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2023: Discuss issues not frivolities, stakeholders task politicians

By Kehinde Olatunji
02 May 2022   |   4:12 am
As preparations are on top gear towards 2023 general elections, politicians are deviating from the real issues that trouble the country, instead they are attacking one another and calling names.

[FILE PHOTO] Femi Falana

Charge youths to take advantage of their numbers in 2023
As preparations are on top gear towards 2023 general elections, politicians are deviating from the real issues that trouble the country, instead they are attacking one another and calling names.

This was the position of eminent Nigerians, who spoke at the unveiling of the Registration Portal of the “40 Million Ballots Movement,” initiated by Youths on the Street Initiative founded in 2017 by Comrade Kennedy Iyere, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.

Human Right Activist, Femi Falana stated that political actors are happy when issues of unemployment, insecurity, Association of Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strike and economic downturn, among others are ignored.

He said the demonisation of a particular candidate has interestingly caused the recall of the story of Mazi Samuel Goomsu Ikoku, who contested against his father, the great Alvan Ikoku for a seat in the Eastern House of Assembly in 1957.

Falana stated that the effrontery of the ideologically driven SG Ikoku, who was an associate of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, was manifested when he defeated his father in the election, “The father did not disown him. Rather, he came out to support his son in the next election.”

He said: “Issues are not being raised, we are not being told, ‘If this man wins his party primary and the national elections, he will address insecurity, unemployment, illiteracy or remove 16 millions young people from the streets.’ Nobody is saying that, it is all about whether this one is a political son or a political father. No, please, they (politicians) are very happy when you do that because you are diverting attention from the problems confronting the people. But let me inform you, like Achebe said, ‘we once had a country.’

Falana recalled that at a time, Nigeria was the envy of other nations, and witnessed lots immigrants coming to the country to work, but the situation has changed, as the country has retrogressed.

He said, “We had a country where in the 50s and 60s, countries were jealous of Nigeria. In the 70s and 80s, white people; Americans, Indians, all of them were sleeping in our embassy to come to Nigeria, have you heard of that before? Oh yes, people were sleeping in our embassy to come to Nigeria to work, unlike now that we are not just sleeping in their embassies, we also go across the Atlantic Ocean.”

He queried President Muhammadu Buhari’s statement that Nigerians do not have any other country, saying that if it were so, he wouldn’t be going abroad for medical treatment.

“Buhari is no longer saying, ‘we have no other country.’ He has other countries.  If not he wouldn’t be going abroad for medical treatment, but for the majority of Nigerians, they die here because they cannot afford to go out. So President Buhari has the United Kingdom as his second home unlike the majority of Nigerians.

“We have a majority of the people that have no other country and such is the case, they have to vote wisely so that they can claim back their country.”

Falana emphasised the need to mobilise youths to show interest in elections and voting, saying that Nigeria could have a turn-around with the right people in political positions.

“We have to look for all those Big Brother Nigeria fans. We have to take advantage of technology to mobilise our people to register to vote and take back their country. And please we are not just voting, we must vote around issues. In a place like Lagos, they say Lagos is working. I don’t know which Lagos is working because in my area there is no light, water, security, or road.

“They insult us with this statement. You ask them, what do you mean after 23 years in power, which Lagos is working? There are 40 legislators in Alausa Secretariat, how many of us here know our House of Assembly members? There are 24 people representing Lagos State in the House of Representatives, besides Femi Gbajabiamila who is the Speaker, do you know any other one?”

Falana noted that the INEC has the power to adopt electronic voting and there should be no reason not to embrace it.

“Kaduna State has had electronic voting twice in their local government elections. Let us demand from INEC that we want to have electronic voting so that we can stay in our houses and vote instead of queuing under the sun for hours.”

Iyere

Falana urged the country to take full advantage of the benefits of technology in making it easier for the electorate to vote, adding that it is not enough to campaign for registration, saying there is a need for proper education of the electorate.

He said, “Let us demand of INEC that we want to have electronic voting, so people can stay in their houses and vote just like some people vote for their preferred housemate during Big Brother Nigeria. I think the last one (big brother) recorded about 27 million votes. So let people stay in their homes so you don’t need to queue for hours under the scorching sun.

“We are demanding that we should have electronic voting so that people can vote wherever they are. Many organisations have also adopted this method. As lawyers we don’t go anywhere to vote, we vote in our homes or offices. We should also be able to do that for the national elections.”

In his comment, Prof. Pat Utomi, commended the initiative saying, when people decide to be liberated, then, there will be liberation.

According to him, many professionals decided to fight the June 12, 1993 course and liberated the country from the military, so that the civilians could be given a chance.

He said, “We thought that since civilian rule has come, we will be liberated. But over 20 years after, the politicians have set us backward. We now felt that how could we liberate ourselves from these people, and a simple way was discovered; the ballot.

“When you stay in your room and read newspapers, the illiterates, who would collect cheap money, who are few in number, would go out to vote. If only you would register, we will vote these corrupt people out.”

Utomi called for a new set of politicians that would democratically remove the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) permanently from the political space.

“I want to commend Iyere and those who started the initiative, I want to say that they would have my support. We have enough registered people in the group. But we have to send a concrete message that we have come,” he said.

Also, Chief Emmanuel Ijewere, said that he aligned himself with what Utomi has said, adding that he has lived in Nigeria for over 70 years and saw it all.

He said, “What we could not do yesterday, we can do today. Every eligible Nigerian should go out and vote. If you have registered before, go and check.

“Use your ballot to improve your life, the 40 million votes is doable and make sure you play your role in a peaceful manner.

Dr. Muiz Banire, in his contributions, said that the youth constitutes 60 per cent of the nation’s population and that it was a wake up call for their future.

Pat Utomi

Banire added that this was the last chance for the country and if nothing was done, the people would have themselves to blame.

He noted. “I want to associate with the initiative as it is civilised. As you vote, you must be vigilant so that you are not rigged out. The presumption is that these 40 million people would be the informed class and we will educate the vulnerable, and then we will rejoice together as we rescue this country.”

A Professor of International Law, Ademola Abass, in his contribution said it was disheartening that the same youths that would not go out to vote sent out over one billion votes to a reality show.

“They say politics is dangerous and they hand over the country to all sorts of people. We cannot abandon our country for them, we need to stay back and wrestle for the good of the country.

“I ran a campaign for former governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State and I discovered that less than one million people out of the over 20 million people in the state vote and most of them are market women.

“The youths should go beyond Twitter and Facebook and go out to vote during elections.

The Convener, Comrade Kennedy Iyere said that if everyone, who should be part of the movement cooperates with the group, Nigeria would soon be a great nation.

According to him, “Nigerians have been misgoverned recklessly, we do not need to sit back and watch. Politicians are pursuing the tickets because they want to become the President. Nigerians have the supreme power, let’s go to the market.

He said, “40 million ballots is a revolutionary way of claiming power from politicians who have oppressed us or else we will continue to have the people who have oppressed us for many years.”