By Ekemini Simon
A youth-based organisation, Youth for Change and Social life Development Foundation popularly known as Youth for Change Initiative (YOFCI) has held a strategic engagement and advocacy interface with its partners towards a peaceful 2023 elections in Akwa Ibom State.
It could be recalled that YOFCI had recently launched an awareness campaign against election violence in the forthcoming general elections in Akwa Ibom State.
On Thursday, January 12, 2023, YOFCI met with its partners drawn from the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and the Media.
From the CSOs were Policy Alert, Youth Alive Foundation, Clement Isong Foundation, Youth Pride, FACICP Disability Plus, and Greater Tomorrow Initiative (GTI).
The Media partners included the Nigeria Union of Journalists, TheMail Newspaper, XL106.9FM, The Dune, Hype Station, and Inspiration FM.
Briefing its partners on the project, the Executive Director of Youth for Change Initiative, Mr. Peace Edem said the campaign they are implementing in Akwa Ibom State is tagged Strategic Engagement and Advocacy for 2023 Peaceful Elections Project (SEA-P).
He said the project which is implemented in Akwa Ibom State through the Nigeria Youth Future Fund (NYFF) for LEAP Africa, a project jointly sponsored by MacArthur Foundation and Ford Foundation is geared towards promoting the peaceful conduct of elections in Nigeria.
The Executive Director noted that in Akwa Ibom State, the project would take place across six local government areas of Ibiono Ibom, Itu, Essien Udim, Ini, Eket and Onna, covering all the three Senatorial Districts.
Edem however pointed out that although the project is designed for the six local government areas, it is the organisation’s commitment to use its partnership to cover the entire 31 local government areas of the State.
The Project Lead, Harrison Udim in his presentation explained that the organisation will engage with the political party’s stakeholders, aspirants, religious/traditional leaders, youth leaders/groups, media houses / social media influencers, women leaders/groups and the people with disability clusters in its campaigns.
He explained that the Project SEA-P will raise awareness of citizens on conflict sensitivity and election violence before, during and after the 2023 general elections through advocacy visits to relevant stakeholders.
Udim pointed out that the campaign is borne out of research, especially the outcome of the elections primaries across the State.
He added ” We know the dust that has been raised throughout the party primaries. The pre-elections and political events in the State have shown that there is a strong likelihood for violence to ensue and it may hinder the free and fair conduct of the 2023 general elections.
“We want to make the stakeholders understand that election is not a do-or-die affair. Whatever the outcome, we give God the glory.”
The Project Lead said the organisation will address the concerns through advocacy, awareness campaign, critical stakeholder and citizens engagement.
He pointed out that the anticipated violence can be reduced if there are more organized and enlightened citizenry (community stakeholders/die-heart party supporters) within the state to sensitise and engage the process by collaborating/partnering with relevant stakeholders such as media houses, (Print, Radio and online influencers), traditional and religious leaders, youth groups, and influential aspirants who will sensitise the die-hard party supporters on the need for peace irrespective of the outcome of the elections.
Meanwhile, the event witnessed presentation on electioneering process/reviews on the Electoral Act 2022 and discussion on SEA-P messaging.