The need to conduct free, fair and credible off-season elections in Nigeria was the centre of discourse at the Press Week and second Colloquium anniversary of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ in Lagos.
Stakeholders at the event emphasised the need to make series of amendment to regularise, sanitise and ensure a standardised electoral process.
This comes as the Nigeria’s electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC prepares to conduct another off-season election in Kogi and Bayelsa states in November 16th, 2019.
Media as watchdog
The Nigeria’s Speaker House of Representative, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila says “the media play a critical role in the development of any nation and must continue to serve as a watchdog of the other tiers of the government.’’
Mr Gbajabiamila said that Nigerian media had a great input in the whole entire process that led to the emergence of the current 9th Assembly, hoping that the leadership of the house would make effort to make some reviews in the elections matters.
“There are lots of proposals on bill and amendment in the house which I think the leadership are going to look into,” he said.
The Speaker was represented by a member of the house of representative, Mr Kayode Ismail.
The Director General Voice of Nigeria, Osita Okechukwu, represented by the Director News, Mr Austeen Elewodalu said that every election must be seen as credible irrespective of when it is conducted.
He expressed delight in the way the last election was conducted, stressing the need for all relevant stakeholders to forge a common front on how to achieve an acceptable and credible elections.
“Nigerians acknowledge a credible elections only when it’s won by the opposition, but I think we should not differentiate between the on or off- seasons elections because both are very crucial. And the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC, also should conduct an election that is not only credible, but seeing as such,” he said.
The Chairman Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, Lagos State chapter, Dr. Qasim Akinreti explained that the program was organised to look ahead and prepare the ground for a possible accepted off-season election in Nigeria.
Dr Akinreti in a chat with the Journalists said that the Lagos State Chapter of the Union believed the convocation of the event would allow stakeholders to chat a course towards achieving a sustainable democracy for Nigeria.
According to him; “The choice of the event is very apt, as we are going to off-season elections. We all know the criticism that trailed the Osun State off-season election and here we are faced with Bayelsa and Kogi states and as usual INEC will soon roll out measures to ensure a credible election.
“We need to discuss it, to look at how it affect the media practitioners, voters and that is why we are bringing in members of bar, politicians, the Osun state, a state that was in the eye of the storm during the last off-season election and INEC to explain how prepare they are for the next off -season election.”
Some of the challenges highlighted as impediment for credible elections, particularly off-season elections include election security, vote buying syndrome, fake news peddlers among others.
Participants also agreed that there was a need to ensure a participatory election, where synergy is forged with the security agencies, media practitioners, prospective voters, political actors and other stakeholders and electoral offenders are made to face the full weight of the laws.
Also, the need to engender internal democracy where the best individuals are allowed to contest during polls was empahsised, as politicians were urged to see their positions as service to the people.
The Media was however commended for a good publicity rendered during the last general elections, but was enjoined to continue it’s check and balance by providing avenues for possibilities for participatory citizenship.
The Governor of Osun State and the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC were also represented at the event.