BusinessDay

2023: Why Nigerians must get their PVCs

…INEC urged to publish collection centres

To avoid regret in the future, adults of voting age in Nigeria have been urged to get their Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) in preparation for the 2023 general election.

YIAGA Africa, in a sensitisation outreach to market men and women in Abuja Monday, urged every Nigerian of voting age to go pick their PVCs.

Addressing prospective voters at the market, Samson Itodo, executive director of the group, said Nigerians must not sit on the fence but must participate actively in the nation’s electoral process.

In a subtle sensitisation campaign recently, actor and comedian, Okechukwu Anthony Onyegbule, popularly known as Okey Bakassi, posted on social media a challenge to the educated members of the society who, despite their exposure, have refused to take part in the electoral process.

He was quoted as saying, “The Almajiri has a PVC; Mai Shayi has a PVC; Mai Barrow has a PVC; Mai Debino has a PVC; Mai Gworo has a PVC; Gateman has a PVC; Onion & Tomato sellers have PVCs; Shoe shiner has a PVC; Sugarcane seller has a PVC; Bus drivers/conductors have PVCs, and Motor park Agberos have PVCs, but you (a student or a graduate with BSc or MSc) with all your education and exposure still don’t have PVC.

“The worst thing is that you even try to justify why you don’t have one ‘my vote won’t count.’

“For the sake of those who paid your school fees and fed you through school, please don’t make all your education/exposure useless with statements like that. If votes don’t count, politicians won’t bribe/pay people to vote for them. Go and get your PVC!” he said.

Enough-is-Enough (EiE) Nigeria, a not-for-profit organisation, in a recent release contained in its Newsletter, urged all Nigerians to arm themselves with their PVCs, urging those yet to get theirs to make all necessary efforts to do so.

EiE Nigeria said: “We recorded a 22.13 percent increase in Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) in 2019. 2023 is now up to us! Remember that the final lap towards carrying out your civic duty as an electorate starts from getting your PVC so you can vote on Election Day.”

Mike Akande, a political scientist, who spoke with BusinessDay on the need for Nigerians to have their PVCs, said: “I hear people say they are not interested in getting the PVC because they are not sure their votes would count; that they are not sure if hired thugs would not disrupt the election; that they are not sure the security situation in the country would allow for any election in 2023, or that the elections would be rigged.

“I have always told everybody I meet that gives such excuses that none of such excuses is enough to justify not having the PVC. If we continue looking backward, we would not make the desired progress.”

But some prospective voters who spoke with BusinessDay said they did not know how they could get their PVCs or where to get it. They urged the INEC to publish centers for the collection of PVCs to enable those who had registered online to pick up their cards.

The Commission had last June, to improve the process and give eligible Nigerians the opportunity to have their PVCs ahead of 2023, begun an online continuous voter registration process across Nigeria.

The INEC said at that time that it could be done through its registration portal https://cvr.inecnigeria.org. The schedule of appointments for online registrants and physical CVR is at INEC state and local government offices nationwide.

Speaking recently on the exercise, INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, said the commission was working to eliminate challenges and constraints experienced by many citizens in reaching the 811 designated centres nationwide to register.

He said the commission was working to activate additional 1,862 centres nationwide to make it easier for citizens to exercise their right to register as voters.

“I want to assure Nigerians that we are aware of the constraints experienced by many citizens in reaching the 811 designated centres nationwide to register.

“At the same time, we are mindful of the imperative of securing the process, especially the lives of registrants and our personnel. We will not put the lives of Nigerians and our registration officials at risk.

“For this reason, we will review the security situation with a view to achieving our ultimate goal of activating the process,” Yakubu said.

Despite the progress Nigeria has made in its democratic quest in the last two decades, there has been a general lack of interest among Nigerians in exercising their civic responsibility and voting to elect those who lead them.

In Nigeria, it is common for people to feel nonchalant and general lack of interest in the electoral process.

Based on observation from recent off-season elections, there is increasing concern among stakeholders that the situation may not be different in the 2023 general election if urgent action is not taken.

Read also: INEC’s uncommon advice on 2023

A vivid picture of the enormity of the problem could be seen in the 2019 general elections where incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari was re-elected with the backing of 15.2 million voters, his main rival Atiku Abubakar also scored 11.3 million votes.

President Buhari had 56 percent of the total votes cast, in a country with a population of close to 200 million people, including more than 84 million registered voters.

However, observers say that the 15.2 million votes hardly qualify as a huge mandate. The 35 percent voter turnout was down from 44 percent in the 2015 general election and down from the 54 percent turnout in 2011.

A similar poor turnout of voters was noticed in last year’s July 24 Lagos council election in which the total number of votes cast was 678,324 out of over 6 million registered voters in the state.

“It is because Nigerians don’t believe their votes would count; what is the rationale for voting and at the end of the day, the result is changed? If we are serious, I think the way forward is for the Federal Government to assure Nigerians that their vote would count and that INEC would be allowed to do its job before 2023, else, it would be disastrous.

“People have lost confidence in the process here, they see voting as a waste of time and I do you blame them. There is nothing to really motivate anybody now,” Ebenezer Babatope, a former transport minister, said.