This is a paper Celestina C. Nwankwoala presented at a One-Day Sensitisation and Mobilisation Zonal Workshop on 2011 general election in Port Harcourt.
United States President Abraham Lincoln defined democracy as “Government of the people, by the people and for the people”. Democracy is by far the most challenging form of government – both for politicians and for the people. The term democracy comes from the Greek language and means “rule by the (simple) people”. Democracy is a political government either carried out directly by the people (direct democracy) or by means of elected representatives of the people (representative democracy).
Even though there is no specific, universally accepted definition of ‘democracy’, there are two principles that any definition of democracy includes, equality and freedom. These principles are reflected by all citizens being equal before the law, and having equal access to power, and freedom is secured by legitimised rights and liberties, which are generally protected by a constitution.
Democracy is a form of government, where a constitution guarantees basic personal and political rights, fair and free elections, and independent courts of law.
A country can be said to be democratic when the people participate in choosing their leaders. How do we choose our leaders, we choose our leaders by voting. We cannot say we are democratic when we have about 20% turn out during elections. One of the most important things I have learnt by reading is that no problem is unsolvable. You solve most problems by asking the right questions, right questions can always give you the right answers, and with the right answers, there is a chance that a problem is half solved.
The question I want to ask is what is our right and responsibility in the electoral process? How are we going to make sure that our vote counts? Why are we allowing only a few people to make decisions on what is actually of great importance to us, our children, our country and our future?
Why are we not making our vote to count. I will not be telling the truth if I say that there are no good reasons why we stay at home during elections. The electoral process in the country had disappointed us and we are helpless because our effort had not made any difference in the electoral process all these years. Is that our answer?
There are a lot of reasons, and some of them are valid and justified. We are coming from an era where polling stations are barricaded by political touts, where ballot papers never arrived in time or not at all, where votes that are legitimately casted are discarded and the votes that counts are those cast by few people in secluded houses and brought to polling stations on gun points. Where political hooliganism is the order of the day, where assassinations of political opponents are thriving and the honest ones had no option than to stay at home.
Politics was left to the strongest, most connected, and most daring. That is the era we are coming from and that is why we do not cast our vote because at the end of the day, our votes do not count. It was the era of selection and not election and we have paid dearly for it. You are not alone and you are not wrong.
But now there is reason to believe that our country is changing. We have a new beginning and a new consciousness, a new atmosphere for change, a new Nigeria where the courts are gradually becoming relevant, where their decision is more binding than before, where change is on course. The INEC is not left out. There is so much evidence that a new life has come in, it cannot allow the old way to prevail for at least one reason, the world is watching, Nigerians are watching, things are changing and we have a responsibility to our country to change how our children think and to our future, to choose who will rule us, to make our votes count by coming out to vote, to make our voice be heard and our mandate to make the difference by coming out to vote.
The question is, are we ready to change too? We cannot condemn the politicians when we sell our conscience for a bag of rice and some cash, when we sell our votes; we forfeit putting the most qualified in office. We forfeit our chance for a better life and good health care, we forfeit our change for a better life and good health care, we forfeit good and affordable education, we forfeit electrification and constant light, we forfeit good roads and good social welfare scheme, we forfeit jobs for our youths and affordable accommodation for all. These are some of the things we missed by selling our votes.
Now is the time we must change and do it better, time to change our attitude toward politics. Time for the voter to refuse money politics, and imbibe the politics of ideas and principles in choosing charismatic leadership.
The Right of Electorate.
As a Nigerian voter, you have the following rights
*To be treated with courtesy and respect by the election officials.
*To be notified if your voter registration has been accepted or denied.
*To vote if you have registered at your current address
*To seek help from the election officials if you are unsure about anything relating to the voting process.
*To have your paper ballot voided before it is cast and be given a new one if you want to change your vote.
*To enter the full name of a write-in candidate if the candidate of your choice is not on the ballot (except in party primaries).
*To have a ballot brought to your vehicle instead of entering the polling place if you are 65 years of age or older, or if you are physically disabled.
*To have an officer of election or other person help you vote if you are physically disabled or unable to read or write (or need the ballot translated into another language).
*Blind voters may have any person assist them. Other voters may have anyone who is not their employer or union representative assist them.
Note: The officer of election or other person who assists you must follow your instructions, without trying to influence your vote, and shall not tell or signal how you voted on any office or question.
* To vote even if you have no identification with you at the polling place. You must sign the “Affirmation of Identity” statement before voting if you have no ID
* To vote a Provisional Ballot if your status as a qualified voter is in question.
* To bring your minor child (age 15 or younger) into the voting booth with you to observe you vote.
*To vote if you are in line when the polls close.
* You cannot be denied the right to vote if you are legally qualified to do so.
* Government officials must not apply standards or practices which deny or abridge the right to vote on account of tribe and ethnicity, and must not deny any individual the right to vote on account of errors or omissions in registration applications which are not materials to determining whether such individual is qualified to vote. Officials must not apply different standards and procedures to voters in the same circumstances in determining whether they are qualified to vote.
Celestina Chinwenwa Nwankwoala
Ahead 2027: Pro-Tinubu Group Sets Up Structures In APC
The Mandate Movement (TMM), a pro-President Bola Tinubu group in the All Progressives Congress (APC), has set up 37 structures in a bid to enlarge its membership base across the country.
The structures consist of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja.
