From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
Ahead of the 2023 general election, a pressure group, Coalition of Democrats for Equity and Justice, CODEJ, has called on the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu to put measures in place that would protect the integrity of the election.
While describing the forthcoming general elections as an acid test for the integrity its handlers, the group charged the INEC Chairman to ensure that the nation’s democracy does not die in his hands by conducting a free and fair election that would attract global commendations.
Speaking at a press conference in Abuja, the Executive Secretary of CODEJ, Mr. Dubem Mbagwu disclosed that the group has already mobilized over three million Nigerians who are ready to vote for the right candidates.
“What we stand for is that which is fair, equitable, just and progressive. We stand for what will unite this nation and propel it to development and we have mobilized over three million and are still mobilizing Nigerians to vote for the right candidates in the 2023 general elections,” Mbagwu disclosed.
He added that members of the coalition and eligible voters are not ready to trade their votes for peanuts but to ensure that democracy thrive in Nigeria by giving their votes to persons that have the medals touch to move the country to the part of development.
“You don’t expect this group and eligible voters to trade their votes for peanuts. No. Its a decision we have made and we are championing this course through the length and breadth of this nation, that Nigerians must take their destines in their own hands. Democracy must thrive and Nigeria must survive.”
The group therefore called on INEC to step up its game to protect the integrity of the forthcoming election.
” So far INEC has conducted itself in a well that will give Nigerians some level of confidence going by the conduct of the Osun State Governorship election.
They have also told us some days ago that some elements tried to hack or manipulate their savers, but that they beat them to it. And that really gives the citizens of this country a lot of confidence.
“However, with respect to accusations and fears surrounding the 2023 election, we want to urge INEC to be very careful because the possibility of Nigerians moving forward from where we find ourselves today lies heavily on the shoulders of the Management of INEC.
” We will therefore, respectfully called on Prof. Mahmood Yakubu to tow the line of his predecessor, Prof. Jega to ensuring that Nigeria democracy does not die in his hands. He should do everything possible to ensure that the 2023 election would be an election that Nigeria and the world will commend.
“It is an opportunity for him to either write his name in gold or tatters. If he fails to do what is right, what will he tell the generations yet unborn or his children and Nigerians? So, he has his name to protect with his management team and we would expect that he will not do what is not expected of him. Under his watch, the right thing must be done and Nigerians must see this election as properly conducted and the right result declared.”
The group further called on the electoral body to ensure that eligible Nigerians who registered must timeously be issued with their Permanent Voters Cards (PVC).
“A lot of Nigerians participated in the voter registration exercise. But its one thing to register and another for those people who have registered to have access to their voters cards.
” Without voters cards, you cannot vote. So, CODEJ want to call on INEC to do what is required of it. Let it issue these cards to registered voters and in time to avoid a stampede and disenfranchisement.”
The group called on Nigerians to put aside ethnic, religion, regional and other sentimental considerations in choosing their next president but to go for merit and competence.
“Nigerians need to look at their antecedents, background, scorecards of their various outing in public service, their capacity to lead, their sources of income and who they really are”.
Mbagwu disclosed that so far, the presidential candidate of Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi has seems to have a message that has appealed to the group after an interaction with him.
” So far, most of us have interacted with the presidential candidate of Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi. He seems to have a message that appeals to the youths. He seems to have an idea of how to make Nigeria work again. We are open to more discussions with other candidates, but so far, the candidate of Labour Party has been making inroads into the hearts of our members.
We are yet to hear from other candidates and when we hear from them, we will be able to make a very definite stand.”
The group finally appealed to the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU to end their dispute and allow students to return to school.
“We are joking with our future. Any society that does not give education to its youths is heading to a crash. This is because education is the bedrock of development. Millions of our youths who are out of school now, some have taken to drugs, criminality and prostitution and some have died of frustration. ASUU demands are genuine and government should do the needful so that our youths can return to school”.
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