With 80 days to the presidential election, the United Kingdom (UK) has said it has no interest in who becomes Nigeria’s next president, as it warned against any act that could intimidate eligible voters from exercising their franchise on election day.
The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Liang, made this known, yesterday, after meeting behind closed doors with the Senator Abdullahi Adamu-led National Working Committee (NWC) of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja.
The envoy, while ruling out the possibility of the UK government adopting any of the presidential candidates, reiterated its confidence in Nigeria’s democracy and President Muhammadu Buhari’s commitment to ensuring the conduct of free and fair polls next year.
She said: “This is one meeting I am having with political parties, presidential candidates and party chairmen. Today is for the APC chairman to pass on our message about the general elections.
“We welcome Nigeria’s commitment to democracy and the President’s commitment to free and secure elections. We talked a little more detailed about the conditions necessary for that to happen and the concern about insecurity, especially the importance of people coming out on election day to register and vote.
“That means no intimidation and a secured environment, so, people can feel safe voting for the candidate they want.
“The UK doesn’t have a preferred candidate. We are committed to free and fair elections, but we will work with whoever of the presidential candidate that emerges from the election.”
This is as the APC presidential flag-bearer, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, on Tuesday, met with the UK Minister for Africa, Foreign & Commonwealth Development Office, Andrew Mitchell, in London.
The former Lagos State governor is currently in the UK to interact with relevant stakeholders ahead of the February 2023 poll.
Tinubu was at Chatham House in London on Monday, where he spoke on how he would tackle the economic and security challenges bedevilling the nation if elected president in 2023.
MEANWHILE, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has dismissed reports that some of its officials were planning to rig the elections through extraction of Voter Identification Numbers (VINs) from Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) of prospective voters.
A video had been circulating on social media, showing some INEC staff at FESTAC Town, Amuwo Odofin Council in Lagos extracting VINs from PVCs and entering same into their mobile phones.
Makers of the video insinuated that the INEC officials were doing this for the purpose of undermining the 2023 general elections, but INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, in a statement, said such insinuation was far from the truth.
Okoye said although the video shows staff of the Commission harvesting VINs from PVCs, it was just part of an inventory of uncollected cards, provided for in the new guidelines for the management and collection of PVCs, approved by the Commission for implementation nationwide.
Okoye said a major threat to the upcoming general election comes from fake news and disinformation.
He said: “In its determination to enhance the rate of PVCs collection, the Commission decided to establish a PVC collection process that includes an online component. The procedure entails that registered voters with access to the Internet could go to a dedicated portal to ascertain whether their PVCs are ready and to find their locations for subsequent collection.
“All they are required to do is to provide their details such as name, date of birth, state of registration or the last six digits of the VINs that they provided/received during registration, to locate their cards. This would improve the PVC collection process, but without prejudice to those who wish to go directly to the collection centres.
“For the newer PVCs, that is those from the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) that took place between January and July 2022, the VINs were harvested automatically and made available online. However, for the older uncollected PVCs that predate the new guidelines, their VINs must be harvested manually and painstakingly for upload to the PVC collection portal (www.voters.inecnigeria.org). The portal will also improve the records of the Commission regarding collected and uncollected PVCs.”
Okoye observed that while the Commission appreciates the vigilance of Nigerians and their determination to see the conduct of free, fair, credible and inclusive elections in 2023, it is exceedingly important that information such as contained in the said video is verified before sharing it with the public.
Okoye added: “We also remind Nigerians that all uncollected PVCs will be available for collection at our 774 Local Government Area offices nationwide from December 12 to January 5, 2023. From January 6 to January 15, 2023, the cards will be made available for collection at the 8809 Registration Areas/Wards across the country to bring them closer to their owners.
“Subsequently, from January 16 to January 22, 2023, collection shall revert to our Local Government offices. Meanwhile, the online facility will be available throughout the exercise to assist registered voters in locating their PVCs for collection.”
GOOGLE, yesterday, released data on topics that received the most queries by Nigerians and the report showed that Peter Obi and Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed of the Labour Party (LP) topped the most searched presidential tickets for 2023.
The search engine company released the data in 13 categories, including ‘People’, ‘Actors’ and ‘Who Is?”, noting that the lists rated one to 10 “are based on search terms that had the highest spike this year as compared to the previous year.”
The data showed that “Who is Peter Obi’s running mate” topped search queries in the “Who Is” category while “Who is Atiku’s running mate” and “Who is Tinubu’s running mate” featured in the fifth and eighth spots, respectively.
Atiku Abubakar is the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate with Governor Ifeanyi Okowa as his running mate, while Tinubu is the APC candidate, with Senator Kashim Shettima as his running mate.
Elsewhere in the category for most searched people, Obi came second after Nigerian singer, Oxlade, and was the only politician featured in the category.
Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) and Omoyele Sowore of the African Action Congress (AAC), were among 15 other presidential candidates who did not feature anywhere in the report.
Recall that ahead of 2019 presidential election held on February 23 of that year, Atiku was the only politician that featured in the most searched people in the country, appearing in the sixth position after Alexis Sanchez, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Meghan Markle, Stan Lee and Philippe Coutinho, respectively.
MEANWHILE, General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye, yesterday, charged members to actively participate in the 2023 general elections.
While addressing the ministers of the mission at the Redemption City, Ogun State, Adeboye said: “We all sit down at home doing nothing, expecting the Almighty God to come and do what we suppose to do by ourselves in Nigeria. If all the ministers in RCCG would take the issue of Nigeria seriously and God helping us, things would be better.”
Adeboye, who was not happy with happenings in the country told the ministers in attendance to come out of their current shell and actively participate in the processes leading to the desired change. He reminded them that the Bible described them as the salt and light of the earth.
Towards this end, a unit called National Committee on Politics, Economy and Society (PES) is already sensitising members. Chairman, PES and Assistant General Overseer Europe, Pastor Dele Olowu, who quoted from the Bible, said that God is interested in good governance.
Likewise, a former presidential candidate, Oby Ezekwesili, said: “The quality of a representation is important in a democracy, especially in a dynamic country like ours. To manage this diversity well, you need proper representation in democracy.
“When Christians pay more attention to these things, well if you are not at the dinning table, you are not on the menu. We need to be interested in politics, either you want to be an influencer at quality of politics at the community level, local government or state level, you must be an influencer, otherwise you will not be on the dinning table.”