The national leader of the movement, Cardinal James Odunmbaku, made this known in a statement, explaining that the move became necessary for the ease of administration.
Cardinal Odunmbaku, in the statement, noted that this move was a precursor to the preparations for the 2027 general election.
He stressed that the move aims at ensuring that the APC has strong dominance across communities and towns in every part of the country.
He advised those to be appointed as state coordinators to be more effective in mobilising new people into the ruling APC.
The APC chieftain also used the opportunity to appeal to Nigerians to be patient with the President Bola Tinubu’s administration, assuring that the government was taking steps to address the harsh economic challenges.
Benue APC Crisis: Court Sacks Acting State Chairman
The recently suspended Benue State Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Austin Agada, has been reinstated by a Makurdi High Court presided over by the Chief Judge of the State, Justice Maurice Ikpambese.
Recall that Mr Agada was earlier in the month suspended from office by another Benue High Court in Aliade presided over by Justice Lilian Tsumba following an ex parte motion filed by Mr Moses Agaba against him and the APC after his Ihaje Ward I Executive in Ogbadibo Local Government Area had passed a no-confidence vote on him and also suspended him for alleged anti-party activity.
The suspension was immediately followed by the inauguration of Mr. Benjamin Omakolo from Igoro Ward, Apa LGA as the acting State Chairman during a State Executive Committee meeting of the party presided over by Governor Hyacinth Alia.
However the crisis in the party took a dramatic turn Monday when Justice Ikpambese reinstated Mr. Agada while ruling on a motion by the embattled chairman seeking to set aside the interim order restraining him from parading himself as Chairman.
After listening to the arguments of counsel to Moses Agaba, Mr. Johnson Usman, and that of Innocent Daagba, who appeared alongside Richard Ayilla, George Ushongo, Daniel Sorkaa and John Ifer who appeared for Mr. Agada, Justice Maurice Ikpambese vacated the order restraining him from parading self, function and acting as the Chairman of the APC in the State.
Justice Ikpambese ruled that “under Order 39, rule 3 of the Benue State High Court Procedure Rules, 2023, the lifespan of an interim order is seven days, and since the order was issued on February 2, 2024, it has elapsed by law.”
Justice Ikpambese nullified the appointment of Benjamin Omakolo as acting Chairman and any other appointment made from February 2, 2024.
He accordingly struck out the motion seeking to set aside the interim order of February 2, 2024, as “it has been overtaken by events.”
The matter would be assigned to another Judge by the Chief Judge who would hear it on its merit.
Reacting, the APC State acting Chairman, Mr. Omakolo dismissed the reinstatement of Mr. Agada saying “whether the order restraining him (Agada) from parading himself as the Chairman is vacated or not, the fact that he has been suspended by his Ward still places a ban on him to be able to function as APC Chairman in Benue State. “And it will interest you to know that in the court ruling today, no matter concerning my person or role as the acting Chairman was mentioned.
“So, I still remain the valid acting State chairman of the APC in Benue State. I remain the one who pilots the affairs of the APC in Benue State and the APC family takes instructions and directives from my office as the acting Chairman of APC in the State.
“And even that wrong vacation that was done in the High Court has already been appealed. The person that took him to court has appealed the judgement because it is not correct in law for a High Court to restrain another High Court, a court of coordinate jurisdiction. I have long assumed office as the acting Chairman of APC in Benue State.”
There’s No Changing Bayelsa Gov’ship Result – Diri
Governor of Bayelsa State, Senator Douye Diri, has said that the November 11, 2023, governorship election in the State has been won and lost and cannot be changed through subterranean moves of his main rival in the poll.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared the incumbent governor winner of the election and presented certificates of return to him and the deputy governor-elect, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, on November 17, 2023.
Diri, who spoke on Monday during the first year memorial service of his late father, Pa Abraham Diri, at the St Peter’s Anglican Church, Sampou, Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area, said the subpoena to the police to testify as witness at the election petition tribunal by the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Chief Timipre Sylva, was diversionary, a waste of time and an exercise in futility.
He said the acceptable standard was the election result declared by INEC and not that of the police.
His words, “they are bringing a police report. They are bringing a police commissioner to come and testify in the election tribunal. We have crossed that bridge long ago. Just as we stopped them from rigging, we will stop them again.
“If you want to subpoena anybody, let it be INEC, which conducted the election and declared the results. The police are in charge of security.
“Let us be steadfast. Our second tenure will be better than the first.”
The governor eulogised his father for laying a solid foundation for him and his siblings.
According to him, his father was being celebrated a year after his death because he left good legacies that were speaking through him and his siblings.
He said: “His impact upon our lives, his children and relatives, is unspeakable. That is why I believe in giving the best education to children, so that whether you are alive or not, they can stand anywhere. I urge fellow Bayelsans to give their children good education.
“What we are doing today is to appreciate God and celebrate the life of our father for what he has done in our lives. Our father guided us very well. All his life was how to discipline and give what he had to society.
“Those of us in leadership as president, governors, Speakers and other positions, let us know that there is a legacy we should leave, which will speak for us when we leave this world.”
Speaking on the topic: “What will you be remembered for?” Rev. Funkuro Amgbare, Bishop of the Diocese of Northern Izon of the Anglican Communion, noted that Pa Diri was being remembered a year after his death because he impacted positively on his children and the society.
He admonished all to live a life worth remembering by maintaining their integrity.
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