media is actually, the true face of democracy. Nigeria is doing well in terms of democracy, but needs quality control, explaining that ’’quality control means that issues must be on the agenda, candidates interrogated on what they stand for and not based on religion, ethnicity or where they come from. We must decide; there must be election, and the date is getting closer; we are going to have presidential election February 25; we have a choice to choose.’’
On his part, the Director –General of NECA, Mr. Wale-Smatt Oyerinde, represented by the Association’s Assistant Director, Corporate Affairs, Adebola Akinwande, among others, said “As the clock gradually counts down unhindered towards the 2023 polls, Nigerians with bated breath wonder in whose favour the scales will finally tilt, wondering who next will receive the baton of leadership. We, Citizens need clarity of thought and purpose, to understand our roles as stakeholders and citizens in the discharge our civic rights. LAWAN’s role is obviously cut out as media writers to publicize the truth clearly and prompt.”
Similarly, President, Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance, and Financial Institutions, ASSBIFI, Mr Olusoji Oluwole, said that the responsibility for the success of the 2023 election was in the hands of the citizens, saying however that several challenges were facing the country currently, including the cash crunch and fuel scarcity, ahead of the polls.
He lamented that “We have a lot of Nigerians, who for their own personal reasons are registered in their home state, communities; there are people, who because of the nature of their jobs, are located outside their own residences and need to travel.”
Also, the Lagos State Police Command Public Relations Officer, PRO, SP Benjamin Hundeyin, represented by DSP Chinwe Zita, informed that the command was fully ready for the polls and called for the cooperation of all stakeholders including political parties.
He however, advised trouble makers to keep away from the state during and after the polls, warning that the force would deal decisively anybody trouble makers according to the law.
On her part, the Chairman, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Lagos Chapter, Mrs Funmi Sessi, said the NLC had refrained from adding to the situation that Nigerians were passing through in recent times.
Sessi said: ‘’NLC has refrained from adding to the situation that Nigerians are passing through currently because we do not want government, or individuals or group of people to put blame at the doorstep of NLC. We know that these are hard times for Nigerians, but it is just a phase; it will pass away. Let us keep faith with our Permanent Voter Cards; with the date, February 25, when we should have free, fair, and credible elections.
In her remarks, Project Manager, FES foundation, Mrs Remi Ihejirika, said that Nigeria could not be truly democratic without its citizens having the opportunity to choose their representatives through elections that were judged to be free and fair.
Ihejirika said among others, “the essence of this project; how do we ensure that elections are free and fair, people continue to have confidence in the electoral process?
‘’At this meeting today, it is like an assessment of the preparedness of all stakeholders to the forthcoming elections: how prepared are Independent National Electoral Commission and citizens to participate in the process.”
Earlier in his welcome address, LAWAN Chairman, Mr Toba Agboola, said “The purpose of this workshop is also to assess the current political and electoral environment in the lead-up to the presidential and governorship elections. It is also expected to assess preparations and offer recommendations to enhance citizen confidence in the process and violence-free election.
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