Friday, March 13, 2015

Gathering for Peaceful and Credible Elections

“Nigeria is making progress in its democratic journey despite security challenges,” said Professor Chidi Odinkalu, Chairman of the Nigerian National Human Rights Commission.  Professor Odinkalu made this assertion at an event organized by the Mandela Washington Fellowship Alumni Association in support of peaceful and credible elections in Nigeria.

Citing the success of Nigeria’s democratic process, Professor Odinkalu said, “First, Nigeria will be witnessing the most competitive election in her history with an opposition that is stronger than ever before and which has footprints across the country.  Second, control of the National Assembly is now split between two political parties, one controlling the Senate and the other, the House of Representatives.  Thirdly, the number of election litigations has decreased by 35 percent, from 86.1 percent in 2007 to 51 percent in 2011.”   He said young leaders are important, urging them to be optimistic and use creative ways to connect with their peers.

After Professor Odinkalu’s remarks, a panel discussion ensued that feature representatives from youth organizations, people living with disabilities, civil society, the judiciary, and the Independent National Electoral Commission.  Mandela Washington Fellow Lois Auta representing people living with disabilities expressed concern about access to poling units and voting aides for the visually impaired.  She also said the physically challenged Nigerians are more vulnerable in cases of election violence.

The civil society groups said they are engaging the public in voter education, promoting violence-free elections, urging eligible voters to go out and collect their permanent voter card and encouraging issue-based campaigns.

The Abuja chapter of the Nigerian Bar Association appealed to politicians to show confidence in the Nigerian legal system, and to use the judicial process, not violence, to address their grievances against any electoral malpractice.

As Nigerians prepare to vote on March 28 and April 11, the message to all participants at the event was clear: get information, avoid hate speeches, register and collect your voter card, vote, and behave responsibly whether you win or lose.

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