Former U.S. Diplomat, Dr. Atim Eneida George has urged Nigerians to continually utilize their voting rights which she identified as an essential tool in the democratic process.
Dr. Eneida George made this known while addressing journalists, mass communication scholar and experts at a forum in commemoration of the Black and Women’s History Month which held at the International Press Centre, Lagos.
The former Public Affairs Officer at the US Embassy, Abuja explained that voting is a critical part of the democratic process which all and sundry should be a part of, and as such, the media should take it as their responsibility to educate and enlighten the electorates.
“As journalists, you have the mandate to change the narrative, educate the electorates because you have sophisticated electorate”, she added.
She noted that, Education is a non-negotiable factor for Nigerians to participate in governance explaining that it was one of the barriers that Americans used to deprived the Blacks from voting.
The Yeye Araba of Ife said she is certain that Nigerians value education and it is evident with the way Nigerians excel in the United States. “The most educated immigrant group in the US is Nigerians”, she added.
Speaking on the importance of voting, she buttressed that, “Your vote is the key to the treasure house of governance. You must guard it and you must use it. Citizens must get and stay involved, that is why the press is relevant to the democratic process.”
On his part, Dr Quasim Akinreti, Chairman Lagos State Chapter of the Nigerian Union of Journalists buttressed on the need for journalists to change the narrative especially in the reportage and coverage of women’s participation in politics.
Dr. Akinreti explained that voting is a critical stage of the democratic process and if taken out, the democratic process is incomplete.
He was concerned about the role of women in the democratic process and how difficult it has been for women to emerge into political leadership positions.
“In voting today, more women vote, women are the determinant factors in the political process but they have not been able to support other women to emerge into positions”, he noted.
Mr. Lanre Arogundade, Executive Director, International Press Centre, also urged journalists about being conscious and sensitive to gender issues when reporting about politics.
He also raised concerns about the Presidential style of government in Nigeria which according to him requires huge resources and is not a true representation of democracy adding that Parliamentarian system of government is more engaging with little resources required.
Responding, Russell Brooks, Public Affairs Officer, US Embassy, Lagos said, “the political system appropriate for Nigerians is to be determined by Nigeria. Changing the political system can be done by Nigerians and I sincerely hope you can do it in a peaceful manner and that would depend on you to make the change that people would be confident in.”
Mrs. Adeola Ekine, Chairperson, Nigeria Association of Women Journalists, NAWOJ encouraged female journalists to support each other and play the lead roles.