In continuation of its citizens’ engagement advocacy, the African Heritage Institution (AfriHeritage), Enugu, in collaboration with FLED International Leadership Institute, Abuja has held a Conference titled; People and Power Conference, in Enugu, South-east, Nigeria, on Thursday August 16, 2018.
The Conference with the theme “Citizens Power to Choose Responsible Leaders in a Democracy” was held as an enlightenment program to educate and enlighten the public towards the 2019 general elections. The event which main goals include to mobilize citizens for responsible, non-violent political participation to forestall security breaches, before, during and after the 2019 elections; explain to the electorates how to engage with political aspirants during campaigns; promote issue-based electoral campaigns and discourage negative/abusive political rhetoric or hate speech was attended by Civil Society Organizations, youth organizations, students and other interest groups.
In his opening speech at the event, the Executive Director of African Heritage Institution (AfriHeritage), Professor Okeke-Uzodike lamented the disappointment which many citizens have experienced in democracy. According to him, democracy is meant to solve the problem of bad leadership, that is why a popular definition amongst political scientist is that democracy is a system of government that determines ‘Who gets what, when, and how’, but “unfortunately, it is especially baffling that citizens have become so weak and desperate that they feel so powerless that they have resorted to selling their electoral franchise for a few days meal. In the process, they are condemning themselves and their families to lives that can only be marked by penury and hopelessness”. He identified some issues that are presently threatening the resolve of democracy in Nigeria to include – declining popular participation in elections and politics due to safety issues; weaknesses in the functioning of governments due in part to lingering corruption and massive incompetence; declining trust in institutions due to their seeming cooptation against government opponents; widening gap between political elites and electorates; decline in media freedoms due to elite driven licensing system.
In his contribution, the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Enugu State, Dr Emeka Ononamadu, urged the electorate to be alive to their responsibility of voting and protecting their votes in order to ensure that only credible leaders would be voted.
He noted that only credible leaders would give Nigerians good governance and deliver democratic dividends to the people.
According to him, credible election is a multi-stakeholders’ business involving everybody assisting INEC to get it better.
“INEC is adequately prepared for the 2019 general elections because we started preparing for it since 2017.The commission has announced the election timetable and its processes. INEC is making good progress, so far.
“For INEC activities in Enugu State, we have been working relentlessly every day, even Sundays, to ensure that the process of the ongoing CVR and PVC collection is not interrupted any day.
“We have done far-reaching consultations with all critical stakeholders to ensure that the people buy into, and start taking ownership of the entire electoral process for it to be a great success.
“The idea of hotlines is an innovation created by the INEC office when I took over, it has helped to bridge the gap between the people and INEC in the state.
Another key speaker at the event, Mr. Ike Okere, Zonal director of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, Enugu, admonished the people to utilize the opportunity of alternatives offered by the availability of multi-party system being practiced by the country in their choice of voting or to be voted for.