The Presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi has said that it is certain that over three million Nigerian students who are eligible to vote in the forthcoming presidential election must be encouraged to perform their constitutional right of electing their leaders.
Mr. Obi also expressed worries over the inability of some Nigerians in a few states, particularly in Lagos state to collect their Permanent Voters Card, PVCs.
Speaking late Monday evening during a meeting with observers from the European Union-Election Observation Mission (EU-EOM), the Labour Party candidate while answering a question on the fate of about 3.5 million students that may not exercise their voting right if at least one week holiday is not given to enable them return to their area of registration, said ” I am sure INEC will do the right thing. I am sure the universities will give them the break to go and vote. It is important because it is about their future This election is about these young people and I’m sure they will allow them to go and vote. We will continue to mention it to them as we go along.”
On the challenges being witnessed on some areas by voters in collecting their PVCs, he said, “For me now, what is important is ensuring that people collect their PVCs. There are some areas where people are still complaining that they are being denied their PVCs for one reason or the other. INEC must give them attention. But I must give INEC credit for extending the date for the collection of PVC but again I urge them to ensure that people collect their PVC. This election is very important to Nigerians. It is an existential election. We want all those that have registered to participate.”
The National Chairman of the Labour Party, Barrister Julius Abure who also elucidated the challenges said, “It is the young ones that bear the brunt of maladministration, so this election is about them. When the voter registration was on going, most of the University students were at home and they did their registration at home. Right now they are in School and if they remain in school during the election, it means they will be denied the opportunity to vote. So we are asking that a one week break should be giving as holiday to enable them to go and vote. You would have excluded them if they have their PVC and are not in the place where they can use it to vote.
“Generally, the country is insecure. We want the security to improve before and during the election because if security is not guaranteed we may have a situation were legitimate voters may be afraid to come out on the election days to vote. So there must be assurances that security will be beefed up. So we need the security agencies, the commander in chief to continously give the assurances that security will be guaranteed on that day. And also, the security agencies themselves because we have had situations where the security agencies are being used to rig election or create an enabling environment for elections to be manipulated or in some cases facilitate vote buying.”
Earlier, the EU-EOM Chief Observer, Barry Andrews had told the party leaders that their visit was a routine one embarked for the purpose of interacting with leading presidential candidates and other stakeholders in the February 25 presidential election.
He said, “It is part of our work, we are having meetings with all the stakeholders in this very important election here in Nigeria. We have met with important participants including Labour Party today. We also met with APC and PDP candidates. We also met with the minister of foreign affairs earlier today, the vice president , civil society and the media. What we are doing is trying to develop a picture of transparency, inclusivity and credibility of the election. And we will report that, two days after the election in a preliminary report in a press conference on the 27th of February.
“We are in the very early stages. We have being meeting and people have a collective sense of deepening the very root of democracy and we think we can play a part but we won’t be making any conclusion until after the election.”