I had written a part of this down about a week ago but something just didn’t feel right. Aside from distractions here and there, I felt very uncomfortable that I hadn’t gotten my Permanent Voters’ Card (PVC) and so I didn’t feel like I had a right to speak on said topic. Even though I told myself ‘I had valid reasons’- it wasn’t for lack of trying. I had after all made some effort – taking time out of my precious Saturday to take a 30 minutes drive to the Local Government office in my former area of residence in 2011, only to be re-directed to another location I was sure would probably not yield positive results. I wasn’t having it, these INEC guys were just not serious, I headed home. But deep down inside I knew I hadn’t tried hard enough. As one of my ‘egbons’ would always say, ‘Excuses are tools of incompetence, monuments of nothingness, those who use them are not wise’
Every time I saw a candidate’s poster, heard an election ad, heard about Nigeria’s terrorist attacks in the news, engaged in those office political debates that come up ever so frequently these days, my conscience would kick in, and the thoughts would begin – ‘You are no different from the guys in Government you complain about. You have failed in this little part, this small duty that has been assigned to you – your part in transforming this nation.
Enough of the mediocrity, complaints, excuses. We must demand accountability from our government, leaders, regulatory bodies, etc.
Oh INEC – BUT WHY??? I am almost beginning to feel that the poor implementation of this whole voters registration process has been a deliberate effort by INEC to frustrate the eligible voting populace. Information dissemination/ communication has been zero. And there’s no excuse, particularly in this era of social media. so few people are aware of the process of registration, timelines, etc.
My own personal experience went thus…
The first thing for me was the whole send a text message with the last 5 digits to one phone number. Now these 5 digits were on a piece of paper (‘Temporary Voters’ Card’) which had been given to me 3 years before. Of course I didn’t know where I kept it, same as quite a number of people I know. There was no other alternative to sending the ‘5 Digits’- ‘INEC, how about provide your name, surname and location of registration?’
This meant I would have to re-register. Every time I got home from work, the INEC officials had closed, thanks to Lagos traffic and of course a bit of laziness on my part. Then these set of numbers come into circulation, on Facebook, Blackberry broadcasts, etc. Supposed INEC officials on hand to provide information on the process. It appears the job must have been assigned to ghost workers, as all the numbers I tried rang out – no response. This drama went on till of course the registration window has closed.
Alas, I was able to encourage myself to go for the second time to the Local Government office for my former area of residence in 2011. I got there and was directed to INEC Office. After a bit of grammar over the fact that I didn’t have my Temporary Voters’ Card (TVC) and the name of the registration center I had provided was not familiar to the INEC distribution officer/ volunteer, we managed to somehow locate my center then my name then my PVC…Yay!!! And then the following conversation ensued:
Me: So now that I have changed my residential address, what do I need to do to vote at my new location?’
INEC Volunteer: That window has closed, you will need to vote at the location you registered.
Me: How do I do that, there’s no movement on election day??
INEC Volunteer: Maybe you can stay at your family house…
SERIOUSLY??? Family House?? This volunteer sure knew something I didn’t. Again, there are so many people who have their PVCs but may not be able to vote because they have moved houses.
So my quest to participate in the 2015 elections continues… the hurdle of card collection has been crossed, now how do I actually get to vote?
I have heard so many experiences – locations where voters’ data somehow got missing – a man I met at INEC office told us of how 57 units at Orile-Ijesha had to re-register because INEC system crashed. They are all yet to receive their PVCs.
Another lady forfeited registering when she was asked to pay N500 before being registered. A man was told a female who shared his surname had signed and collected his PVC – ridiculous.
With all of this is happening in Lagos, one can only wonder what is happening up North where there is so much unrest.
Voters – we cannot escape…we have our blame in this. Nigerians, always waiting until last minute. We must change. We need to become more proactive, we need to back up our tweets, Blackberry updates, office lunch time political debates with action.
One of my fears is that we – the Nigerian common man – are not so different from the very leaders we complain about all the time. We all complain about how bad things are, how it’s time for change, yet it appears we are not hungry enough for the change we demand. We are concerned about the fact that we don’t have our voters’ cards, but not concerned enough to place a demand on INEC. It’s less than a month to elections yet the number of uncollected PVCs at the INEC offices is alarming. I see adverts for shows in London on Feb 14th by our entertainers (names withheld) and all one can think is – ‘Really?’
It almost seems like we have already goofed at these elections. It will be surprising if the outcome is anything far from status quo.
Malcolm X, Invictus (Mandela), Selma (Martin Luther King) – are all movies that highlighted the plight of young men seeking to change their nation. Nigeria – what will our story be?
For 2015 elections, let us do all within our power to make sure our right to vote is not taken away from us. Voters, equip yourselves with information on the candidates to ensure you make the right decision for our nation. More importantly, pray for Nigeria. 2019 is not too far off. We must ensure we have a good problem of having so many qualified candidates that making a choice becomes very tough
As for INEC, it will be interesting to get the following stats following the elections: total number of individuals of eligible voting age in Nigeria, number/ percentage of individuals registered to vote, number/ percentage of PVCs printed, number/ percentage of PVCs distributed and the number/ percentage of people who end up voting during these elections.