By Tony Udemba
As political activities for the local government elections in Lagos State gain momentum, apex Igbo socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, has called on the Igbo community in the state to participate in the on-going voter registration being conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to collect their original permanent voter card. The call was made by the chairman, Ohaneze Ndigbo, Amuwo Odofin, Chief Emmanuel Akalika, at a voters’ awareness programme/media briefing recently at Baft Club, 21 road, Festac Town.
In his speech at the well-attended event, Akalika stated that, since the local government council election was around the corner, members of the Igbo community should make use of the opportunity presented by the on-going voter registration exercise to obtain their valid voter card.
In his words, “Since the Independence National Electoral Commission has for sometime now been carrying out new registration of voters, we are urging members of the Igbo community to, as a matter of patriotism and urgency, ensure that they participate in the exercise to enable them obtain their original voters cards.”
He stated that, by participating in the INEC exercise, it would be possible for those who had lost their voter cards to obtain new ones, even as he said that those who had relocated to new areas could also update their records to enable them vote in coming elections. The Ohanaeze chieftain noted that it has come to their notice that there were lots of unclaimed PVCs abandoned at INEC offices, while people were complaining of not collecting their voter cards, which empower them to vote for candidates of their choice. He called on residents to go to the nearest INEC office to collect their cards.
Akalika urged every adult of voting age to ensure that they participated in the INEC voter registration exercise, saying “It is a civic responsibility for someone to cast his or her vote during an election.
“But you can only cast your vote if you are duly registered with INEC, and also issued with a valid voters card. Therefore, we are appealing to all our people to take this message very seriously, and ensure that they do the needful,” Akalika said.
He stated further that, as a responsible group it was the duty of Ohaaneze to create voter awareness and mobilize its members and the whole Igbo community in Lagos on the importance of registering and obtaining valid PVCs as well as the need for them to fully participate in the forthcoming local government elections in the state, and future elections.
Akalika said, “Ohanaeze Ndigbo will always be at the forefront in enlightening and mobilizing Ndigbo for them to fully participate in the coming council elections and subsequent elections.”
Continuing, he disclosed that as a forward- looking socio-cultural and non-partisan organization, the group has not endorsed any political party for the forthcoming elections, adding that its teeming members would be free to vote for candidates of their choice whose programmes would clearly protect and promote the interests of the Igbo community.
He said, “Though we are a non-political group, and not aligned to any political party, our teeming members, as stakeholders in the economic development of Lagos State are ready to vote for candidates of their choice who will protect the huge investments of Ndigbo in Lagos. Our people will support those who have the interest of Igbos at heart.”
He said that for decades the Igbo community has contributed significantly in economic and physical development of the state: “For many years, the Igbos bought and sand-filled swampy lands and erected edifices in most parts of the state. But it is regrettable that access to these areas are mostly deplorable, therefore, our people will vote for those who can assist in attracting government’s development in these areas .”
He called on the members of the Igbo community to continue to pray for the health of President Muhammadu Buhari, and for enduring peace, unity and mutual co-existence amongst Nigerians, where every segment of the society would be treated fairly and equally.
Speaking in the same vain, Legal Adviser, Ohanaeze Amuwo Odofin, Barr. Chidi Njoku, stated that for many years the Igbo speaking community in Lagos has continue to be a formidable partner and stakeholder in the economic and physical development of the state, just as he noted thatNdigbo were known to be peaceful, supportive and firm believers in a united Nigeria where everyone would be given fair opportunity to excel. He posited that the event was necessary in order to create the much needed awareness and to fully mobilize Igbos in Lagos on the importance of registering and obtaining their voters cards to enable them vote into office the candidates of their choice. Njoku called on Igbos not to shy away from performing their civic responsibility of participating in elections, but to vote for those who would protect their interests.
Similarly, Mrs. Elizabeth Madubeze, secretary of the group, enjoined Igbo women and their menfolk to ensure that they obtained their original voters cards, just as she counselled them to “shine their eyes and vote for candidates of their choice.”
The event attracted hundreds of Ohanaeze members and the cream of Igbo personalities within the area and across Lagos.