As so many Nigerians are still battling to obtain their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs), there is every reason to believe that not a few eligible Nigerian voters may likely be disfranchised on account of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)’s inability to ensure effective distribution of the PVCs.
A visit to various INEC offices across the country will reveal the frustration of eligible voters who daily throng the commission’s offices to process their cards. Apart from the numerous eligible voters who are yet to be issued with their PVCs, various stakeholders in the fast approaching general elections have lent their voices to the call for INEC to allow registered voters with the old or, better still, temporary voter cards to participate in the election next month.
For instance, the House of Representatives, last week, passed a resolution urging INEC to allow eligible and registered Nigerians with temporary voters’ cards to vote.
The House noted that about few days to the February general elections, many Nigerians were still unable to collect their PVCs, which is why INEC should make provisions for those with temporary voters’ cards to vote at the polls.
The lawmakers expressed fears that if the commission insisted on the usage of PVCs for the elections, many Nigerians might be disenfranchised.
But the country’s major opposition political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), decried calls for the use of INEC’s temporary voter cards in the scheduled general election.
The party, through its National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, last week, said there is no going back on the use of PVCs, which, according to him, is the only way to check rigging
Mohammed said this while delivering a speech at a two-day conference on Nigeria 2015 elections and beyond, organized by the Savannah Centre and the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
He said it is unacceptable to the APC for INEC to revert to the use of the temporary voter cards in the coming election, stressing that the action will open another gate for election rigging.
Be that as it may, the position of the APC is premised upon the possibility of the poll being rigged if INEC revert to the use of temporary voter cards. But it is imperative to understand that democratic governance, as we are supposedly practicing, is dependent on mass participatory, and will obviously lose its substance if the majority is disfranchised. That the House of Representatives, whose membership is made up of so many lawmakers of both the PDP and the APC, is calling for the use of both the permanent and temporary cards, lends weight to the argument.
Talking of a country of over one hundred and fifty million people, it is imperative that INEC revisits its data and ensure that those who are eligible by virtue of their registration and possession of the temporary voter cards are allowed to vote.
During his meeting with the leadership of the 23 registered political parties in Abuja last week, Jega announced that a total of 68,833,476 Nigerians registered for the next month’s general election, revealing that out of the number, about four million of them engaged in multiple registration.
Sadly, Jega said on 38,774,391 have collected their permanent voter cards, making it imperative for the electoral body to ensure that those with their temporary voter cards are allowed to vote.
While INEC may want to be absolved of any blame for the low number of eligible voters with their permanent voter cards, it is imperative to state that the electoral umpire were not very detailed during the issuance of the voter cards. This is beside the very few number of days allotted for the exercise. For instance, in Lagos, most workers complained that they would not abandon their works to come and queue on a line waiting for hours to collect the PVCs. On weekends that were suitable for them, some of them woke up as early as 6am to go to their various polling centers.
Sadly, majority of them still come back without getting their cards. There were so much complain of logistical challenges, which made it impossible for people to get the cards despite several days and hours spent in the course of that. In all sincerity, INEC should have started the issuance of the PVCs earlier than it did. The All Progressives Congress leadership should understand one fact. That is, the disfranchisement of eligible voters will impact negatively on all political parties, especially them and the Peoples Democratic Party, whose followership is massive. While the APC’s fears can be understood considering the contemporary realities in Nigeria, especially, as it concerns election, this is a task on INEC to heed the clarion call and ensure every eligible voter with either permanent or temporary voter card is allowed to vote. But such approach should not be adopted in haste. The electoral body should ensure that it revisits the data it used to register voters for the 2011 general elections, update it and do the necessary audit to ensure that only those with their valid temporary cards are truly allowed to vote. They should ensure that such anomalies as voting by proxy or impersonation are nonexistent or reduced to the barest minimum. In this way, the voice of the electorates, who has the right of sovereignty, will be fully heard.