Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye and Benjamin Babine, Abuja
In the run up to the off-season gubernatorial polls in Ogun and Ondo and bye-elections in a few other states, the Federal Government has announced new guidelines for the conduct of elections during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Director-General of the Nigeria Cente for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chike Ihekweazu, made the announcement at briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, yesterday.
He urged political parties to make use of electronic media for campaigns as well as mobile trucks with everyone wearing face masks, maintaining physical distance as well as frequent use of hand sanitizers.
“We really want to urge politicians and political leaders to take responsibility and lead by example. Leadership will be critical in this era. Think about the lives of your electorate first; your electorate staying alive is far more important than any votes you might win.”
He added: “As you’re all aware, some states will be holding state and local government elections this year being the first time we’re holding elections of this significance during a pandemic.
“Therefore, we’ve developed these guidelines to support everyone involved political parties, INEC, but most critically Nigerians as we are going to vote in these difficult times, voting still remains a civic responsibility and even though we’re in the middle of a pandemic we have to find a way of doing this safely.
“We have to adapt to the new normal and as we know the virus thrives in mass gatherings. So, there’s a challenge that we have in the way. We have conducted elections, pre-election, during election, post-election.
“So, in these guidelines, we try and offer advice on how to do this safely.
“We strongly encourage the use of TV, radio, mobile vans, social media and other forms of communication as we solicit votes as a politician solicits votes. We advise careful adherence to mass gathering guidelines.
“Unfortunately, the virus doesn’t really recognise whether we’re conducting elections, whether we’re religious gatherings, whether we’re in business settings, it just thrives when people come together.
“So we have provided specific guidelines for these settings, none of them will be surprising but we’ve been explicit about it.
“And finally in this particular case, we really want to urge our politicians, leaders to take responsibility and lead by example.
“Leadership will be critical in this era and we’re asking you to please think of the lives of the electorate first, the electorate staying alive is much much much more important than any vote you can win. So, let’s take that into consideration.”