By Temitope Ponle
The National Association of Seadogs (NAS), also known as Pirates Confraternity, has called the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to engage more with political parties and stakeholders in the electoral process.
Mr John Okey, Director, Publicity and Public Relations, NAS, made the call in an interview during the association’s election sensitisation campaign in Abuja, tagged “Our Votes Count” .
The campaign held, under their Citizens Summit initiative, was to reiterate the importance of citizens’ participation in the forthcoming elections.
Reacting to INEC’s regulations and guidelines for the conduct of the elections, Okey said the commission needed to engage with all stakeholders across board.
“I listened to the interview of the INEC Chairman few days ago and he was justifying the electoral guidelines, saying it is for the people and they have decided what is best for the people.
“You do not do that. You need to engage across board. The political parties are actually inspired by stakeholders and they need to be engaged; it is about participation.
“The more people participate in elections, the easier the work is for INEC,” he said.
He also said a survey carried out by the association during several campaigns showed a considerable level of voter apathy, adding that the campaigns organised were to encourage Nigerians to vote.
“This is a follow up to previous campaigns. With this campaign, we are letting people know that their votes must count and it is recorded.
“It is a process and you must take responsibility to make sure that from the beginning to the end, the process is complete,’ he added.
Also speaking, Mr Frank Okafor, National Vice President, Northern Nigeria, NAS, said the campaigns held would be sustained beyond the elections, noting that the association stood as a voice for the voiceless.
“Citizens Summit is an initiative of the NAS where we intend, on a non-partisan basis, to have dialogue with elected officials and with the citizens.
“We have members who are in government on a non-NAS supported political platform; they identify with any political party of their choice and aspire and take position.
“Because they belong to this association, we have a code of conduct that we can hold them accountable beyond the members of the association.
“So we try to build a bridge between promises made by officials and the citizens who the promises were made to; we demand to see results and we continuously engage,” he stressed.
Mr Stanley Nwodo, President of the association, Abuja branch, said that the campaigns were carried out nationwide to ensure that Nigerians were politically aware of the importance of shunning election vices.
“We are going to several places to inform citizens; we printed out flyers; we have jingles in English and Pidgin on the essence of coming out to vote because you cannot complain when you do not vote.
“We want to let citizens know that through their votes, they can hold their leaders accountable,” he said.
Nwodo called on Nigerians to collect their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) before the deadline of Feb. 8.