Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State has identified free and fair elections as a catalyst for national unity and an antidote against voter’s apathy.
Mr Ayade said this on Monday while receiving the new Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Cross River, Cyril Omoregbe who visited him at Government House, Calabar.
The Governor urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to be wary of desperate lobbyists and politicians, and not allow itself to be compromised.
He said, “We must go through the 2023 elections in peace under your superintendence.
“You must have the conscience to do that which is fair as politicians will always seek to lobby and subvert the will of the people.
“Politics involves lobbying and persuasion, for somebody to do your bidding, and which comes in different forms. But the moral that guides your conscience and actions should determine how you handle such a situation.”
When the outcome of an election is not free and fair, voters tend to feel they wasted their time voting and may not vote next time, Mr Ayade said.
He urged INEC to make fairness its watchword.
The governor reiterated his belief in the unity of Nigeria, saying that separation was not a solution to the country’s myriad of challenges.
“I preach peace because even if you split this country and the south and north go their separate ways, the south will go with its own conflicts and the north will go with its own conflicts.
“The reality, therefore, is that the oneness of this country is the way to go,” he said.
Mr Omoregbe said INEC was committed to free and fair elections.
He appealed to residents that had attained the voting age to go ahead and register during the second quarter of the Continuous Voters Registration (CVR) exercise taking place from October 4 to December 20.
The REC charged Nigerians to assist the commission to eliminate electoral fraud in the system by identifying ineligible registrants on the list during the display of voters register.
According to Mr Omoregbe, ineligible registrants include foreigners and Nigerians below the age of 18.
He said that in Cross River, the display of the Preliminary Register would take place in the 18 local government offices of the commission in the state.