The Oyo State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Barrister Mutiu Agboke, on Monday warned religious leaders across the country not to distance themselves from electoral processes so as to prevent ‘devilish’ individuals from taking over the mantle of leadership of the country in 2019.
Agboke while speaking at a sensitisation campaign on electoral processes organised by the Oyo State office of the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), held at Christ Apostolic Church (CAC), Oke-Agbara Ashi, Ibadan declared that it is imperative for religious leaders and their followers not to sit on the fence when issues of elections and electoral processes are mentioned.
He said religious leaders across the country and their followers should not see elections as business of the politicians alone, saying that it is the duty of all and sundry to participate in the processes.
He said, “There is need for them to participate in election process and electioneering, and there is need for them to participate and to encourage people to participate in the process. The mosques and churches, majority of the worshipers are also there. We have been to the Ibadan Central Mosque, the churches and Mosques are powerful pillars of religious activities in Nigeria. We are here to tell the church that no, you cannot stand aloof, you cannot stand out, you cannot sit on the fence. INEC is doing continuous voters registration, INEC is creating awareness on INEC programs. INEC is raising the level of consciousness. In Oyo state, we have over 600,000 unclaimed PVCs.
“The reason why we are here today is to appeal to the teeming members of this church not to stay away from the electoral processes.
“If the Churches and Mosques stay away, you are allowing the devilish people to take over power. That is why we are saying don’t allow ‘devilish’ people take over power. Your PVC is your right to choose your leaders.
Agboke also advised those who have changed their locations to apply to the commission for transfer of their PVCs, warning them not to register again.
He said, “We cannot sit down in the conform of our offices and be lamenting that people are not collecting their PVCs, look at the crowd that are here, look at the opportunity we have used, less than 5 minutes and this is going to be s continuous one. We are going to engage NURTW, student unions, because most of them are more than 18 years and we are going to allow them be part of the process. And that is why we have brought it to this church.
“You can move from one location to another. If you are living in Jos and now living in Oyo state, you don’t need to register again. If you are living in Egbeda and now you are living in Apata, you don’t need to register again. What we will do is to move your PVC to Apata. We will transfer your PVC for you. That is why we are saying we need this consistent education, we need this constituent sensitization and the more we are consistent, the better for us.
“And it is better for us to know that election is not only for politicians, look at this angle, look at it, if INEC is organising the election, the constitution has spelled it out that INEC is to conduct elections for office of Mr. President, national assembly and governors, INEC is to register political parties and evaluate, monitor operation of political parties, INEC is to ensure that these political parties finances are monitored, register political parties. INEC is to ensure that these political parties are monitored.
“The one we are having now is engage the stakeholders, we are partnering with EFCC and engage those who are concerned, now we are talking on how INEC can transmit election results electronically. All these put together would at least help to have a credible poll in 2019. That is not to say that there would not be issues, if there were issues in 2011, they are better in 2015, it is because we recorded high level of success in 2015 and we are going to have less in 2019. The more we are doing this the more we are better.
“The issus of multiple political parties are not issues to us, that is our calling, in a particular countries like Afghanistan for example, their ballot papers are wide as prayer mat of the Muslims. And they also conduct elections. If our ballot papers ate as wide as textbook, that is immaterial to us. What is important is that the INEC, stakeholders, political parties, NOA, they are here, they come we do this thing together. What we need to do is to make people know what we are doing for them to be able to identify the logo of the political parties. And that is why INEC is here.
Agboke while speaking further insisted that contrary to insinuations, there is no record of underage voting in the INEC register.
While pledging to conduct free and fair elections in the state, Agboke informed that INEC in the state was working to ensure that no case of underage voting or foreigner is allowed to register in the continuous voter registration in the state.
He said, “Look at the issue of underage voting they are talking about, for us, the commission, it is for us to look at it. And we have insisted that after 2015 poll we don’t have any record in our register of underage voting. INEC constituted a committee to look at this, they visited the place, commission members were engaged but we find out that there is no underage voting in our record and we have come out to tell the public.
“And I can tell you that in Oyo state, no record of underage voting shall be recorded in Oyo state. Even foreigners, if you look at it, we delisted over 200 names of foreigners in our record across the country”.