The National Orientation Agency, (NOA) has declared its readiness to partner with relevant stakeholders for a peaceful and rancour free November 11 governorship election in Kogi, Bayelsa and Imo states.
Director General, NOA, Dr Garba Abari stated this on Wednesday during the flag-off of the agency’s off season governorship polls sensitization campaign on understanding the new electoral act, civic participation and peace held in Lokoja.
Abari expressed concern over the relatively poor turnout of voters, despite the seeming enthusiasm shown by Nigerians towards the 2023 general election.
“Though INEC has not formally released its analysis of voter turnout in the elections, however, going by the analysis of some stakeholders during the election, we achieved less than thirty percent of registered voters who came out to exercise their civic duty on election day.
“Out of the total 93.47 million registered voters, only 24.9 million people actually voted in the presidential and national Assembly elections. This represents a meagre 26.72 percent voter turnout, actually the lowest percentage since the return to democracy in 1999.
“Some have even said the turnout is the worst since Nigeria’s Independence. In 36 states, less than half of the eligible population turned out to vote, and no state had a turnout above 40 per cent.
“In the three largest states based on voter registration, Lagos, Kano and Rivers States less than one third of the eligible population voted. Rivers turnout was a poor 15.6 per cent, the lowest in the country, despite producing a lot more votes in past elections.
“Overall, voter apathy is a major challenge in Nigeria’s democracy. There is a worrying trend of public disinterest in or indifference towards the electoral and democratic processes.
“In 1999, turnout was 52.3 per cent. Officially, it grew to 69 per cent in 2003; and it has fallen since then, first to 57.5 per cent in 2007; then to 53.7 per cent in 2011; before dropping to 43.7 per cent in 2015.
“We are hoping that INEC and other stakeholders will consider our request to partner with NOA to undertake a special study on the causes of poor voter turnout during elections in Nigeria” he stated.
He pointed out that the introduction of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) made rigging a very difficult enterprise.
While noting that those who resort to violence to alter election results, risk total cancellation of the exercise in the specific polling unit or ward.
Abari also stated that the 2023 general elections may have come and gone but not without incidents of violence and the arousal of deeply divisive sentiments amongst Nigerians by politicians and their supporters.
His words “These unfortunate developments stirred up hate, suspicion, resentment, intolerance and pockets of violence in parts of the country during the elections leaving the national atmosphere tense even after the elections.
“These incidents, no doubt, have the potential of shrinking the civic space, especially with the off-season Governorship Elections coming soon in some states.
”Many have predicted a violent governorship election in Kogi State come November, expressing confidence that Kogi will demonstrate its well known character for love, orderliness and peace during the coming elections.
”The level of violence, manipulations, desperation exhibited during election have generally given democracy a bad name in the Country, adding that, and Nigerians have a duty to put a stop to that.
“The stakeholders gathered have a duty to take this campaign further to other citizens who depend on them for information, sensitization and education during elections.
”Political parties, socio-political organizations, Traditional Rulers, Religious leaders, the youths, women, the Media and Civil Society, Professional Associations are all specially called upon to demonstrate the patriotic duty of helping to deepen our democratic culture”.
He admonished security agencies to play by the rules of the game stressing that they must remain unbiased in the discharge of their duties.
Earlier, the Acting Director of NOA in Kogi State Patrick Edogbanya said the stakeholders meeting will add impetus to the sensitization programme which will help to eschew any form of violence before, during and after the election.
In his remarks, the Commissioner of Police in Kogi State CP Onuoha Bethrand who was represented by the Police Area Commander in Lokoja ACP Sikiru Suara said officers of the command are fully ready for a hitch free exercise.
He warned that any individual who intends to perpetuate violence before, during and after the election will be apprehended and prosecuted.