TEXT OF PRESS CONFERENCE ORGANIZED BY SING NIGERIA ON THE OCCASION OF NOVEMBER 6TH 2021 ANAMBRA GUBERNATORIAL ELECTION HELD AT SING GOVERNORSHIP ELECTION SITUATION ROOM DELIVERED BY IDRIS-ETANAMI A. USMAN
6th November 2021 0

Protocol

I want to specially welcome you to SING Situation Room on the occasion of the 2021 Anambra election. Today, we are reminded of the very fabrics of our democracy, elections – which give eligible Nigerians the right to choose their leaders at the local, state and federal levels. The unbroken electoral cycle at the various levels of governance is, however, one of the prides of our nascent democracy.

Over the years, elections have not held without their attendant challenges. As a system that thrives on freedom of choice; managing our diversity and accommodating our heterogeneity during elections has given rise to issues of malpractices during conducts of our elections. The more the system tries to check issues of malpractices in our elections, the more we see our politicians devising means of beating the system, and it’s not surprising that today, we are faced with the monster of vote buying and selling, which is an anathema to voting itself. This desperation by politicians to always beguile the citizens to sell their votes should be discouraged and resisted henceforth.

In efforts to improve on our electoral process, stakeholders, especially the Independent National Electoral Commission and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have continued to advocate and evolve ways to strengthen the process, including the recent efforts at amending the electoral bill to accommodate electronic transfer of results in order to limit human induced errors and manipulations during tedious collation process.

While we urge President Muhammadu Buhari to take a stand on the electoral bill immediately to forestall a repeat of some of the concerns his administration allayed for turning down the earlier proposal in 2019, it’s our belief that stakeholders will not relent in their collective efforts at building a model of democracy in Africa. We also expect the President to keep to his promise of delivering a free and fair election in 2023.

The election happening in Anambra today is significant for a number of reasons, and we call on the Independence National Electoral Commission (INEC), against all odds, to use the conduct of the poll as a litmus test for the 2023 general elections.

The election which comes in the wake of proposed amendments to the electoral law, amidst widespread security concerns owing to earlier sit-at-home orders by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), and several predated attacks on facilities and security personnel is indeed volatile and prone to serious skepticism.

The so called sit-at-home order, which has been revoked by the proscribed group has created an already tensed atmosphere for the elections, as electorates, in light of such previous orders and subsequent denials by the group, are largely apathetic.

From preliminary reports from our team on ground in Anambra state, some residents are already deserting the streets and many are seen to be fleeing the state because of the fear of violent attacks, which has since become a norm in the southeast region, particularly Anambra state gubernatorial elections.

However, we cannot fold our arms and allow the enemies of democratic process to succeed in hijacking a duly constituted process of electing leaders.

To quickly add, as an organization, while we support the right for peaceful agitation by any group and/or region in the country, we strongly submit that such agitation (s) should be done in line with laid down democratic principles that do not threaten peace and stability of any region, as currently is the case in the Southeast. In a similar vein, we are calling on government to be more circumspect in its handling of agitators so as to prevent a descend to what we are currently facing with the IPOB.

In Anambra today, the task before the electoral umpire is indeed daunting, as they will also be testing the newly created 1,112 polling units in the state. The Commission’s Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu had reported that a total of 5,640 out of the 5,720 polling units across the 21 Local Government Areas of the state are ready for the election. It is our hope that the Commission will up its game and deliver a free, fair, credible and transparent process that reflect the will of the majority in the state.

We also call on security agencies to form a synergy that will quell any attempt to disrupt the process. While at this, we advise against over-militarization of the poll so that electorates can freely come out to vote.

As Anambrarians go to the poll today, we cannot overstate our position that the nation is in dire need of issue and idea based political campaign more than an electoral environment chocked with money by the political elites. In this regard, we call on relevant stakeholders to discourage any attempt to scuttle the will of the people through illicit use of money in the form of vote buying, which will further weaken our democratic practice, destroy citizens’ trust in our electoral democracy and further rip us off of competent hands to drive the nation’s development agenda.

Hence, SING Nigeria wants to use this opportunity to call for support against any attempt to increase campaign financing in the proposed electoral bill. The purported increase in campaign spending, if accommodated in our electoral laws would mean a further hijack of our electoral process by the political elites and the institutionalization of money politics, which indeed, is not a mere mortgage of peace and development; but a total sale of the nation’s building blocks – election; the pride of every democracy.

We reiterate that, notwithstanding the celebrated decision to empower the INEC on electronic transmission of results, allowing illicit spending passed into our electoral laws will be an unfathomable dip in our democratic experience as a nation. As we have seen over the years, one of the very triggers of corruption is not unconnected to money politics as politicians seek every means to recoup money spent in buying votes when they eventually clinch office.

To this end, we are calling on the National Assembly to, in the interest of social justice, peace and development; expunge any clause in the proposed electoral act amendment bill that is capable of undermining the growth of our nascent democracy.

Finally, we cannot forget the role of the media in the entire process, and we say to you all to be responsible, ethical and professional in your reporting today and always.

To all Anambarians: Vote Today, Your Vote is Your Voice in the Electoral Process; and Ensure Your Vote Count.

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