Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has canvassed for the support of Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, People Living with Disabilities, PLWDs, Community-Based Organisations, CBOs, and Faith-Based Organisations, FBOs, in improving awareness and participation in the forthcoming Federal Capital Territory, FCT, chairmanship and area council elections scheduled for Saturday, April 9.
Director of Voter Education and Publicity Department of the commission, Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, made the call yesterday during an INEC FCT voter education sensitisation forum for PLWDs, CSOs, CBOs and FBOs, held at Newton Park Hotel, Zone 4, Abuja.
“We called this meeting with the realisation that INEC alone cannot conduct all the voter education. We need all the support and buy-in of all segments of the society and this is one of those specially targeted outreaches that we do. Democracy is all about participation, it is all about choosing our representatives in a fully informed manner.
“Where a huge percentage of citizens cannot participate in the process for one reason or the other or are excluded due to policies and processes, then there is something wrong and any election conducted in that atmosphere cannot be said to be credible or free and fair”.
On her part, the Deputy Director in charge of CSOs, Mrs Rose Oriaran-Anthony, stressed that the forum was convened due to the premium placed on the roles of CSOs, CBOs, FBOs and PLWDs in the electoral process by the commission.
“The commission appreciates the fact that for the electoral process to be successful, all component stakeholders must be brought together. For any process to be free and fair it must be inclusive”.
Mrs Oriaran-Anthony stressed that INEC is doing everything to ensure that everybody, irrespective of status or ability access the electoral process.
“For some time now, we have taken our relationship with CSOs to a higher level because we realised that you are closer to the grassroots and the electorate. You have the platform and machinery to take the right messages to the people,” she observed.
Oriaran-Anthony explained that the commission had taken into cognizance the challenges faced by PLWDs in accessing voter education materials and messages and was leaving no stone unturned to ensure that this is addressed. “The commission has come up with various innovations to carry them along such as the introduction of voter education materials in Braille and the introduction of sign language interpreter in all the commission’s activities such as INEC Half Hour and jingles for PLWDs”.
She welcomed suggestions from participants on how INEC can improve the process.
Representative of International Foundation Electoral Systems, IFES, Mrs Mufuliat Fijabi, said: “IFES is happy to collaborate with INEC; voter education is highly of interest to IFES”.
She said IFES is working hand-in-hand with INEC to ensure that voter education is far reaching. “A rich democracy is one that is inclusive that is why issues of PLWDs are of topmost priority in terms of having a sustainable democracy in Nigeria,” she stressed.