FEATURE ARTICLE

Tuesday, May 15, 2018
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PROCUREMENT OF YOUR PERMANENT VOTING CARD (PVC): IS IT WORTH THE TROUBLES?

rior to the 2015 elections, Nigeria (INEC) introduced pvc and card reader into the Nigerian electoral process. While pvc is a security ID that can be issued to all eligible Nigerians who are within the ages of 18 and above for the purpose of identification and voting during elections, card reader machine authenticates the genuineness and ownership of pvc.

The introduction of pvc was aimed at reducing to the barest minimum, impersonation and voting by proxy-stealing cards, using other people`s cards during elections. Pvc if properly and efficiently used can easily be verified; in turn this can enhance a more free, fair and credible elections. And with its security features that make it nearly impossible to be changed or copied alongside its other advantages, the procurement of pvc becomes absolutely necessary. It is a nice development that some governors and religious leaders have begun to urge citizens to go for the procurement of pvc. And in the current Nigerian political dispensation, there is the need for political participation. It is therefore very unrealistic for anyone to claim or pretend to be apolitical. In all spheres of our lives, we embrace politics, hence the saying, "Human beings are political beings." In our homes, schools, Churches, Mosques, even in our village councils, politics is within.

In spite of Nigerian politics being characterised by a high degree of corruption, victimization, harassment, arrests etc, one will agree that participating in politics in either Ward, LGA, State or National level is a better option than to claim to be apolitical. Without any contradiction I am of the opinion that it is in your best interest to participate in the politics of your country, Nigeria irrespective of the level. The 2019 general elections` hullabaloo is getting louder and clearer and the most effective way of effecting a change in the manner you will wish the government to be run is to participate in its politics; you cannot enjoy a meaningful participation if you do not have a pvc. Elections serve as the central means for the populace to hold their representatives accountable.

An Uphill Task

Yes, the process of obtaining pvc has been observed to be an uphill task; it is said to be so frustrating that one can easily throw in the towel if the person is not courageous and determined. Despite the bottlenecks and huddles, I urge you out there to be inspired by the global house hold saying, "There is no free lunch." And it is a common knowledge that sometimes, our governments, agencies and individuals (politicians) deliberately create some of these obstacles in order to deny you the ownership of a pvc and consequently your political participation is being denied or limited. It is your constitutional right to own a pvc. So, do your utmost best to procure one as soon as you can. Do not allow anyone to deny you your political franchise.

Use the PVC Wisely

It is one thing to obtain a pvc and another thing to use it wisely. And to optimally use your pvc, shun the money bags politicians and vote your conscience. Voting your conscience implies voting for the right candidate/personality who you hope will deliver. If one votes for the highest bidder, such a person stands the risk of not only mortgaging his/her conscience, but also misses a better alternative candidate who could have perhaps been a game changer in attracting development and positive change in the lives of the people for good. Because the money being used as a bet is in most cases come from the Nigerian commonwealth, so the wise could even accept their money and still vote for the right candidate. Whereas in case of failure, the person who votes for money will have no moral courage to complain, the person who votes his/her conscience will always hold the candidate accountable as long as the candidate (now an office holder) is in office.

To check mate the excesses and bottleneck of the electoral system, the Nigerian youths and masses need to get organized. Whether it is in developed or underdeveloped countries, getting organized is the key to attracting governments` attention; if an organized group protests or sends a complaint to an institution or to a government, such protests or complaints are usually taken more seriously than when an individual protests or complains. Other strategies to counteract the expected challenges in political participation will include that the masses motivate and recruit new members, they should collaborate with other groups, educate the old and young including the illiterates through political awareness. This is the time for the electorates, especially the youths to unite and chat a common course to ensure that the Nigerian populace enjoy their deserved democratic dividend.

And in choosing your candidates it is necessary you ask among others, what the politicians intend to do if elected. This will be an eye opener for the candidates that the electorates are becoming wiser and will consequently be more responsive to the people.

