Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for Edo State, Dr. Johnson Alalibo, declared yesterday that to deliver free, fair, credible and peaceful election in the state on September 19, Edo youths must shun violence.
Alalibo who spoke as a guest of honour during the “Vote Not Fight Campaign,” organised by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) in Benin City, disclosed that in the last one month, he had not slept, to ensure that the activities and processes before, during and after the crucial election go smoothly.
“To promote democracy, we must promote peace. In Edo State, we have started seeing untoward activities by political actors and operators.
“The youths are more vulnerable to be used for electoral violence. If we want free, fair, credible and peaceful election in Edo State on September 19, the youths must shun violence during the campaigns and the poll.
“The politicians should avoid offensive language in their jingles and campaigns. To deepen democracy, the election must be devoid of violence”, he said.
The REC, while commending NDI for the timely campaign, also urged the security agencies and other stakeholders to continue to support the electoral commission.
On his part, Edo State Commissioner of Police, Babatunde Kokumo, stated that INEC and security agencies were on hot seat, in order to get the September 19 election right, thereby promoting democracy and moving Nigeria forward, but called for credible information about criminals and illegal activities, from members of the public.
The Commissioner who was represented by the Assistant Commissioner in charge of the state’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID), Ayo Faniyan, disclosed that Edo police command was ready for the election, with the officers and men to be neutral, as always, while admonishing all the stakeholders to join hands to promote democracy.
NDI’s Senior Programme Manager, Bem Aga, in his goodwill message, disclosed that the institute was to promote and strengthen democracy, while pleading with Nigerians, particularly Edo residents, to vote and not fight, stressing that the election should not be seen as war.
He urged politicians not to use the youths for violence, while declaring that the young people should always use their sense, since they represent the future of the society, thereby being at the forefront of advocacy for non-violent elections and to mobilise their peers to ensure peace.
Aga stated that there would not be development without peace and that nobody would benefit from violence, and therefore, called on Edo residents, especially the youth, to choose peace and stay away from violence, hate speech, misinformation, disinformation and fake news that could lead to violence.
Earlier, the Executive Director of Connected Advocacy for Empowerment and Youth Development Initiative, Prince Israel Orekha, noted that the organisation decided to partner NDI to ensure violence-free September 19 election in Edo.
“Electoral violence has remained a major concern for the people of Edo State, since Nigeria’s return to democratic rule in 1999. Competing political interests have been consistent with their approach of recruiting Edo youths to settle political scores.
“With just a month to the September 19 off-cycle governorship election in Edo State, many people have reasons to fear that the election may not be peaceful.
“Government-related challenges like high unemployment, underemployment and poverty rates have made many Nigerian youths disillusioned and unwilling to participate in political and electoral processes. These need to be corrected through civic and voter education”, he said.
According to Orekha, Nigeria’s youths had been victims and perpetrators of electoral violence over the years, adding that youth supporters of the leading governorship candidates in Edo State had been complicit in the acts of violence committed so far.
Meanwhile, the Edo State office of the INEC, yesterday, sensitized young female voters ahead of the governorship election in the state.
Mr Johnson Alalibo, the Edo INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), said during the awareness creation programme in Benin that the effort was to ensure that the young female voters were actively involved in the electoral process.
Alalibo who was represented by the State INEC Administrative Secretary, Mr Etim Umoh, said the event was organized in collaboration with the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES).
He said the programme was designed to ensure that the young female voters were not disenfranchised and marginalized during the governorship election.
In his address, the Senior Project Officer, European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES), Mr Sylvestre Somo, said the EU was proud to be part of initiative which seeks to mobilize energetic young female voters to be part of the electoral process.