A group under the umbrella of Network of Civil Society Organizations/Non-Governmental Organizations in Nigeria has met in Enugu, South-east, Nigeria, to deliberate on governance and developmental issues with particular focus on the upcoming 2019 elections.
The group prayed for a non-violent, free and fair elections come 2019 across the country. It also advised politicians to ensure they play by the rules of the game, and to be guided by the spirit of fair-play, service delivery, accountability and honesty. The event titled: CSOs/NGOs Engagement Forum took place on Wednesday August 15, 2018, with the theme: Collaborating to Make Impact; was organized and hosted by the African Heritage Institution (AfriHeritage), a not -for-profit, non-partisan independent think-tank organization based in Enugu, fully devoted to economic, political research, capacity building, advocacy and networking.
In his opening remarks at the event, the Executive Director of AfriHeritage, Professor Ufo Okeke-Uzodike, emphasized on the need for collaboration among CSOs/NGOs to drive the change the country truly desires. He indicated the importance of working together or collaboration to ensure improvement in the electoral process in order to bring about change in the ways things are done. According to him, “although CSOs/NGOs do not have express mandate to conduct elections but they possess moral authority to work for improvement and change in the election process”. Along this line, he suggested that awareness is important to change the orientation of the people to understand the importance of participating in election and voting the right people. He stressed further on the need for CSOs/NGOs to work in collaboration to identify the needs of the people and to ensure that the political parties factor solutions to such needs in their manifestoes and programs.
On the issue of what specific role the CSOs and NGOs can play to make a meaningful impact in the coming elections, the AfriHeritage Executive Director said “the first important step to free and fair elections is registration, therefore, it is important to get registered to be eligible to vote. So, the CSOs/NGOs should collaboratively be involved in the sensitization of the people on the importance of participating in election to make an impact”. Thus, he encouraged representatives of the organizations present at the Forum to ensure that the message of the discussion does not die within the discussion room but should be carried beyond and put to actions that will bring about an improvement and positive change to the existing process.
The participants resolved to engage in serious political education/awareness drive to sensitize the masses and other stakeholders on the importance of election and the need to participate fully to make sure that only credible people are elected into public offices. The Forum equally condemned the issue of vote buying; politicization of security agents by politicians and those in power. Other key observations made by the Forum include: – That Tribunals/Courts should adopt/consider reports from election observers (who are mainly CSOs and NGOs) in any given elections, in electoral litigations.