Nigerians are worried about the inability of many registered voters to get their permanent voters card and will want the Independent National Electoral Commission to postpone the elections so that millions of Nigerians are not disenfranchised in the February elections
| By Olu Ojewale | Feb. 2, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT |
THERE is anxiety in Nigeria over the next general elections which will hold in February. All the major political parties are willing to go to the polls as scheduled but insecurity, particularly in the North East and lack of Permanent Voters’ Card, PVC, are the major reasons why people are worried about the conduct of the elections. For instance, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, a total of 68,833,476 Nigerians registered for the coming general elections. Out of those registered, four million persons were disqualified for multiple registrations, leaving 54,341,610, but out of that figure only 38,774,391 Nigerians had so far collected their PVC as on Monday, January 5.
Attahiru Jega, chairman, INEC, at the meeting with the national leaders of all the 23 registered political parties in Abuja, on Tuesday, January 13, said: “In line with the provisions of the law, the commission has just announced the publication of the register of voters that will be used for the February 2015 general elections. The total number of voters registered for the elections is 68,833,476.”
He disclosed that the names of those involved in double registration had been deleted from the computer. Jega added that the commission had ordered for more PVCs and that some were already awaiting collection. “The commission has taken delivery of additional PVCs from its contractor and we are positive that we will have all outstanding cards with us by January 28, 2015. For the avoidance of doubt, possession of PVCs is a strict condition for anyone intending to vote in the 2015 elections,” the INEC boss said.
That, indeed, is one major headache for a lot of registered voters who could not get their own PVCs because the INEC computers wiped off their names. Prominent among affected persons include Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State and Sa’ad Abubakar III, Sultan of Sokoto. Having gone round to look for his name, Governor Fashola had to cry out that he could not find his name anywhere. His was not on any voter’s register.
The Sultan, who voiced out his situation to President Goodluck Jonathan, who visited his palace on Monday, January 19, said: “We have had issues of the Permanent Voter Cards and I want to tell you that even myself, I don’t have a PVC, so it means I will not vote on February 14. So, we have to look for a way out, it is for your government to now look for what to do, how to ensure that all the cards get to the voters before the voting day or in the alternative, find a way out because for any problem there is a solution.
“We believe you will find a solution as regard this very serious hitch facing us because millions of Nigerians seem to be heading towards disenfranchisement and they won’t be able to vote. I have heard comments from the INEC chairman, but we are still waiting for our cards to come.”
The royal father is not alone. A family of three whose members registered at their places of work told Realnews that none of them could find his or her name in the voters’ registers. “This looks unbelievable but it is true. My wife’s was not found in the registered where she registered at Ketu, my son who registered at Yaba could not find his name anywhere and I could not find my name where I registered at Ogudu,” Lekan Bolarinwa told Realnews. “If a governor could suffer such treatment what can people like us say?” he asked.
The INEC which is insisting on the use of the PVC for election, has asked those who registered but could not find their names in the voters’ register to re-register but they would not be allowed to use their temporary voter’s card to vote.
Fearing that a lot of persons could be affected by this development, Sabo Dasuki, national security adviser, NSA, while in Chatam House in London, on Thursday, January 22, asked INEC to postpone the election to sort out the challenges.
Supporting the NSA, Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State said in view of deluge of complaints that the INEC should allow people with TVC to cast their votes.
But INEC disclosed that it intended to use card readers for voters’ accreditation in order to verify the rightful owners of PVC for the elections and that allowing people with TVC to vote would rubbish election manipulation it wants to eliminate.
If not allowed to vote, Onyekachi Ubani, lawyer, expressed fear that a lot of disenfranchised Nigerians could take INEC to court to press for their rights. “It is wrong for INEC to disenfranchise anybody because of their own carelessness because their computers are supposed to have a backup so that no data is lost. But see how they are messing up the whole thing,” Ubani said. The lawyer suggested that the election should be postponed for about one or two months to accommodate those who have not received their PVCs because of lapses to do so.
