President of the Voters Awareness Initiative, Wale Ogunade has said Nigerians should take the 2019 elections very seriously and they must go out to vote on election day.
“I should should like to say that this voting exercise is about voting, not fighting,” Ogunade said while guesting on the Bumper Breakfast programme on MiTV, hosted by Ify Onyegbule and Tomisin Ojo. “And I will like to use this opportunity to admonish Nigerians to go look for their Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) and on election day in February and March to vote for their candidates.”
He also added that following civil society engagement with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), registered voters who are yet to collect their voting cards can do so at the ward or local government where they registered.
“But if you have not yet collected your PVCs, go to the ward in your area where you registered or go to the local government offices. INEC has agreed to open the collection window so that all the outstanding PVCs will be collected.
Ogunade, who has been involved in voter education activities for 20 years, is impressed with the high level of awareness among Nigerian about the coming elections.
“Anywhere you go now–in the markets, street corners, garages–everywhere is awash with the 2019 elections, he said on the programme broadcast on January 2. “You will agree with me that before now, INEC used to go to sleep in the months leading up to elections, but this time around it has been very active in voter education, regularly updating the public on the various steps it is taking, holding stakeholder meetings to ensure that it adds value to the electoral process.”
That said, he is however bothered by the fact that the a large percentage of the educated class, the middle class and the upper middle class Nigerians still do not participate in the political process, especially voting.
“It will also shock you to know that most of the people who vote are the masses, people in the grassroots. The so-called big men sit down in their homes, cross their legs and watch television,” he said. “Even at political meetings, it is still the same set of grassroots people who attend.
”More people should be involved in the election process — don’t siddon look. One of the things that pains me is that we still have low voter turnout, because those who get elected don’t deliver on the responsibilities of the offices they are elected into.
“Unfortunately, their is a cliche that politics is dirty in this country, and indeed would a person who has worked hard to make a name for themselves and built a reputation be interested to vie for office? Sometimes when I come across people and ask them if they have their PVCs, they will respond with a ridiculous question, ‘wetin that one mean?’”
Politicians, he said, have perfected the art of working with the numbers at their disposal. They don’t need all the registered voters to come out on election day, but only the ones who turn up.
“For example let’s assume that the total registered voters in this area is 5000, perhaps only 500 voters will come out to vote. That’s all they need to buy the elections in their favour,” Ogunade said.
The constitutional lawyer also encouraged Nigerians to vote for people they know and believe in, individual with vision to truly build their community and the country.
“We have advocated that any politician who wants your vote must tell you what they plan to do if and when they win. And of course you must engage them face to face. You should vote people who live with you, who you know understand the needs and challenges of your locality. This time around, don’t vote strangers,” he said.
With the tempo of campaigning increasing in recent weeks, Ogunade advised that politicians should keep within the bounds of responsible conduct and woo voters based on issues and avoid mudslinging opponents.
“If any politician is not going to campaign on issues, then they should be disqualified,” he said towards the end of the programme. “There must be rules and if rules are not kept then there will be problems. When you defame someone, it is often very hard to repair the damage done to their personality.”
He also said that INEC working closely with civil society has been able to eliminate all possible loopholes for vote buying and rigging. According to him, some of the steps taken include: ballots being serialised with the accompanying colour coding, the announcement of voting results after counting and collation, after they have been duly signed by party agents and other relevant stakeholders.
“In these elections, all of us must be whistleblowers,” he concluded.