The mode of electioneering campaigns among aspirants vying for elective positions ahead of the 2019 general elections in the country has not only dazzled the electorates but has also stunned them.
With the use of inciting political statements, vile propaganda, blackmail and offensive advertisements and jingles, candidates of different political parties try to manoeuvre and outdo their opponents. This episode had started to gather momentum the moment the gong was sounded for commencement of political rallies and campaigns for presidential and National Assembly on November 25.
Apparently, some candidates have hit the ground running by flooding the minds of the people with campaign promises. Yet, the electorates are expected to play a crucial role in the emergence of winners during the forthcoming elections. But the question remains: how many people have voters card? And what is the level of participation of these electorates during elections?
Howbeit, campaigns by aspirants to persuade electorates towards gaining their support have become a routine mostly before elections, and much emphasis has not been placed on voters’ education, registration exercise and collection of card.
Daring to end the trend of poor voters’ participation during elections, and its attendant effects, the Bureau of Political/Legislative Affairs and Water Resources in collaboration with the National Orientation Agency (NOA) embarked on sensitization/mobilization for the collection of unclaimed Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs), in the 10 Federal constituencies in the state.
The enlightenment exercise which was apolitical, received commendations of relevant stakeholders. It focused on re-orientation and attitudinal change of electorates towards effective participation in the political process coupled with the need for voters to exercise their civic responsibilities during elections.
The Special Adviser, Bureau of Political/Legislative Affairs and Water Resources, Pastor Sunny Ibuot who led the campaign which began in Ikot Ekpene/Essien Udim/Obot Akara Federal Constituency called on people to collect their PVCs and ensure that they vote at their various units during elections adding that all votes will count.
Ibuot, who explained that to ensure a sustainable democratic process, electorates should desist from vote buying/trading, thuggery and violence, stated that the cards which is their power will not only be used for elections but also as a means of identification and data collection of citizens in the country.
Regarding fear of violence during elections which often militates against electorates’ participation during elections, the SA warned those who perpetuate evil and violence to desist forthwith or will face the full weight of the law.
The State Director, National Orientation Agency, Mr. Enoh Uyoh, in an address expressed appreciation to Bureau of Political/Legislative Affairs and Water Resources for collaborating with the Agency to anchor the campaign in the State which he said became imperative to reduce the rate of apathy and frustration often encountered by some voters during elections.
Mr. Uyoh re-assured all registered voters with PVCs that their votes will count in the forthcoming general elections, adding that the assurance is based on preparations put in place by INEC for the conduct of free, fair and credible elections with the use of enhanced Card Readers at polling units.
Speaking to the electorates he said “your vote is your power, use it wisely knowing that today’s decision through the ballot box, shall determine to a great extent your tomorrow, if you sell your votes for peanuts you will succeed in electing leaders who may not be accountable to you”.
The Permanent Secretary, Bureau of Political/Legislative Affairs and Water Resources, Mr. Nse Edem, in a vote of thanks, acknowledged the contributions of stakeholders in creating awareness for voters stating that, collection of PVCs is an Akwa Ibom project and a task that must be done.
Mr. Edem noted that those desirous of effecting changes in the democratic governance can only do so through their PVCs, maintaining that collection of PVCs is not a mere exercise but power to decide at the polls.
The various stakeholders who made contributions for the elders, women and youths, thanked the Bureau of Political/Legislative Affairs and Water Resources for synergizing with National Orientation Agency to raise the consciousness of the citizens for effective participation during the elections.
They appealed to INEC to decentralize card distribution to ease collection.