From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt
As part of efforts to ensure a credible and peaceful elections in the 2019 general polls in Rivers State, a Non Governmental Organization, We The People (WTP) in conjunction with Social Action, organised an electoral sensitization programme in the three senatorial zones in the state.
Speaking with The AUTHORITY yesterday at the sensitization programme held in Omoku Town at Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area of the state, Ken Henshaw, Executive Director of We The People, said the event was organised to sensitize citizens of the Rivers West Senatorial zone, on the need to shun electoral violence and electoral malpractice during the polls.
Henshaw who earlier advised the youths in the area against selling their to wrong candidates for a peanut, regretted that Nigerian politicians have bastardized the credibility of elections in the country by inducing the people with money to sell their conscience as a result in the land.
He said: “What we are basically doing here today is to respond to the prevalent fear that 2019 election in Rivers State will be extremely violent and extremely monetized.
“This report has been given by various organisations including those who have done survey on the character of election in Nigeria and the prevalent issues in different states. Example was the last elections held in Ekiti, Osun and Anambra states, where electoral process were bastardized on account of money, PVCs are now like cheques, they are bought and sold.”
He further said that “Any politician who tries to buy vote from the citizens is investing in his future and not the future of the state or the people. And when he gets into power he will definitely have no other choice but regroup his investment.
“We are where we are basically because we have failed to guide our electoral process and elect the people who can lead our country to where we need to be. And this is why we have taken this to the grassroot so as to let people know their responsibility in the electoral process.
“What We The People expect is to see a very huge paradigm shift. We are taking this campaign all through the state. We expect the conversation to change to looking at peoples history, antecedents, what have they done, what can they do and they say they have done. We need a more topical conversation focused on developmental, emotional and affiliation issues.”
Also in his paper presentation titled, “Reducing electoral violence through anti corruption
strategies”, Sebastian Kpalap
Coordinator of Citizens Voice Initiative, noted political intolerance, lawlessness, greed, partiality, inappropriate civic education and poverty as causes of political violence in the country.
He added that the impact of the corrupt electoral exercise would lead to rise of mediocre politicians, undue militarization of the electoral process, inordinate monetization of the electoral process.
He also stated that effect of the corruption will the conduct of elections increasingly more expensive in the country.
One of the participants at the event, Ogboka Chris, told The AUTHORITY that the group sensitization has increase their awareness on the need to protect their votes and ensure a violence free elections in their areas.
Ogboka who is the President General of Ekpeye Youths, said “The programme was very important as far as the 2019 election is concern. The programme was able to educate the youth, to educate us on how to prepare ourselves and take positive actions as regards the 2019 general election.
“The programme was able to tell us that this time around that there should be not vote buying and we shouldn’t be used to perpetrate evil and commit electoral violence.
“They are telling us that if we want the right persons to be at the head of affairs so that we can change the system, that we should vote that kind of person and avoid violence. We shouldn’t go into electoral malpractice and that is what we are taking home, to tell our other colleagues that it is time to take action, non violent, let vote and allow our votes to count.”