A Stakeholders’ Meet on Peaceful Poll

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League of Anambra Professionals, which undertook a two-day visit to stakeholders in the November 18 gubernatorial election in Anambra State, says shunning the election would do the state more harm than good. Kasie Abone, who was on the trip, reports

After a two-day sensitisation tour of Anambra State, President of the League of Anambra Professionals (LAP), Mr. Chijioke Okoli (SAN), called on Anambra people to come out en mass to vote for a candidate of their choice in the November 18, 2017 gubernatorial election.

Speaking during the last lap of his two-day visit at ABS Radio/TV, Okoli advised the Anambra people to ignore calls to shun the election as doing so would not be in the interest of the state. He said with the assurances of the Nigeria police to provide adequate security and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a free and fair election, the onus lies on the people to come out and exercise their civic responsibilities. He however acknowledged the alleged marginalisation of the South-east, but argued that boycotting the election would not be in the best interest of the region.

The stakeholders’ visit was in line with LAP’s commitment to good governance and rapid development of Anambra State. Okoli was accompanied on the trip by some executives and members of the association including Assistant Treasurer, Dr. Mrs. Nkiru Ifekwem; Assistant Publicity Secretary, Mrs. Kasie Abone; former president, Mr. Chike Nwegbe and LAP Administrator, Mr. Buchi Ochuba. Other members of the team were Mr. Leo Ikedife, Mr. Peter Eze and Mr. Austin Mbaekwe.

The team first visited Anambra State office of the Independent National Electoral Commission, where it held fruitful dialogue with the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Dr. Nwachukwu Orji. The team later visited Anambra State Police Command, Amawbia, where it also dialogued with the Commissioner of Police, CP Garba Baba Umar, and the visiting Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of operations, DIG Habila Joshak, who was in Anambra State to see the extent of preparedness of his men for the election. The two day visit was rounded off with a visit to Anambra State Radio and Television, during which the team met with the stations’ Managing Director, Chief Uche Nworah.

Okoli at various occasions informed his hosts that their mission was to partner them to ensure a successful poll in the state. Given LAP’s passion for development and maintenance of law and order in the state, it becomes critically important that LAP partners the various stakeholders in the forthcoming election in the state not only to mobilise Anambra citizens to shun the call to boycott the election but come out en mass to perform their civic responsibilities.

It is also to ensure that the gubernatorial aspirants play by the rules and that the election is conducted in an atmosphere of peace devoid of violence, where people should be free to cast their votes without fear of harassment, intimidation or molestation.

He said, “We know that if we do not get involved on citizens participation, those governance deliverables may not be achieved. We have been actively involved in elections in Anambra State. We do not endorse any of the combatants. We are rooted so much in the community. We are a major stakeholder. Therefore our mandate is to ensure the delivery of free, fair and credible election without violence, intimidation or any form of molestation. At the end of our visits, we hope to get assurances from critical stakeholders charged with responsibilities of conducting the election, we go out to sensitise our people.”

The REC, Orji, while thanking LAP for the visit, said the commission was at a very critical stage in the course of its work. He added that the process of conducting election is multi stakeholders-based and with about 2.15 million voters and 5,339 voting points and over 23,000 people needed to man the polls, it will be almost impossible for INEC to do it alone without partnering other stakeholders like security agencies, NYSC, university, inter-agencies, groups and community groups.

“Our watchword here is that Anambra State is excellent in all things but rings a bell in terms of bad election. We made a decision that there is going to be a point of reversal. We have to move away from the path of suspicion, lack of integrity and administrative blunders. We need to make a break. The success of Anambra State has to be complete. Our modus operandi is founded on integrity and professionalism. I am working with experts, people with integrity. If we put them together with capital and our networks, we are going to deliver a fantastic election.”
To this end he informed that top management of the commission was replaced and new electoral officers brought on board. He also assured the team, that the commission was on course with its plans and that all electoral materials received at local governments were awaiting collection.

“Politicians are no fools. If they are convinced you are doing your job, they will leave you alone. We are hoping that the election will come peacefully and successfully,” he said, appealing to LAP to help disseminate the information. He said it was important that groups like LAP help pass on information to encourage peaceful participation in the election.

At the state Police Command, the visiting Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of Operations, DIG Habila Joshak, said his visit was to assess the extent of readiness of the command for the election. He said the election would serve as a test case for the 2019 general election and assured them that the police would not disappoint.
“We have a lot of plans laid down. We will try them. We will take them out to do the final execution. November 18 election is the only election in Nigeria that day; we have no reason not to deliver. We won’t be seen wanting in the discharge of our responsibility.” he further assured.

In his response, CP Umar assured LAP that his team was peopled by officers of high integrity and professionalism and assured them that his responsibility of providing security during election would not be compromised.

“I am a player on election matters. I don’t want to give room to question my integrity. It is not out of place to partner you for the progress of your state. It is unprecedented that Anambra is the only state without issues few weeks before election. Anambra State is a mirror. Everybody that matters comes from this state. It is therefore an opportunity for us to deliver the best because we are not partisan and we should not be seen to be.”

At ABS Radio/TV, the MD, Nworah, expressed happiness over the LAP visit and the preparedness of his stations to partner it not only during the election but going forward on issues relating to the progress and development of the state.