U.S. Ambassador James F. Entwistle reminded public affairs officers of Nigeria’s Independent National Election Commission (INEC) that they have the vital task of creating an informed electorate that knows what it needs to do to cast the ballot. The ambassador was speaking to the press officers in Abuja on Monday, July 21, at the opening of the second segment of a two-part, four-day workshop jointly organized by the U.S. Embassy and INEC on “The Role of INEC Press Officers: Enhancing Good Governance Through Media and Grassroots Outreach.”
The first segment of the workshop was held in Lagos July 14-17, and Derwin Johnson, an independent senior communications consultant from the United States with more than 30 years’ experience, is conducting the hands-on training.
Ambassador Entwistle told the INEC public affairs officers that their training is important because they help shape public knowledge and perceptions about elections and the debate process and provide crucial information on voters’ rights and the voter registration process. He said, “We support an election process that protects the rights of Nigerians to use the ballot box to reflect the views and concerns of their communities—a process that helps produce a stable, democratic government regardless of which candidate wins.”
He said that the United States supports a free, credible, inclusive, and peaceful electoral process in which democratic principles are adhered to by all parties, candidates, and institutions.
“This process encompasses all stages in the run-up to elections, including preparation of voter rolls, running campaigns, conducting the actual election, and handling any problems immediately afterwards,” the ambassador emphasized.
INEC Chairman Professor Attahiru Jega said the workshop resonated with the commission’s thoughts on ways to reach out and educate a majority of the illiterate rural population on the electoral process, using different strategies and platforms.
He commended the U.S. government for the training support and said as INEC prepares for the 2015 elections, it is eager to improve the capacity of its staff. He also said that Mr. Johnson’s reputation as an experienced international broadcaster and teacher would add tremendous value to the INEC public affairs officers’ skills.