Somehow we will still be what we are. Since the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC began its continuous voter registration; at no time did number swell around registration point than days ago when it finally dawned on Nigerians that the event was going to end. This is the way we have always been, doing things at the last minutes even if that thing has to do with our lives. The last-minute stampede towards the former August 17, 2018 deadline for prospective voters to get registered to have their Permanent Voter’s Cards, PVCs obviously forced INEC to extend the deadline to August 31, 2018.
It is what it is, and that’s why people talk about and made popular the so-called “African time” syndrome (whereby lateness to events and appointments has been elevated to culture in most parts of Africa, especially in Nigeria), our people hardly take any civic activity serious until the last few days to deadlines. The ensuing last-minute rush creates nightmares both for the individuals and officials and in most cases government is forced to extend the deadline. And each extension gulps more time, money and human resources.
INEC just had to take this very proactive step, cognisant of the high level of citizen response to its ongoing Continuous Voter Registration, CVR. Chairman of the Commission, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, disclosed at the last quarterly consultative meeting of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security, ICCES, in Abuja that between April 2017 and June this year, the CVR exercise registered a mammoth number of new voters. Hear him: “As at June 22 2018, fresh registration is 9,922, 619; PVC collection 576,346; request for transfer 489,354 and requests for replacement of PVCs 766,435. What this means is that since the commencement of the CVR on April 27, 2017, about 10 million Nigerians have been registered and this will be added to the existing register of 70 million voters”.
It is obvious that the popular campaign (especially on the social media) for people to register to vote in 2019 is yielding fruitful results. This is why the two-week extension for the registration is commendable. It is important for new voters, especially those just coming of voting age, to be given maximum opportunity to register and vote in next year’s poll that could prove decisive for the future of this nation. We are, however, worried at the great disparity between the number of new registrants and those who have collected their PVCs, which is far in excess of nine million.
Though we are consoled by the fact that collection of PVC will continue until a few days to the elections in February 2019, we hope this exercise will not end up adding millions of new unclaimed cards which the INEC might be forced to destroy. We call on the INEC and the registered political parties to collaborate with social media activists in further sensitising old and new voters to seize the opportunity of this extension to register and collect their PVCs. Every effort must also be made to ensure that unclaimed PVCs will not end up in the hands of enemies of our democracy who could use them to sabotage the people’s genuine choices come next year.
In all this, we hope that people are not registering just for registering sake. We also hope that people are not repeating registration. There are reports of double if not triple registrations currently on going. People go back to register at different places with similar and sometimes dissimilar characteristics. That our system can not sort that discrepancy is strange. Also, efforts must be made to ensure that under aged persons and non Nigerians are not allowed to register or vote. Where they are hitherto registered, their particulars must be fished out and punished.
Above all, the amount of resources both material and otherwise that Nigeria has pushed into electioneering must be well spent and the outcome should meet the aspirations of the people. With a voter roaster of more than 90 million at least 60 million should come out and vote. The era where 20 million or less comes out to vote is ugly now. Nigerians should not hide under anything to refuse to show up at the polling centres. The greatest motivation to come out and vote is to vote in those you feel can do it. There is no time or space for despondency.