The international community have voiced out concerns over reported cases of attempts by desperate politicians to deceive unsuspecting voters through manipulations or engage in other vices to swing victory to their advantage.
They said the 2023 election is being viewed around the world as not just a time to put people into offices but an opportunity for Nigeria to witness a turnaround and become a giver of opportunities instead of receiver.
The regional coordinator of Ford Foundation, Dr Chichi Aniagolu-Okoye, who dropped the hint in Lagos on Thursday, October 6, 2022, at the 6th annual conference of the Guild of Corporate Publishers (GOCOP), urged Nigerians to know that the elections would bring in people who may either make or mar their future.
Cautioning that credible election is the backbone of any democracy, the philosopher and development expert made it clear that election is not just to pick leaders or just to get your man into position. “The winner is to make or mar you for four or eight years.”
She revealed some privileged information showing that some Asian countries may have ordered ban of visa to Nigerians. “This means a lot. It shows how Nigeria is regarded right now in most places out there. Nigeria is now below the bottom, not just at the bottom.”
For this, she appealed to those contesting elections to realize that there is the urgency to save Nigerians by rebuilding the nation because other countries may not have further space for fleeing Nigerians. “Those contesting should know that they have a responsibility to rule well for everybody.’
Dr Aniagolu-Okoye raised posers to Nigerians fleeing abroad to seek succor; “We all want to run to countries ruled by people we do not know, people who are not from our communities, who are not our brothers, but we trust them to do well enough for us and trust them enough to go to their place and seek jobs and scholarships.
“Have we ever cared to ask how we trust them? Do we work so others can trust our place and come to seek favour?”
She said the Ford Foundation, one of the biggest in the world, has set aside some support to help sensitise Nigerians towards better election in 2023 because of the criticality of the upcoming exercise. “This is because elections affect all other things we may want to implement.”
She said Nigerians should stop claiming that Nigeria has nothing to celebrate at Independence Day but that deep reflection would show that Nigerians actually have cause to celebrate despite everything. “This is because we have proved wrong those who said we cannot rule ourselves.’
On the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), she said: “We need to commend INEC on the new Electoral Act which we consider a quantum leap. We must thank them for pushing and getting approval for use of technology. There is much we can do with technology to sanitise and improve our electoral processes.”
The regional coordinator however said INEC needs to do more to cut down on paperwork at elections as is being done in other countries. “We should seek technology to replace ballot paper.’
On electoral offenders, she said; “There is need to hold culprits accountable and hold the police and the judiciary responsible to do what is right. Else, work of INEC would go to nothing.
“Our electoral campaigns are too abusive, divisive, and banal. I urge GOCOP to do more on stopping irresponsible reporting, apart from fake news. There is news that is not fake but creates harm and threats.’
She urged Nigerians to realize that there would still have to be a nation after election. “We must stop reporting to create bias. Remember Rwanda and Ethiopia did not happen overnight, they started gradually. It is the way the media pushed them till things went too bad. We need caution.
“Sanitising our internal democracy is now urgent. Monetisation of the primaries/electoral process is a big threat because it may lead to power only to the highest bidder.”
The expert called for quickening the process of picking permanent voters cards (PVCs) which are hitherto very hectic. We appeal to INEC to see what it can do to introduce a faster process.”
She appealed to media not to commercialise news but to seek better ways of funding to sustain the independence of the media.
In her welcome address, the President of GOCOP, Maureen Chigbo, publisher of RealNews said the 2023 elections would be very important to Nigeria and that INEC was very important in what happens in 2023.
She used the opportunity to explain the critical roles of the online publishers and the huge efforts to sanitise the online space. She called on corporate bodies to support GOCOP in this task by doing business with GOCOP members instead of blackmailers.