Nigeria goes to the polls in March 2015 and political activities have overtaken the land. A young Nigerian named John Offiong desires to see violence-free elections and has come out with an Initiative he calls “BALLOT not BULLET”. He spoke to KonnectAfrica.Net and explained why exactly he is on this mission.
Family, Ethnicity, Hobbies… Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m the last child in my family and I am from the beautiful city of Calabar Municipality. I love to write sattires, I sing, I speak the spanish language fairly and I watch a lot of Football.
You have an Initiative called “Ballot not Bullet”. Tell us about it.
Oh yes, there is such an initiative. It is a non partisan campaign that seeks to achieve violent free elections in Nigeria.
What inspired this Initiative? And why are you doing this?
Well, you and I have been witnesses to the menace called electoral violence and we’ll agree that its consequences have crippled our electoral institution and held the country at the jugular. We thought that as patriots, we could address this anomaly by using simply but effective strategies to creatively fight this ill and to tell you the truth, we have been largely successful in this regard.
What have been your achievements since you started this Initiative?
Too numerous to reel out but I can assure you that the message has enjoyed tremendous acceptance nationwide. We have been able to establish our presence conspicuously on social media, we have already facilitated a Peace Accord Signing among Leaders of the respective Political parties in Cross Rive State, we have also hosted a massive Peace rally where young people marched on the street to show their support for our message. We have embarked on awareness campaigns to schools, markets, churches, mosques and even ghettos. The proof of all these can be found on our website and even in a short documentary we put together that airs regularly on EbonyLife Tv, AIT etc.
So far, what has been the general response of the political class and the citizens to this Initiative?
Both the political class and the people have responded albeit slowly but you know, it’s never easy to cure a disease that has eaten deep into a system as in our case here in Nigeria. Indeed, we countenance the reality that transformation in this area of our national life is incremental and not instantaneous and if we continue to consolidate on our present efforts (and we will), then there are justifiable reasons to believe that this disease will be defeated sooner than later.
What challenges have you faced since you started on this journey? How have you tried to resolve them?
The challenges are enormous. From inadequate financial resources to poor response from the people and even lack of support from organisations and individuals that one would have bet a billion on their endorsements and participation but in all, we have resolved to remain determined in our quest to achieve our goals.
The polls have been postponed by 6 weeks. What does this mean for your Initiative?
I am aware that a number or persons and groups within the political arena have greeted the postponement of the elections with suspicion and skepticism but as a neutral organisation, we do not engage in such partisan sentiments, we rather see this as another opportunity for us to further spread our message. We however urge INEC to keep to the new timetable in order to ensure peace and stability in the country.
What advice do you have for African Youths who are toying with the idea of starting an initiative like yours?
Say a good prayer, have a workable plan and take a bold step.
How can interested persons across Nigeria be part of this Initiative?
We are present in many states around the country. Interested persons can connect with us via social media and by email so that we can look at ways of collaborating to spread the message. You can follow on Twitter @ballotnbulletng. Our facebook page is www,facebook.com/ballotnotbulletng. Our website is Website: www.ballotnobulletng.com
What is your message to Nigerians as we head to the polls next month?
Endeavour to get your Permanent Voters Card (PVC) and when you vote, shun violence. Remember that we must do all we can to preserve our electoral institution for the sake of posterity.
Thank you Mr John.