By Angela Atabo
The African Electoral Integrity Initiative (AE2i), an NGO has said that citizens attitudinal change against vote buying and selling was necessary to guarantee the integrity of the 2019 general elections.
Dr Daniel Omofoman, Convener and Regional Director, West Africa of the group, said this at a National Conference on Electoral Integrity with the theme:“ Sustaining the Integrity of 2019 General Elections’’, organised by AE2i ‘in Abuja.
Omofoman said that there are many issues threatening the integrity of the 2019 general elections especially vote buying and selling, under age voting ,fake news, partisan law enforcement, among others.
He said that the issues were not so much on the electoral system because the process had been put in place by the electoral commission but the challenge was mainly with the politicians.
“The conference is aimed at sensitising stakeholders on the need to sustain the integrity of the 2019 elections and restoring voter confidence in the integrity of officials, voting procedure and materials used in the election.
“Nigerian elections have often been treated as a do-or-die affair as they are viewed as a pathway to achieving wealth and power. These elections are therefore characterised by vote buying, ballot snatching, bribery etc.
“So, we believe more is coming up with solutions that will resolve these issues and what we are learning here today is on best ways to sustain the integrity through advocacy,’’ the convener said.
Omofoman said that series of nationwide programmes that had to do with educating the voters to sustain the election by not buying or selling votes would be conducted by the NGO.
This, he said, was because poorly conducted elections could be catastrophic to any civic setting, and therefore, free, fair and credible elections were critical to the peace and development of Nigeria.
He said that electoral integrity was essential to good democratic governance because without it, public officials in power would manipulate and continue to ignore appropriate dealing, due diligence and good governance.
Prof. Yusuf Zoaka, Dean Faculty of Social Science, University of Abuja, in his presentation titled: “Principles of Electoral Integrity”, said a good election is hinged on fairness and a level playing ground for all.
Zoaka, who was represented by Dr Agaba Halidu, a lecturer in the university, also listed ethical conduct, professionalism and accuracy among others as the criteria for good elections.
He said that for Nigeria to have an election with integrity certain guidelines should be followed which were enforcement, transparency and respect for the rule of law.
He said that for election to have integrity, Nigerians should rise up to their responsibilities and the electoral commission should ensure equal voting power for all, secrecy of balloting, among others.
He advised politicians to shun hate speech that could lead to violent campaigns, and urged INEC to remain impartial to avoid voter apathy and rejection of results.
Mr Mohammed Baba , Commissioner in charge of Education at the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Commission( ICPC), said that vote buying was becoming a threat to democracy; so, all hands must be on deck to curb it.
Baba said that ICPC would embark on a nationwide sensitisation programme this December to change the people’s attitude against the practice.
He said that the commission had the mandate for enforcement, prevention, education, among others, and was working under its prevention mandate to curb vote buying for a successful election in 2019.
He said that most electoral offences and malpractices were punishable under the ICPC Act, adding that the commission would work toward ending electoral bribery and gratification, among others.