Apart from the issue of PVC, there have been a lot of concerns on whether elections should hold in the troubled North-East where Boko Haram insurgents have continued to terrorise people. At a stakeholders’ workshop on Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, and 2015 general elections organised by the INEC in Abuja, on Tuesday, January 20, Governor Bala Ngilari of Adamawa State, one of the three States seriously affected by the insurgency, called on the Commission to postpone the conduct of the February elections in the state until April because of insecurity.
Ngilari said as the chief security officer of the state, it would not be fair for him to say that the security situation had sufficiently stabilised to conduct elections on February 14. He pointed out that some of the local government councils in the state were still under siege, noting that “presently, the state has over 29,000 IDPs in 15 designated camps.’’
He said the situation could have been stabilised if not for the recent attack on Gombi Local Government. “About the same time, there was an attack on Girei Local Government in the southern senatorial district which has never happened before now. Experience has shown that the insurgents will go back and regroup and we cannot predict where and when they will attack. We can only hope and pray that normalcy returns soon but we cannot say that all is well,’’ the governor said.
Besides, the governor noted that based on the security situation in the state, no politician visited the IDPs camps for campaign. No fewer than 900,000 IDPs are believed to be scattered across the nation, especially in the North-East.
But Nigilari’s recommendation appeared to have fallen on deaf ears as it was not endorsed by subsequent speakers at the workshop. In a remark, Jega said the Commission would not react to the suggestion.
On his part, Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State, commended the INEC for its efforts to ensure the participation of the IDPs in the North East in the elections and appealed to stakeholders in the North-East not to allow the issue of politics and insurgency to divide them.
If Ngilari appears to be a lone voice at the Abuja workshop, he would probably take solace in the fact that Tunde Bakare, pastor and head the Latter Rain Assembly, is equally in support of postponing the scheduled elections. On Sunday, January 18, Bakare repeated his call for the postponement of the elections and for the formation of transitional government to tackle fundamental problems facing Nigeria, warning that danger lay ahead for the nation if this was not done. The pastor’s submission has generated reactions from stakeholders and analysts from different quarters.
Bakare, who was the vice-presidential candidate of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change in the 2011 presidential election, argued that Nigeria was in a state of war and that Section 135 (3) of the 1999 Constitution should be invoked to shift the 2015 elections. He referred to the recent Boko Haram attack on a military base in Baga, Borno State and wondered why some people were saying that Nigeria was not in a state of war. “If that is not war, let the government and politicians tell Nigerians what it is,” he said.
Responding to arguments by some governors of the North-Eastern states, who had said that if elections could hold in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, the North-East could not be an exception, the pastor argued that the situations were not similar. He said that Nigeria had a different socio-political structure from those nations and noted that Iraq was still a crisis-ridden country and that it had to postpone elections. “These governors (of the North-East) have failed to take certain facts into consideration. Elections were meant to hold in Iraq in 2003 but were postponed till 2005. Iraq is in disarray. Is that the kind of nation that the North-East governors should be using as a reference point for Nigeria?” he asked.
Bakare asked that his political affiliation should not be regarded as what prompted the suggestion. “It is clear where my loyalties lie but this broadcast is not about political endorsement but to warn the nation of the storms ahead.”
However, Mujahid Asari-Dokubo, leader of the Niger Delta Peoples Volunteers Force, NDPVF, voiced out his opposition to calls for the postponement of the polls. He said the elections should be allowed to go ahead, even without the PVC. He said: “From what the INEC has done so far, it is not because of the violence. So many people have not collected their PVC. Look at the ojoro that is going on in the INEC. Twenty of the 27 local governments in Borno are in the hands of Boko Haram, but more people have collected PVCs in Borno than in Abia State where there is no crisis.
“For me, let every person be allowed to vote without PVC. If we are going to use the PVC, then the INEC is not ready. But I am not calling for the postponement of the election. We will win the election decisively. On the February 14, there will be “failbuhari” and Jonathan will win decisively,” he said.
From all indications, it appears there cannot be any agreement on which option the INEC has to take. What may be of ultimate concern is the number of eligible voters that will be affected by its decision.