By Clifford Ndujihe, Politics Editor
SINCE the political parties concluded their presidential primaries, the polity has been astir as millions of people across the country, especially youths, scramble to get registered as voters.
As of Monday June 27, 2022, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has registered 14,137,024 youths (aged 18-34); 6,280,190 middle-aged people (aged 35-49); 2,778,232 elderly (aged 50-69); and 364,597 old people (aged 70 and above).
Specifically, the electoral umpire said that as of June 27, it had received 23, 560, 043 applications including those applying for voter transfer, replacement of PVCs and .update of voter information records. No fewer than 6,146,335 of this figure are students.
With this the INEC currently has 105.9 million registered voters and the figure may hit 110 million as the commission has, following a court order, extended the registration period indefinitely. The exercise would have lapsed on June 30. Some concerned Nigerians went to court and got an order to stop INEC from ending the exercise. Accelerated hearing of the case will continue on July 4 (tomorrow) and until the matter is resolved the INEC said voters registration will continue.
Behind new wave of massive registration
The outcome of the primaries of the major political parties, especially the presidential, has been fingered as one of the major reasons for the unprecedented upsurge in the number of applicants for PVCs. The ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, produced former Lagos Governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as its presidential flagbearer; and the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, chose former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. Former Anambra State Governor, Mr Peter Obi, who was PDP vice presidential candidate in 2019, left the party a few days to the presidential primaries citing corruption saying he could not buy delegates.
He joined the Labour Party and picked the presidential ticket. Also, former Governor of Kano State, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, who left the APC, recently, landed in the New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP and was handed the party’s presidential flag.
A sizable number of the youths said they are supporting Obi and Kwankwaso to change the status quo as represented by APC and PDP.
Most of the youths thronging the INEC centres for registration said via many social media platforms that they are for Mr. Obi (OBIDIENT) or Senator Kwankwaso (KWANCERNED) leading to comments that the Tinubu and Atiku camps are jittery and threatened by the rising support base of the duo.
The comment gained currency when some traders at Alaba International Market, Lagos, who closed their shops and went to voters’ registration centres for the exercise were attacked by thugs.
A similar scenario happened in Jos where leaders of a major religion in the country prevented people from registering.
However, Media Aide to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar; and Senator Dayo Adeyeye, the national coordinator of the South-West Agenda for Asiwaju, a major support group for Tinubu, have pooh-poohed comments that Atiku and Tinubu were threatened by Obi and Kwankwaso’s rising support base.
Apart from support for Obi and Kwankwaso, there is also a mobilization to stop a Muslim-Muslim ticket allegedly being considered by the APC.
Tinubu, a Moslem has submitted the name of Masari, another Moslem as his running mate. APC leaders claimed that Masari’s name was submitted as a placeholder that Tinubu will send a replacement. Will he send the name of a Christian or another Moslem? Top on the list of those being considered are former Governor of Borno State, Senator Kashim Shettima; Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong; and Kano State Governor, Umar Ganduje among others. Party sources said to stand a better chance of winning the APC is likely to present a Muslim-Muslim ticket.
Opposition to Muslim-Muslim ticket
A huge opposition to Muslim-Muslim is building up across the country. The Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Catholic Bishops Conference, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, and some prominent Nigerians are among those against the move.
Indeed, the PFN held a National Executive Council, NEC, meeting on June 16, 2022 where it charged Christians to obtain and show their PVCs.
Giving insight on the development, Dr Lawrence Ekwok, the Cross River State chairman of the PFN, said: “On June 16 June, 2022, we held a National Executive Council meeting of the PFN in Lagos comprising all the 36 state chairmen and Abuja, the FCT along with all the national officers led by the National President, Bishop Francis Wale Oke.
“One of the resolutions taken in that meeting was to declare 26 June, which is the last Sunday of June Permanent Voters Cards, PVC, Sunday in all Pentecostal churches across the country. What that means is that leaders of churches are to ask their members to attend services with their PVCs. The essence of that is to be able to know how many of our members have PVCs and how many have not gotten theirs.
That will accord us the opportunity to help those who have not had theirs. Ultimately, the idea is for us to have the statistics of how many church members are registered voters because we see a situation where we are likely going to vote for just one candidate so that we would know the number of votes we have.”
Surge in voters’ registration applicants
The INEC ended the online pre-registration service on May 30. With the increase in the number of those seeking for the PVC and mounting complaints, the INEC deployed more Voter Enrolment Devices, IVEDs, to areas where the pressure was highest.
“These areas are all the states in the South-East region, Kano, Lagos and the FCT,”
Festus Okoye, spokesman of the commission, who said that INEC leadership met with Resident Electoral Commissioners, RECs, said INEC “received reports from our states indicating an unprecedented surge in the number of citizens that wish to register as voters and the challenges they face across the country. In some states, the sudden turnout of prospective registrants is overwhelming.
