The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has appealed to citizens, especially, women to vote wisely and shun all monetary and material inducements during the forthcoming elections.
Mrs Pauline Onyeka, the INEC’s Resident Electoral Commissioner, made the call on Thursday in Abakaliki at a town hall sensitisation meeting with women groups and gender-focused civil society organisations (CSOs).
Onyeka said that women’s participation in politics meant participation in the development process urging them to show effective commitment to the forthcoming elections to enthrone credible leadership.
She said that monetary and material inducements erode the credibility and outcome of any election and charged the women to reject money-bag politicians and vote according to their conscience.
“It has been argued that countries where men and women participate equally in decision-making level develop faster than those that make no deliberate efforts to involve the two.
“As a commission, we are determined to ensure inclusivity; our Bimodal Voting Accreditation System (BVAS) and other innovation introduced by the commission will ensure that your votes count in the election”.
The REC said that the commission in response to the National Gender Policy and other regional instruments to which Nigeria is a signatory, developed 2014 its gender policy to ensure that the gender gap in the electoral process was bridged.
She assured participants that adequate arrangements had been put in place to ensure inclusive, credible, transparent, free and fair elections where all votes would count.
She urged the participants to step down the lessons from the meeting to the grassroots to enable female voters to make informed decisions during the election.
Meanwhile, Mrs Dorothy Bello, the acting director, of the Gender and Inclusivity Department in INEC’s headquarters, Abuja said that the objective of the town hall engagement was aimed at providing an opportunity for INEC to disseminate information on the roles of women in the polls.
She added that the interactive forum would provide a platform to interact and proffer solutions to possible and envisaged challenges that might confront the Nigerian woman.
Bello, represented by Mrs Benny Oguejiefor, Head of Unit, Gender and Inclusivity Department, INEC, Abuja, added that the engagement was to sensitise women on their role as mothers who bore the brunt of violence in elections.
“The commission through engagements such as this, is determined to reverse the trend and deepen its commitment to foster gender responsive electoral process.
“It is important as women to understand the different manifestoes as well as visions of candidates or platforms that best approximate the interest of women as voters.
“Women should not mortgage their future and that of their children by subjecting themselves to material and monetary inducements; they should not involve themselves in vote buying and selling bearing in mind that their vote is their right,” Bello said.
Meanwhile, Mrs Amaka Nweke, executive director, of Probity and Accountability Watch Initiative (PAWI), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) said that women must be at the forefront of “Take-Back Nigeria through the ballot box”.
She decried the underrepresentation and marginalisation of women since the return of democracy in 1999 saying that it was time for women to change the ugly narrative.
“When women are in decision-making, we achieve results, God has given us the voice and we are going to speak through our votes in the coming election.
“We must as women shun their petty monetary and material gifts which they use to buy our conscience, our votes and this time, we must vote wisely to elect credible and service-oriented leaders,” Nweke said. (NAN