Do Not Abet Politics with Bitterness

In nurturing our democracy, politics with bitterness should be avoided by all means. In developed countries for instance, it is normal to find that in a family, a man and his spouse could belong to two different political parties and their relationship and other domestic affairs remain negatively unaffected. It is very regrettable that in Nigeria and third-world countries people tend to regard their counterparts in other partisan political parties as enemies instead of being mere opponents.

Emergence of Young Breed

It is encouraging to observe the emergence of a good number of younger Nigerians showing interest in the Nigerian politics. A number of them are now battle ready to challenge the old ones. For many years, Nigerians have been clamouring for replacement or blending the old political class with younger ones; with a closer look at the political aspirants for the 2019 elections, the number of younger aspirants is on the increase. The obvious positive implication of this, is that more younger Nigerians will in the fortcoming and subsequent general elections be motivated and inspired to actively participate in politics of Nigeria.

Some Basic Issues that Affect Our Electoral Process

Before our independence in 1960, the British colonial Lord did divide Nigeria into regions and since then, Nigerian political parties` politics have been played along regional and ethnic divides. In addition to regional politics that began during the colonial era, new trends and dimensions are presently taking place in Nigerian politics as political parties are often perceived as representatives of various particular religious or ethnic groups and voting pattern takes such lines in Nigeria as the North and South, Muslim-Christian etc. This type of partisan voting pattern has been in place since 1960 through 2015 elections. Be wise! Do not fall prey to the undue political machination by the politicians, do not vote along ethnicity or religious divides.

Based on the short tale concerning the manipulation and exploitation of the populace by our political elites since our independence, it appears that our political elites have been deliberately starving the masses educationally. Glaring proofs abound -how the Nigerian governments and politicians have not been taking education problems seriously. Most of the political elites know that education is a powerful tool to acquire power, wealth, freedom and political awareness. In realizing that if the masses are educated and to a great extent will resist being exploited, the political class continues to turn blind eyes to the tackling of the Nigeria`s recurring education problems.

The truth of the matter is that if the majority of the populace could obtain some levels of education, it is obvious that the political, religious and ethnic divides will no longer be exploited by the politicians for their personal interests. The current wide spread illiteracy has been very advantageous to the politicians. Instead of providing the masses with education that will guarantee power and freedom through knowledge, the politicians will rather starve them educationally and continue to use them (masses) as their political tugs. The monumental rancour, violence and impunity that characterized the recently conducted APC Ward Congresses and Primaries emanated primarily from internal democracy that was weak or non-existent It must be emphasized that the lack of internal democracy issue is not peculiar to APC political party; it is prevalent within the Nigerian political parties.

Nigeria will soon be 58 and one is curious to know when we as a country will get it right with our elections. This has been a recurring decimal, as our elections hardly comes without hitches-hearing tales of unpreparedness, logistics, voting fraud and what have you. Getting registered and obtaining pvc is nothing to write home about. It takes a lot of time and energy to be registered in the voting register and to lay hand on the ultimate pvc can be scary. The vast majority of Nigerians lament over this. All this immensely contribute to the political apathy in Nigeria.

Possible Remedies

For Nigeria to considerably reduce this monster-weak democracy in the general governance and lack of internal democracy within the Nigerian political parties, the governments, national and state assemblies as well as INEC should look inwards and take the bull by the horns. Coming up with a road map geared towards improving on the Nigerian electoral system should be given the topmost and urgent attention. First and foremost, the current dichotomy and struggling for supremacy between the Executive and National Assembly should as a matter of urgency be replaced with a concerted synergy from all the parties concerned.

The administrative practices that surround the voting process can make or mare voter participation. The various factors in the requirements for voter registration, location of polling stations, the mechanics of casting a ballot, and the provision of voter education, among other factors can pose varying handicaps to participation. I am urging the administration of President Buhari to muster a strong political will to enhancing the deepening of electoral process in Nigeria.

