Rivers state has been flagged by various local and international research agencies including the United Stated Institute for Peace as a possible spot where violence and other forms of electoral malpractices including vote buying will occur in massive scales. Recall that in 2015, elections in Rivers state drew local and international attention for the vicious manner it was conducted. In response to the recent concerns, We the People as part of the Youth Participation Against Corruption Project launched a series of town hall meetings in the three senatorial distracts of the state. The town hall meetings were organized as spaces for citizens to express their concerns and experiences on the subject of vote buying and election related violence. The meetings which held from the 29th of November 2018 at Omoku, Bori and Port Harcourt all in Rivers state, aimed specifically at sensitizing citizens on the need to remain focused on electing candidates that have the track record and temperament to deliver development benefits to the people.
Citizens from the various Senatorial district expressed concerns that already, indications were emerging that different levels of malpractice will attend the 2019 polls in the state. They said politicians were already devising the same old strategies of violent rhetoric and smear, heating up the communities ahead of the 2019 elections.
In his presentation, Dr. Marshal Jumbo drew a link between the long history of electoral malpractices in Nigeria and the quality of leaders the system throws up. He stated that the country remains on the development descent because the system for electing leaders has remained a farce on account of election malpractice. Various other presenters drew corollaries between the way elections are conducted and the quality of leaders such processes bring forth and the development benefits that accrue to the people.
At the various senatorial districts, citizens present pledged to work with We the People to combat violence and resist vote buying and other malpractices before, during and after the elections.
The intervention is part of the Youth Alive Foundation and DFID supported efforts to reduce corruption and other forms of malpractice in the 2019 elections.