Mass Protest Rocks Lagos Over Voters' Register
LAGOS, June 23, (THEWILL) - A crowd of over 20,000 comprising pro-democracy actors, human rights activists and civil society representatives across the country today called for immediate cancellation of the 2006 voters’ register, which they said, would bring about credible 2011 polls.
The rally was organized by the Save Nigeria Group (SNG) in collaboration with Coalition of Democrats and Electoral Reforms (CODER) at Onikan Stadium, Lagos where the gathering made strong case for credible polls and new voters’ register.
The rally was organized to sensitize Nigerians irrespective of ethnic, ideological, political and religious affiliation on the need to register, select, vote and protect (RSVP) their voting rights in the 2011 General Elections and stress the need for new voters’ register.
Such eminent personalities as Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Lagos State Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), National Chairman of the Action Congress (AC), Chief Bisi Akande, National Coordinator of the Coalition of Democrats and Electoral Reform (CODER), human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, Mr. Ayo Opadokun, African Democratic Congress (ADC) presidential candidate, Prof. Pat Utomi and former Minister of Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai among others were at the event.
A group of youths wearing black and white T-shirts were displaying placards with various inscriptions such as: "No credible election without credible register; INEC must do a new voters’ register; one man, one vote; we demand fresh register for credible elections; tear Iwu’s voters’ scroll now; new voters’ register now; and register to vote."
In what he described as contemptible compilation in the name of cow, goats and sheep, Soyinka said the 2006 voters’ register could not guarantee free, fair and credible elections, which he said, the people of Nigeria would desire to witness in the 2011 General elections.
Soyinka said, "this is a make or break period for Nigerians to decide on what the people should do if the present administration refuses to compile a fresh voters register."
The Nobel laureate said he hoped this would be the last time he would be called upon to attend any forum or rally aimed at fighting for restoration of good government in Nigeria.
He urged President Goodluck Jonathan to ensure that all those who have violated the fundamental voting rights of the people of Nigeria are heavily punished such that it may include outright forfeiture of properties.
Fashola said his heart "bleeds when he sees elder statesmen like Professor Wole Soyinka, General Alani Aknirinade and Chief Bisi Akande who have served the country in their prime still being saddled with the responsibility of taking the lead in the fight for the restoration for good governance in Nigeria."
He charged the youths at the event to pick up the gauntlet to fight the battle, which the elders are still championing advising that if some leaders are postulating that the youth have no role to play in the affairs of the nation, the youth must demonstrate that they can do it.
While supporting the acronym RSVP drawn from the charge to everyone at the gathering to Register, Select, Vote and Protect used at the rally, the governor said he "is in full support of the quest to ensure that everyone gets registered just as he reasoned that an ample opportunity existed for Nigerians to have used the last Identification exercise as a means of developing a credible voters register."
Fashola affirmed that if what would be required for achieving a credible voters register is to stay at home for a few days as it was during the Census exercise, then Nigerians must be ready to stay indoors in order to achieve a credible voters register.
He charged Nigerian voters to start asking those who aspire to rule them questions such as their managerial capabilities, adding that by asking such questions, only people with proven ability to manage men would get to positions of authority.
The governor also called for the organization of public debates for prospective public office holders to be coordinated by higher institutions adding that they also represent avenues of testing the preparedness of people who aspire to public offices.
Fashola asserted that he has a social contract with the people of Lagos to ensure that come rain, come sunshine he would work for the people who also braved the harsh weather conditions then to vote him into power.
He urged Nigerians to see election days as carnival like days when people should have fun and even feel free to bring their young ones to the voting area, but ensure that after voting, a watchful eye is kept on goings on in the polling booth to prevent any form of malpractices.
Also speaking, former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu said Nigerians must say no and out rightly reject the 2006 voters register which contains a lot of fake names.
Tinubu who was represented by the Chairman of the Action Congress in Lagos State, Chief Henry Ajomale added that it is only by ensuring that INEC compiles a new voters register that Nigeria can have a credible election in 2011.
He expressed the hope that the new Chairman designate of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Professor Attahiru Jega would allow Nigeria have a credible election in 2011.
Convener of the Save Nigeria Group, Pastor Tunde Bakare in his address said there is hope for Nigeria, stressing that the group will not stop until Nigeria changes for the better.
He reiterated that the group would stop at nothing but to ensure that it makes leadership accountable to the people in whom the sovereignty lies, all Nigerians must register at areas where they would vote and must be ready to make such votes count.ã€€