Ahead of the 2019 general elections in Nigeria, the United Nation Development Programme, (UNDP), has called on stakeholders to ensure that Nigeria witnessed free, fair and credible elections scheduled for February and March.
The UNDP Nigeria Acting Resident Representative, Betty Wabunoha gave the advise in Jos, Plateau state during a 3 -day interaction organised by UNDP in collaboration with the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs which was aimed at adding value to the work of media professionals in view of the upcoming elections.
She said elections make a fundamental contribution to democratic governance, adding that election are not a demonstration of how democratic a country is, but it is determined by many factors which include how freely citizens can campaign and vote for their candidates and also how the results of the voting truly reflect the People’s choice.
She added that different stakeholders and institutions play different roles in ensuring that this happens, from Independent National Electoral Commission ( INEC ) that manages the election to the media that facilitates the flow of information before, during and after the polls.
Betty Wabunoha who was represented by Mathew Alao, equally hinted that credible and inclusive elections are based on several basic democratic principles which are also affirmed in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
She maintained that freedom of speech, access to information and equality before the law are key factors, saying this principles means that the electorates and political actors have the right to freely discuss political issues and public policies and equally express their opinions.
She said “Voters and candidates rely heavily on access to the media to both impact and receive information. For this to happen an open and diverse media that can provide balanced and impartial coverage and equitable access for competing candidates and parties is critical.
“In any electoral process, the media also known as the fourth estate of the ream plays a crucial role in enabling citizens make informed choice as well as fostering peace, especially where there are election related disputes. Our gathering here today with media representatives from Benue, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, Plateau and the federal capital territory is very timely”.
She equally emphasized that UNDP partner with a wide spectrum of stakeholders which she said includes partnering with government at all levels, civil society organisations, private sectors and academic institutions, saying partnership with the media is critical not only in advancing peace and development but telling stories to the rest of the world .
Betty Wabunoha equally maintained that UNDP partnership with the media has helped galvanized both local and international support towards affected communities, but has also helped in highlighting the results from investments being made in responding to the crisis and equally stabilized communities, saying that the media would also tell Nigeria’s success story once the country meets Sustainable Development Goals ( SDGs ) promised come 2030.
The UNDP Nigeria Acting Resident Representative also urged media practitioners to help build a stronger and United Nigeria, adding that the world will be looking at Nigeria in the forthcoming elections , saying “How you will tell the story will shape the perceptions that the world will have about your country, our country”.
She equally commended Governor Simon Bako Lalong, the Executive Governor of Plateau state for partnering with them , saying she look forward to building on the partnership for betterment of the people .
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