• Thursday, July 18, 2024
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INEC PVCs: A focus on the wrong metrics

James Kwen

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says that 95 million people will be registered voters next year. Speaking at a democracy summit in Washington DC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, the INEC boss, was keen to point out that 10 million new people have registered, up from 85 million in 2019.

To my mind, this 95 million figure presupposes that no one from the roughly 85 million registered voters that we had in 2019 has died or japa-ed. But as usually happens in Nigeria, we have focused on the wrong metrics.

One big issue is turnout. There has been a decline in voter turnout nationwide since 2003. In the 2011 presidential elections, voter turnout came in at 54 percent, down from 58 percent and 69 percent in 2007 and 2003, respectively. By 2015, it had fallen to just 44 percent. In the 2019 presidential elections, it was just 35 percent. At the time, much was said about the fact that Muhammadu Buhari was re-elected president by a paltry 18.5 percent of all registered voters.

In effect, less than one in five registered voters backed Buhari in his re-election for a second term. When you consider that the number of registered voters as of the general elections in 2019 election (82.3 million) is less than half of the entire Nigerian population, it can be safely inferred that just over one in 20 people in our country voted for Buhari. This is a crisis of legitimacy, and everything must be put in place to ensure that turnout is high in the 2023 elections, which brings us to the real meat of this issue because in reality, the previous shalaye is all beside the point.

The real issue in the build-up to next year’s election is how many of our people have been able to collect their voter cards. We are facing a situation where many people would be effectively disenfranchised by the simple matter of not having their voters cards in February.

Read also: 2023: No going back on use of BVAS – INEC

Back in June, SBM Intelligence surveyed PVC collection trends and polled 4000 people in eight states. As of the time of the survey, 64% of newly eligible voters had started the CVR process, but of those people, only 41% had been able to collect their PVCs. A key factoid in this is that only 23% of our respondents managed to get their PVCs on the first attempt. If we extrapolate these figures to the 10 million new voters that INEC says have registered, then it would mean that only 2,624,000 have collected their PVCs, and only 603,520 got their PVCs at the first attempt. One thing that we know for certain is that fewer people make repeat attempts to get their PVCs. INEC needs to give a bit more detail rather than these headline figures. The devil is, as always, in the detail.

I have a lot of shared experiences from people that I know, many of whom have been unable to get their PVCs despite registering, or in the case of a partner at SBM Intelligence, Tunde Leye, trying to move his PVC to the new location that he lives in. Mr. Leye did the move last year, but is yet to get his PVC, despite repeated visits to INEC’s offices. His experience makes fun of the claim by various INEC officials and loose affiliates that PVCs are ready for people who did the CVR in 2021, and that those who did theirs this year will collect their PVCs in November.

To buttress this point, a simple search of the term PVC+INEC on Twitter would show that there have been not a few complaints of people going to INEC offices, not finding their PVCs, but seeing many wasting away on the ground. This to me looks like the manifestation of two problems, one a logistics problem, and the second a cataloguing problem. What we do not appear to know how to do in Nigeria, as always, is to prepare for situations. What is so hard in cataloguing the PVCs that have arrived at various centres?

Heck, we have had our students idle for eight months now. Why could we not get some students to go to various INEC offices, pick up each PVC, and put in envelopes that have the names of the recipients, then arrange the whole thing in alphabetical order, so that people who come into said offices would upon display of a government ID simply pick up their PVCs from where they are stored.

Why do we make stuff that is so simple and so logical look so damned hard?

Nwanze is a partner at SBM Intelligence