SURPRISINGLY, I got my Permanent Voters Cards, PVC, perhaps the most coveted property in the land today, effortlessly. Thanks to the efficiency of very courteous young Independent Election Commission, INEC, officials, it did not take more than five minutes for the much coveted card to be in my possession. Still I did not believe my luck, with the precious document safely tucked in my pocket, I was transfixed for a moment.
My less fortunate compatriots, who were still trying to unsuccessfully sort things out with INEC staff, starred admiringly at me. Basking in the euphoria of my newly found status as a potential electorate, with vested constitutional and civic obligation to decide the future and, indeed, the fortune of our dear nation, I moved with the swagger of one who has just hit a jackpot, not actually knowing which direction to follow. After a couple of minutes of indecision, I eventually decided against going to the bank to lodge my PVC for safety purpose. Lodging PVC in a bank? What a ridiculous proposition! But then, don’t blame me. The news across town, these days, is that PVC has become an object of intense and desperate hunt.
Now, talking more seriously, the worth of the PVC in the current political process cannot be over -emphasised. For one, it offers the electorate the right to have a say in deciding those who would rule over us. Therefore, possession of this all important item puts an enormous responsibility on the electorate. It places the destiny of the country right in the hands (or thumbs) of the voters. It is such an enormous responsibility that must be carried out with every sense of honour, dignity and patriotism. It is a sacred task that must be performed with utmost diligence and patriotism. This is because any slipshod choice that is made in the coming polls could portend great danger to the lives of generations yet unborn. It could jeopardise the future of the country.
Hence, it is important for the electorate to be vigilant and cautious in the choice they make at the polls. The trend in our political history is for electorate to vote based on emotional and primordial considerations that don’t really add value to the process of nation building. Therefore, electorate need to appropriately listen to and assess some of the candidates that are canvassing to secure their votes at the forthcoming general elections. They need to become more absorbed in their appraisal of the various candidates, taking into proper consideration their antecedent and personality. They need to pay close attention to the messages of the various aspiring political contestants before finally deciding who deserve their votes. We have fumbled and wobbled enough as a nation. This is the time to get things right.
As it has been previously stressed, the destiny of this nation and that of future generations of Nigerians lies in the hands of the electorate. Whichever path the country would follow in the coming years would, thus, be a clear manifestation of the kind of choice the electorate make at the coming polls. For all the hues and cries over bad governance and poor leadership in the country, we won’t be able to actually absolve ourselves of complicity because we elected the kind of leaders we have. This is why voters must consider the civic obligation of electing our leaders a very sacred one.
It is depressing to hear that some would be voters are already selling their PVCs out of monetary concerns. It is distressing enough for voters to opt for the wrong candidates at the polls. It is, however, inexcusable and reprehensible for anyone to sell his/her PVC for whatever reason. It is an act of foolishness that must be condemned and discouraged by all and sundry. The PVC is an invaluable asset that must be jealously guarded by potential electorate. Trading the PVC for monetary gains readily silences one’s voice and mortgages the inheritance of unborn generation. It is a gross expression of mind-boggling stupidity. Anyone who does this, under whatever guise, has sold off his rights and privileges as a citizen. Such a person could only be compared to the biblical Esau who traded off his birth right for a plate of porridge. The consequence of his action was by no means palatable.
Unlike other forms of government, the beauty of democracy lies in the ability of the people to have a say in the choice of those who preside over the apparatus of governance. This is the rationale behind the popular affirmation of democracy as the government of the people, for the people and by the people. However, for the people to actually maximize the benefits of democracy, they need to be prudent in the choices they make at the polls. The one who casts his ballot for pecuniary gains is not different from the one who trades his PVC for same purpose. Such people are yet to accurately appreciate the enormity of the responsibility that democracy places on the electorate. It is partly as a result of the improper electoral practices of such people that we have always got our democratic experience wrong.
Now that another opportunity is around the corner, we owe ourselves and future generation the hallowed obligation of getting it right. So much depends on the choice we make at the coming polls. Our security, the state of our infrastructure, the economy and much more are tied to the thumbs of the electorate. If we bungle things again, it would take us another four years or much more to get it right again. This is, therefore, the time for voters to scrutinize the various candidates seeking elective offices at all levels based on the depth of their message and not on the strength of their pockets. This is the time to task the various aspirants on their vision and programmes for the various sectors in the country. This is the time to vote based on genuine nationalistic concerns. This is the time to follow the voice of reason and not the noise of the season.
Mr. Tayo Ogunbiyi, a staff of the Ministry of Information & Strategy, Lagos.