The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, has decried the high degree of apathy and low level of participation in the electoral process in the country.
Speaking at the opening of a two-day retreat of the National Inter-Agency Advisory Committee on Voter Education and Publicity on Wednesday, Jega said this was inspite of the enormous resources to voter and civic education being committed by the commission and other bodies.
“In our elections, there is still a high degree of apathy, an intolerably high percentage of voided votestraceable to limited knowledge and awareness, too few females are participating in elections as candidates and other disadvantage groups still feel left out of the process,” he said at the retreat holding in Calabar.
The INEC Chairman, represented by the National Commissioner in charge of Publicity, Dr. Chris Iyimoga, also said the electoral process was still being hampered by corruption, vote buying, snatching of electoral materials, intimidation and threat, among others.
He said what all these meant was that the current strategies for meeting the challenges have not been “altogether successful”.
“There is, therefore, the need to identify and close the gaps in our overall voter eduction programme and develop one that is not reactive bu pro-active in its approach, responsive in its deployment and effective and sustainable,” he said.
He charged the meeting not to shy away from acknoledging existing shortcomings but rather confront them to meet the aspiration of the people.
In his keynote address, a former Director General, National Broadcasting Commission, Dr Tom Adaba called on INEC and media organs in the country to make voter eduction a continuous process rather than the current periodic exercise.
He also said there was also the need of collaboration between INEC and the media to make debates among the various political parties a regular and possibly mandatory one from presidency to local government.
Adaba also called for the immediate issuance of licenses for the establishment of community radios as a way of influencing and deepining democracy in the country.
Also speaking the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Cross River, Mr Mike Igini, said the committee was apartnership that was expected to take voter eduction beyond its present level.
He said democracy could only thrive better where the electoral got all the necessary information that would enable it to make good choice