FOLLOWING the last-minute stampede towards the former August 17, 2018 deadline for prospective voters to get their Permanent Voter’s Cards, PVCs, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, gamely extended the deadline to August 31, 2018.
Just like 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.
INEC took this highly 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 netted a huge number of new voters.
According to 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.