By Stephen Adeleye
The National Orientation Agency (NOA) has embarked on sensitisation and engagement of stakeholders toward the successful conduct of the Nov. 11 governorship election in Kogi.
Speaking at the event on Wednesday in Lokoja, NOA Director-General, Dr Garba Abari, said the campaign was to sensitise the stakeholders on understanding the new electoral act, civic participation and peace.
Abari assured of the agency’s readiness to partner with relevant stakeholders who were willing to promote and mobilise Nigerians to participate in a peaceful and orderly election, whose outcome would be the informed choice of the people.
Abari expressed concerns over the relatively poor turnout of voters, in spite of the seeming enthusiasm shown by Nigerians toward the 2023 general elections.
He disclosed that out of a total number of 93.47 million registered voters, only 24.9 million actually voted during the 2023 Presidential and National Assembly elections.
According to him, the turnout represents a meagre 26.72 per cent of voters, which is actually the lowest percentage since the return to democracy in 1999.
“Some have even said the turn out was 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, less than a 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 toward 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 turn out during elections in Nigeria,” Abari said.
The director-general stressed that many had predicted a violent Nov. 11 governorship election in Kogi but expressed confidence that Kogi would demonstrate its well known character for love, orderliness and peace during the coming elections.
“We are hoping that the intention of the new electoral act to facilitate inclusion of the vulnerable in the society, especially women, the young and the people living with disability, will be fulfilled as we prepare and hold Kogi governorship elections,” Abari said.
Earlier, the Acting State Director of NOA, Mr Patrick Edogbanya, said the stakeholders meeting would add impetus on the sensitisation programme to help eschew any form of violence before, during and after the election.
In his remarks, the Commissioner of Police, Kogi Command, CP Onuoha Bethrand who was represented by the Police Area Commander in Lokoja, ACP Sikiru Suara, said officers of the command were fully ready for a hitch free exercise.
He warned that any individual who intended to perpetrate violence before, during and after the election would be arrested and prosecuted.
Other stakeholders who spoke at the event, included the Chairman, Kogi Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC) Ukweyan Musa, Chairperson, Kogi Non-Governmental Organization Network, (KONGONET), Idris Muraina, traditional rulers, and religious leaders, among others.
They called for fervent prayers for peaceful election, and enjoined parents to caution their wards on the need to abstain from any form of violence that would truncate a peaceful election process in Kogi. (NAN)(www.nannews.ng)
Edited by Mark Longyen/Chioma Ugboma