The blames over current apathy that characterize registration and actual voting in Abia State and the entire South East have been heaped on the head of Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC in the state and the country at large.
The blames came from participants at a one day workshop on Citizens Conversation with Elected Public Officials, organized by the National orientation Agency, NOA in collaboration with `Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) in Umuahia, Monday.
Firing the first shot, the Key note speaker and former Secretary to the state Government, Professor Mkpa Agu Mkpa, said that a situation where the Commission would supervise elections and announce results different from how the people voted would discourage anyone from participating in the process, noting that the failure of INEC to adequately address the issue of delay in the ongoing registration of voters would remain a sore point in the exercise.
In his remark, the representative of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, Mr Solomon Ogunji, noted that everyone should be involved in a workshop of that nature, not only elected office holders because everyone including traditional rulers, civil servants and security agencies need to give account of the stewardship to the people.
Other speakers, including the chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists in the state, Comrade John Emejor challenged INEC to outline its strategy for eliminating voter apathy and making the votes count, which according to him, the issue is critical to the success of the exercise and subsequent elections.
His view was corroborated by the state director of Information, Mr. Iyke Odoemelam, who advised INEC to take responsibility for the sensitization and mobilisation of the people for the exercise.
In his remark, the Director General of the NOA represented by a Director in the Agency, Mrs Ngozi Ekeoba, said the programme was organized to bridge the gap between the elected officials and the citizens and disclosed that the programme had been organized in 15 states of the federation including Abuja.
In her remark, the state Director of NOA, Dr. Ngozi Uduma, said the absence of communication channel between the elected officials and their constituents was largely responsible for the misunderstanding that exist between the two, which gap would be bridged by the programme.
In his key note address, Professor Mkpa Agu Mkpa said the level of voter apathy was worrisome, especially in Abia state and needed to be urgently addressed by the Commission and other stakeholders.
Speaking on behalf of chairmen of the 17 councils in the state, the chairman of Umuahia South local government council, Mr. Obioma Ogbulafor, said they were committed to the success of the programmes of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu.
Addressing the workshop attended by traditional rulers, community and other organizations, the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Mr Chikwendu Kalu represented by the member for Ikwuano, Mr Theophilus Ugboaja, said that the misconception of the role of the legislator in a democracy was responsible for the high expectation of the people from him, pointing out that the legislator’s primary responsibility was lawmaking.
He said there is nothing like constituency fund in the 1999 constitution but constituency project, adding what the lawmaker gets is his allowance and salary.
The representative of the state Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mr Godfrey Achibie said that the INEC in Abia has become new and would address all the issues responsible for the voter apathy assuring that going forward votes would count.
Sunday Nwakanma – Umuahia