Friday Olokor, Abuja
A coalition of women numbering over 500 on Tuesday staged a protest at the headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission in Abuja demanding that the forthcoming elections should be devoid of any form of electoral irregularities.
They also used the occasion to call on other political gladiators to shun violence during the forthcoming elections.
The organisations which led the protest included Women in Politics Forum; National Association of Women Journalists; International Federation of Women Lawyers; National Council of Women Societies; National Association of Nigerian Traders; People Living With Disabilities and Centre for Democracy and Development and United Nations Women.
The protesters carried placards with inscriptions including, ‘Our democracy must not be coloured with blood’; ‘We want peaceful elections in Nigeria, No to violence’; ‘Non-violence is the summit of bravery’; ‘Peaceful elections, no to violence #WomenForPeace’; and ‘Drop the guns, raise your vote.”
They were received by the INEC Secretary, Rose Orianran- Anthony on behalf of the commission’s chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yabuku, with an assurance that the election would be free, fair and credible.
Chairperson of the WIPF and former National Treasurer of Labour Party, Ms. Ebere Ifendu, warned that the forthcoming elections must not record any violence or bloodshed.
She said, “You know election is around the corner and so there is so much aparthy with people not wanting to vote; so we are using this sensitisation rally to ask the women to come out and vote. We are also using this opportunity to tell INEC that women are demanding for free, fair, credible and transparent election.
“We are also telling the security agencies that we want a violence-free election and nobody should do any act that will lead to violence. So, what we are actually saying is that we want to participate; but we need an assurance from the electoral umpire and the security agencies.”
While assuring the women that it was crucial to have free, fair and peaceful election, Orianran-Anthony told them to be committed to it.
She said, “This peaceful match for peace shows that what we as a commission is doing, we are on the same page with Nigerian women because we do know that without peace, the commission will not succeed in its mandate of delivering credible, free, fair election.
“As a commission, we are committed to ensuring that the process is free, and fair because if the process is free and fair there will be no need for violence. We are also assuring as a commission that we have been very open; we will continue to carry women, persons with disabilities and every segment of the society along. The chairman is overwhelmed by this solidarity because it is not just solidarity by women, it is solidarity for the commission.
“So on behalf of the chairman, I assure you that the 2019 election as far as the commission is concerned, would be credible, free, and fair. We hope that you will help take this message of peace to the political stakeholders because INEC does not forment trouble.