By Chimezie Godfrey
The Electoral Hub has called for a hitch free process in the Imo, Kogi and Bayelsa Governorship elections holding on Saturday.
In a statement on Friday in Abuja, the Director, The Electoral Hub, Princess Hamman-Obels urged stakeholders to uphold the ideals of electoral integrity and credibility, to ensure that the outcome of the process is widely accepted, and reflects the will of the people.
She said,”As residents of Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi States prepare for their off-cycle governorship elections on November 11, 2023, the Initiative for Research, Innovation and Advocacy in Development (IRIAD) and its electoral arm, The Electoral Hub, has observed with keen interest the preparations for, and events leading to the elections.
“We have observed amongst others, security issues across the three states, preparations of INEC, activities of public office holders, state ministries, departments and agencies, and those of civil society actors and citizens. We urge duty bearers in the off-cycle elections would exert utmost effort to ensure a seamless contest.
“Our hope for hitch-free process rooted in the principle of electoral integrity can only be achieved through the optimal performance of all stakeholders involved in the electoral process. Complexities arising from electoral contests in the state have already resulted in litigations and nullifications which have altered the election cycle in these states.
“It is therefore, necessary that stakeholders act concertedly toward upholding ideals of electoral integrity and credibility to ensure that the outcome of the process is widely accepted, and reflects the will of the people.”
Hamman-Obels noted that prior to these off-cycle governorship elections, the pre-election discussion has been centered around the growing insecurity and the violence reported across the three states which has resulted in the prediction of voter apathy, vote suppression, and voter disenfranchisement.
“This makes it a necessity for security agencies to deploy every tool at their disposal towards preventing and containing security and violence threats. Efforts should be concentrated at preventing an outbreak of violence at identified hotspots such as:
“¾ Kogi State: Dekina, Ankpa, Ijumu, Igalamela-Odolu, Okehi, Ajaokuta, Okene and Ofu LGAs
“¾ Bayelsa State: Brass, Nembe, and Southern Ijaw LGAs
“¾ Imo State: Orlu, Ehime Mbano, Oru West, Oru East, Ngor Okpala, Abor Mbaise, Ideato North, Oguta, Okigwe, Orsu, and Njaba LGAs.
“Importantly, security personnel deployed for electoral duty in these states should conduct themselves professionally and impartially, avoid unwarranted use of force, and ensure the overall orderliness of the process,” she said.
She pointed out that political parties and contestants also have a fundamental role to play in ensuring peaceful electoral conduct.
“We call on parties and contestants to adhere to ideals of democratic contests, play by the rules guiding contests, and to dissuade their supporters from engaging in violence and other electoral offences. These will serve, not only to prevent electoral violence but also to ensure a credible process rooted in the principles of electoral integrity.
“In addition to political parties and candidates, other stakeholders like political incumbents, the media, civil society actors, and citizens also have roles to play in ensuring that the off-cycle elections in Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi states meet ideal standards of electoral conduct.
“A quality electoral process would require that the incumbent and public office holders don’t interfere in the process. It would also require an unbiased media that takes steps to prevent the spread of misinformation. We, therefore, call on political office holders, especially governors, as well as the media in Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi states to adopt an unbiased and non-partisan stance.
“We specifically urge the media to adopt fact-check mechanisms to prevent the spread of false news and avoid the spread of sensational information capable of inciting violence,” she said.
The Human Rights Activist said civil society actors and citizens also have a key role to play in monitoring the process closely to ensure adherence to rules guiding electoral conduct.
“We, therefore, call on all civil society organizations and citizens group to follow the process closely and engage it actively to ensure quality process.
“We implore the electorates to turn out massively and assert their voices via the ballot. It is everyone’s right to participate in elections to produce leaders whose actions and decisions shape virtually all spheres of life.
“Lastly, and importantly, we urge INEC and its staff, to live up to the standards required of an independent and impartial umpire.”
She further called on the Commission to pay adequate attention to logistics, prompt activation of RAC centers, and efficient administration of the electoral process.
“We also urge the Commission to pay close attention to the shortcomings of the 2023 general elections and take steps to prevent such shortcomings.
“The Electoral Hub is positive that with concerted efforts of all stakeholders, the forthcoming governorship elections in Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi States would be credible and reflective of the will of the people,” she stressed.