It is encouraging to note that the immediate past president, Jonathan made a great impact on democracy in Nigeria; that between 2010-2015, Jonathan did his best on the improvement of electoral process in Nigeria. This is corroborated by the former INEC boss, Prof. Attahiru Jega in October 2017. In an interview by a policy researcher at Africa Research Institute, James Hitchen, Jega stated, "The administration of Goodluck Jonathan from 2010 to 2015, never gave any reason to suspect that there was a deliberate and willful attempt to emasculate the funding of INEC, " he said. "For this they should be applauded. No situation arose where we had to go cap-in-hand to the executive looking for funding and I must add that when supplementary funding was needed it was nearly always forthcoming, overall I think that President Jonathan meant well for democracy in our country, a view strengthened by the gracious way he conceded electoral defeat in 2015," he concluded.

President Buhari on his part will be writing his name in gold if he could take the level of democracy left by Jonathan to a greater height. In recognising the would- be positive implications of democracy in our polity, it is my candid opinion that highlighting the paramount importance of it cannot by any means be over emphasized. How far, fast or fair a country can grow, greatly hinges on the measure of democracy in place.

Education is an essential vehicle in achieving a strong democracy. To realize this goal, both the executive and legislative arms of the government should collaborate in initiating bills and enacting laws that should address our education problems. Because of the importance of education, the United Nations recommends that each country should allocate about 25 percent of its annual budget to education. Whereas many countries of the world, especially those from the so-called developed world aspire to respect the UN`s recommendation, Nigerian governments including all the past administrations have never been allocating sufficient fund to education. This indeed is very unfortunate and heartbreaking. "Better be late than never," they say. To reverse the trend, the National Assembly should in a legislation, set aside an appropriate allocation for education. This, if effectively implemented, would go a long way in addressing the everyday problem that are being experienced in our education system-poor quality education that emanates from inadequate or lack of learning equipment, teachers` and students` strikes etc.

In furtherance to reversing the ugly trends, the legislative arm of the federal government should come up with legislations aimed at reforming our electoral process. The last amended electoral act needs to be revisited. And the recently amended election sequence that attracted stiff opposition from the executive arm of the government and some Nigerians could be substituted with a more cost effective election-electing the president, governors and federal law makers in one day. If objectively examined, the notion of electing the president, governors and federal legislators in one day can be a better alternative as it likely to be cost effective, both in money, time and energy and in this case no prospective officers will claim to be targeted.

Money Bags Hiccup

The issue of exorbitant financial demands and extravagant spending during our elections has been of great concern to the vast majority of Nigerians. It is indeed commendable that the National Assembly touched on it during the last amendment on the electoral act. I wish they had gone further in reducing the present alarming cost of politicking in Nigeria. I will therefore urge them to revisit it when next they embark on the constitutional amendment. The amount of money to obtain forms for the purpose of contesting an elective office needs to be reduced much lower. As it stands now, our country`s politics is left for the rich. This has reached to a new crescendo, such that some politicians will boldly and arrogantly assert in public domain that, "What is your business in politics if you do not have money?" It is not that some politicians say it, but in practical terms the money bags politicians go about throwing money around in such a questionable manner. In the developed world, political aspirants do not have to be rich to contest for any office. The first Black American president, President Obama was not rich by American standard when he became president. In such a country, what is usually needed is to have the hallmark of leadership.

In Nigeria today, there are so many capable individuals who have what it takes to hold important offices in Nigeria, but the vast majority of them cannot aspire to contest because of funding. I will implore Nigerians who consider themselves fit to contribute in the governance of Nigeria not to roll into despair; such persons need to borrow a leaf from Obama who funded his electioneering campaign through appealing to the masses. A good number of people including Nigerians who were living in Nigeria responded positively to the appeal. If you believe in your self as Obama did, there could be some rich Nigerians who may also believe in you and sponsor your political ambition. This is how it is done in the developed nations.

If the executive and legislative arms of the government are serious and sincere to attract the young into the Nigerian political arena, there should be a brainstorming exercise to curb the money bags saga.


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