“Consequently, the Commission convened an urgent meeting with all the Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) on Thursday 9th June 2022 to review the situation so that eligible Nigerians who wish to register are able to do so. The necessity to urgently deploy more voter enrolment machines to ease the congestion at the registration centres was identified as a priority.
In response, the Commission immediately released additional 209 machines deployed mainly to the five South Eastern states, Lagos and Kano where the pressure is most acute.
The Commission will monitor the situation over the next few days. Thereafter, it will meet to review the progress of the exercise.”
Will massive registration end voters’ apathy at polls?
In spite of the upsurge in the number of people seeking the PVC and the likelihood of Nigeria having more than 110 million voters in 2023, it is not yet certain if this will translate to massive turnout of voters at the polls.
In the history of electioneering in the world’s largest black nation since 1979 the country has not recorded 70 per cent voters’ turnout. The best so far was the 69 per cent recorded in 2003. And worst was the 34.75 per cent recorded in 2019.
Voters’ turnout in presidential polls since 1979
Registered voters – 48,499,091
Voters turnout – 17,098,267 (35.25%
Registered Voters — 65,304,818
Voters Turnout — 25,430,096 (38.94%)
Registered Voters – 33,156,055
Voters turnout 14,293,396 (43.10%)
Registered voters — 60,823,022
Voters turnout — 42,018,735 (69.08%)
Registered Voters – 61,567,036
Voters Turnout – 35,397,517 (57.49%)
Registered voters – 73,528,040
Voters turnout – 39,469,484 (53.68%
Registered voters – 67,422,005
Voters turnout – 29,432,083 (43.65%)
Registered Voters – 82,344,107
Voters Turnout – 28,614,190 (34.75%)
Why voters shun polls
During elections it is not unusual to see barrel-chested youths playing soccer on empty roads and streets instead of going to cast their ballots. Some elderly people also do not go to exercise their franchise. The reasons often cited include: Violence; rigging (our votes won’t count); poor governance; unpopular candidates; weak campaigns by parties and candidates; poor voters’ enlightenment by INEC, parties, candidates, NGOs and other stakeholders; weak patriotism on the part of the electorate.
Will the trend change in 2023?
Presidential Candidate of the African Democratic Congress, Mr. Dumebi Kachikwu, in a chat with Sunday Vanguard, said the massive registration of voters will add little or no value if people don’t get their PVCs and end up not voting. According to him inability to collect voters cards harmed previous polls and efforts to deepen Nigeria’s democracy.
Asked his take on the massive turnout of people for voters’ registration, he said: “It is good but the issue has not been about registering. It is about people collecting their PVCs. If registered voters collect their cards and vote things will change. “The question is will they vote and why are they voting? If they had been voting rightly, Dr Goodluck Jonathan and President Muhammadu Buhari would not have won.
INEC must ensure people get their PVCs
“The problem is INEC makes it difficult for people to collect their PVC. Ordinarily, if you register, you collect your card immediately but they make you go to another place later in future. Some will go to the new place and won’t get the PVC. A lot of people get frustrated and abandon the process.”
However, some youths and people have vowed to follow the process to logical conclusion, vote and ensure that their votes count. With many of the youths declaring their support for Obi, the social media has been abuzz with comments that Tinubu and Atiku are threatened.
Social media ballot different from real ballot – Paul Ibe
Asked if Atiku is threatened by the rising profile of Obi, his media Aide, Mr. Paul Ibe said: “Social media ballot is different from the way real voters vote.
Everything will end on the ballot box. What is there to be afraid of someone making waves on the social media? We will meet on the field. Nigerian voters will determine the fate of the candidates. We are working and marketing our candidates. Nigerians know Atiku as a unifier, who will make the difference and rescue them from the hands of people who have impoverished us.
“Supporters of other candidates are free to make their claims. We are working with decorum. 2023 will be a referendum on the failed policies of the APC. Atiku is a viable alternative giving his long years of experience in government, performance as vice president and handling of businesses.”
Tinubu can’t be jittery over Obi – Dayo Adeyeye
On his part, Senator Dayo Adeyeye, who described the massive turnout of people voters’ registration as a sign that “Nigerians are committed to the sustenance of democracy, especially as it is coming from the youths,” said everything would work in favour of Tinubu at the end of the day.
Averring that Obi was not a threat to Tinubu, he said: “How can we be threatened or jittery over Obi or Kwankwaso? We don’t consider them as serious challenge. If you base your strength on the showings in the social media it does not mean you strong on the field.
“We are not jittery or bothered. Tinubu has the support of Nigerian masses across the six geo-political zones of the country. The whole thing (Obi campaign buzz) will fizzle out shortly.”