AHEAD next’s year elections, actors across the political parties tussling for political seats are stepping up efforts to assume the mantle of power at different levels and arms of governments. Their foot soldiers have spread out into the field to woo voters so as to garner votes as much as possible.
Therefore, saddled with the responsibility of giving the country a credible election in 2015, the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega and his team, have embarked on a number of progresses. They include seminars, training, etc, and others, all of them designed to create public awareness and mobilise the stakeholders for the election. Even Jega has explained that conducting credible elections in the country could not be the responsibility of the body alone but “a multi-stakeholder endeavour that requires the collaboration and diligent commitment of other role players.”
People being the most eligible among the key players during elections, recently, trooped out to register for the new Permanent Voter’s Cards (PVCs) to be eligible to vote next year. it was followed by the registration of more prospective voters belonging to different categories.The collection of the PVCs, however, gingered the jostle for power among the political actors and their supporters.
Although, the introduction of the PVCs generated concerns; some said it would curb electoral malpractices in the country. Others belonged to the school of thought that it was a plan to rig in the coming general elections.
However, the Director of Information and Communication Technology of the INEC, Mr Chidi Nwafor, had assured that the introduction of the PVCs would bring about a credible election. He added that it would erase the problems of identification and authentication, thereby affirming voter’s right to vote.
At the start of the new registration for the voters card, at least, 73 million prospective voters were aimed. The Technical Committee of the commission had approved the printing of 40 million cards for the first phase at a cost of N2.6 billion,.The exercise later took place between May 23 to 25 in 10 states. The states included: Akwa Ibom, Abia, Bayelsa, Benue, Enugu, kogi, Kebbi, Gombe, Taraba and Zamafara states.
In a bid to complete the exercise before 2015, August 15 – 17, 2014, were slated for the second phase in which 11 states including Anambra, Abuja, Ondo, Oyo, Delta, Cross Rivers, Jigawa, Sokoto, Yobe, Kwara, Bauchi and Ebonyi, were to participate. This led to declaring of holidays in some states to enable people participate in the exercise, thus the large turn-out of the people.
Many attributed the huge turnouts in some states to the ‘aggressive sensitisation call’ embarked upon by the state governments, political parties and groups drumming up support for one candidate or the other. However, the whole exercise was still trailed by an avanche of complaints. Many stakeholders blamed the INEC that it may not be able to carry potential voters along come 2015 due to the time-frame it dedicated for the exercise. From different political camps across the states where the exercise held, some politicians decried the shortcomings of the INEC to accommodate majority of the people. For instance, the All Progressives Congress (APC), through its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the delay in the process led to some voters being disenfranchised. “INEC has been painfully slow in processing the permanent voters cards, and one can only hope that the electoral body is not doing this deliberately.
“The slow processing of the permanent voters cards has, in particular, affected those who had earlier registered, as well as those who registered this year,” he stated. Like other parties, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftains also faulted the exercise. A chieftain of the party, Senator Lekan Balogun, said: “There was so much fundamental and structural rigging. The exercise has flopped.
Some political observers, such as Mr Idowu Johnson of the University of Ibadan, complained on the short period allotted for the exercise. He said: “If truly the elections will come up in 2015 and the INEC is just distributing PVC’s, then there is likely to be flops. For the majority of voters have not been able to register due to some setback on the part of the INEC; for how long is the body going to sort this out”
In the same vein, some voters who passed through the stress of the registration, spoke to Nigerian Tribune on some of the shortcomings of the INEC officials and even from voters. The complaints from the public sphere, included incomplete or total data loss of those who had registered in 2011, making them to restart a process as a newcomer. In some areas, many complained that the inadequate personnel and materials as a pressing issue as the PVC did not go round and that the officials were fluctuating. Other complaints included multiple registration, technical hitches, slow attitude of the INEC officials, heavy downpour, and inadequate attestation forms for those without their temporary cards, among others.
Speaking to Nigerian Tribune, a former corps member, Ado Yerima, who volunteered to be part of the exercise, in Ibadan North (Sabo), said the difficulties faced by many voters were as a result of congestion. “In Sabo alone, we had 15 polling units, but the INEC provided just one unit, which was the St. Gabriel’s Secondary School, for all Sabo people. In 2011, in a polling unit, we had over 1,000 people and that means all of them and others will come to just one place to register”
Consequence is that many people are yet to get their card the INEC has said that anyone who was unable to collect his PVC would not be able to vote, as the previous temporary card would not be an alternative.
No doubt, the success of the February 2015 general election is incumbent on the even distribution of the PVC. Therefore, stakeholders have urged the body to re-examine the distribution of the phase II exercise and to take necessary measures to accommodate the rest. According to reports, the INEC has put the current total number of registered voters in Nigeria at 70, 383, 427, of which Lagos with 5,426, 391 has the highest number of registered voters in the country followed by Kano with the second highest number of registered voters of 4, 751, 818.
The reports said the INEC has put the current total number of registered voters in Nigeria at 70, 383, 427, of which Lagos with 5,426, 391 has the highest number of registered voters in the country followed by Kano with the second highest number of registered voters of 4, 751, 818.
The INEC appears not to be totally concerned about the public complaints. It has, for the umptenth time, explained that all prospective voters could still have the opportunity to have their names on the voter register. One of the means to achieving this is by those concerned to go to the locsl government offices in their area to sort themselves out.