As the largest citizen movement committed to credible elections in Nigeria, YIAGA AFRICA recognizes the importance of collaborative effort in achieving an inclusive, credible and peaceful electoral process. Thus, it is currently amplifying the voices of other election stakeholders in ensuring the message of credible, peaceful and inclusive elections reaches the people of Bayelsa and Kogi State ahead of the November Governorship elections.
As part of its continuous effort to ensure an inclusive electoral process for the November 16 Governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states, YIAGA AFRICA’s Watching The Vote is amplifying the voices of election stakeholders through its weekly Citizens engagement platform on Radio. The weekly program tagged “Watching The Vote Hour on Prime FM 101.5FM, Kogi State and Peoples FM 93.1, Bayelsa State, which is aimed to engage citizens of the states on informed citizen participation has continued to provide platform for stakeholders to reach out to citizens peaceful and inclusive participation in the process ahead of November 16 Governorship elections.
During the WTV hour in Kogi State on Wednesday 9th October 2019, YIAGA AFRICA Watching The Vote Hour hosted the Convener of Stop Violence Against Women in Politics Campaign, Rosemary Oweifawari who shared the challenges women are currently facing in their bid to participate in the electoral process. Mrs Oweifawari decried the economic, sexual and political violence faced by women in Bayelsa state which has hindered their effective participation in the electoral process. She also highlighted intervention effort made by the Stop VAWIP campaign to further ensure women play a positive role in the electoral process.
Similarly, the convener of Stop VAWIP in Kogi state, Mrs Eunice Agbogun during the WTV Hour the following day raised concerns of the fact that just two female candidates running for the Governorship position is a reflection of low women participation in the process. According to her there are links between gender based electoral violence and low level of women participation in elections saying, an atmosphere of violence affects women participation in elections. She said women and men have equal rights and thus there should be level playing ground when it comes to participating in the electoral process.
While decrying the challenge of lack of level playing ground and community cupport for young people especially as aspirants, Program Officer of FACE initiative, conveners of Vote Not Fight Bogofanyo Perekebina called on young people to eschew violence during elections. Also, representatives of Vote Not Fight during the WTV hour highlighted the importance of young people setting a positive agenda and playing an important role in the electoral process. Speaking during the program in Kogi State, Benard Ajewole from Behavioural Change Initiative who are the conveners of Vote Not Fight said, citizens, especially young people, have the responsibility to engage the politicians on issue-based campaigns.
The issue of inclusion cannot be completed without discussion on participation of People with Disability in electoral process. YIAGA AFRICA’s WTV hour provided platform for representatives of Joint National Association of People with Disability (JONAPWD) and physically challenged persons who shared prospects and challenges of PWDs in the electoral process.
Speaking on WTV hour in Kogi, Chairman of JONAPWD said the inclusion of PWDs in the electoral process is the hallmark of democracy saying, “there cannot be nothing for us without us”. He said “about 200 PWDs have been recruited to work as observers in the upcoming #Kogi Governorship elections. We are going to prove that we have all it takes to bring value to our democracy”.
However, he called on the electoral commission to ensure polling units accessible for PWDs saying PWDs face lots of challenges during the elections as many of the polling units are inaccessible. He said PWDs are engaging with the commission to ensure that magnifying glasses, braille ballot guide and other things that we need to effectively participate in Guber polls are provided. “We also hope that INEC will do their part to ensure that ad-hoc staff understand the importance of giving PWDs and other vulnerable groups priority on voting day. Some get discouraged by the thought of queuing for long and may stay away,” he said.