Politicians who may have been planning to use youths as political thugs for the violent rigging of the 2015 elections now rescheduled to start on March 28 have been told to keep away from Ogu, an Ijaw community in Ogu/Bolo local Governmernt Area, Rivers State, in Biafraland. 

Rising from a European Union (E.U) funded town hall meeting on voters education organised recently in Ogu community by a Port Harcourt based non-governmental organisation known as Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development, CEHRD, in partnership with Search For Common Ground, SFCG, the community members resolved to promote violence free and fair elections in Ogu, saying that the community would not allow any politician to cause a breach of the peace currently existing in the community. Ben Orutoemeka, a youth leader in the community said the youths of the community have vowed to shun violence during the election and to resist any temptation by any politician to lure them to violence.

Michael Gbarabe, and Rukevwe Siakpere, CEHRD’s Programme officers who facilitated the meeting in conjunction with a committee of 11 community members known as local project committee, LPC, disclosed that the town hall meeting was part of the activities of the EU-funded Tomorrow is a New Day TND, project, a peace initiative being implemented by Search for Common Ground (SFCG) and Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development, CEHRD. According to the project Officers, TND is aimed at ensuring a long term stability and peace architecture in the Niger Delta for 2015 and beyond. They said the town hall meeting was an enlightenment voters education program organized to discuss how to make the 2015 elections peaceful in Ogu community as well as to deliberate on the election day procedures and what are expected of the electorates.

In his address which was presented by Michael Gbarabe on his behalf, the Programme Director of the organization , Obodoekwe Styvn commended the people of Ogu community for their peaceful disposition, telling them not to allow anything to take them away from their chosen path of peace. He reminded them that Nigeria is at an electioneering period now when politicians employ all forms of strategies and tactics, including making promises and luring youths to violence in order to capture votes. He noted that there is growing concerns over voters apathy in the society, resulting mostly from fear of violence as well as disenchantment of the populace with the electoral processes. He urged them to go out enmass on the days of elections to exercise their rights, saying that failure to participate in the process is a self denial of their fundamental human right. Obodoekwe advised the community to try and understand the processes and procedures of the elections so that they would not disqualify themselves from the voting. He noted that breach of electoral procedures could land the offender in trouble.

Participants expressed gratitude to CEHRD and its partners for the town hall meeting, saying that they would take the knowledge gained to other members of the community.

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