Interview

February 14, 2023

Nigeria’s finished if 2023 polls go wrong, says Ugwu-Oju

Nigeria’s finished if 2023 polls go wrong, says Ugwu-Oju

•We can assist INEC distribute PVCs at no cost

By Clifford Ndujihe

Former President, South-East and South-South Professionals, SESSP, and Founder, Nigeria and Entrepreneurship Summit and Honors, NESH, Foundation, Mr. Emeka Ugwu-Oju, in this interview, spoke on the 2023 elections, the Permanent Voters Cards, PVCs collection challenge and the way out.   

On the issues that trailed the collection of PVCs

Let me give a bit of background information before I comment on specifics. I am the founder of NESH foundation, a not for profit organisation, which came into existence about seven years ago. We have always focused on how to support, promote and celebrate Nigerian Entrepreneurship and Nigerian entrepreneurs. Some of the things we do are in the form of roundtables for some sectors. We also focus on the area of SMES, especially, young Nigerian entrepreneurs, then oil and gas, maritime, and health sectors among others. 

So, the issue of election and the electoral processes and the issue of the PVC, under normal circumstances, is not the focus of NESH Foundation. However, based on the situation in the country which most right thinking Nigerians say that we are at a stage where if we don’t get it right, we might not again have a country called Nigeria, is the reason NESH is interested. 

We are all witnesses to what is going on as regards insecurity, economy, etc. So, we must get it right, we have almost reached the limit, we have almost exhausted our luck. 

So, based on that, we decided that we should also play our role, a sort of, corporate social responsibility, CRS. 

The NESH present project is to be part of ensuring that Nigeria gets it right. We are trying to do our advocacy to ensure that Nigerians, all over the country, really understand that they are in a position to get the leadership right, by ensuring that they vote right in February and in March elections, at various levels. 

Going by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC’s, the time for collection of PVCs has elapsed. Many registrants did not get their PVCs after many attempts…

When you tell people that they have the opportunity to get the kind of leaders they want they will tell you that their votes don’t count. Then, we now have to start being part of the education process. Now, with what we have seen your votes, our votes will count based on the new system of voting using the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System, BVAS. 

You can see that a lot of people want to vote in this election. We saw the problem with registration, it has come and gone but still quite a sizeable number of people couldn’t register, which we hope this should be the last time. Any Nigerian that wants to register should be able to register. We don’t know why that has happened. But maybe, people like us and some other critical stakeholders that have something to offer didn’t get involved to let them know how it can be done with ease. 

Now, we are at the stage that those who actually registered are having problem, collecting their cards when we know that with the present law you can’t vote if you don’t have the PVC. Although, we know that PVC is not really necessary for voting based on BVAS technology but because it is in the Electoral Act, we know that after this election the law has to change with regards to the issue of PVC being mandatory because it’s just like a car that gets you into the voting area, nothing else.   

So coming to the issue of collection of PVC, it’s something that shouldn’t be a problem but it became a problem. This is just ordinary distribution of cards for crying out loud. If it is in some other jurisdiction you don’t have to go and collect your card, rather the card will be delivered to you through the mailing system. 

If it is in the USA, for instance, it will be delivered to your home, you just pick it up from your box.   

However, we have a solution which we want to share. The first question to ask is what is the problem? The problem is: People registered at so many wards but the INEC made people to go and collect at one point in a local government.  That was madness. At a point in time, you now saw the madness and you said go to the Ward. The Ward is like a town, it’s still large, with bottlenecks. 

So, now that the election is nearby, what is the solution? The solution is: INEC should be in a position, working with stakeholders, to distribute the cards 

We in the NESH foundation will bring stakeholders for them including groups like Nigeria Economic Summit Group, NESG, religious groups; not excluding the political parties, to help INEC distribute these cards. 

So what is the short term solution? First, INEC should from now take records of all  the cards that have not been collected and let Nigerians know polling booth by polling booth, the number of cards that have not been collected and names of those that have not been collected. And from that we should also know if the people that have registered that their cards have actually been printed and not the issue of saying: go and collect your card and the cards are not printed. I have a personal example where my daughter went four times, leaving work to go and queue for hours and still did not collect her PVC.   It was on the eve of the deadline that they finally said that her card was not even there, that she should go to what they call escalation line, maybe, for you to report that your card is not there. 

That means that there are people who have registered and their cards have not been printed and you allow them to go and waste time on queues for days. That is very unfair.

So, when the record is taken on the cards that are available then we will now know if all the people who are registered, because they can now verify that their cards have actually been printed. If they have not been printed it should not take more than a week to do that from now.. Then when that is completed, the people who have registered but who can’t still see their names can now ask INEC where their card is and to produce it for them.

A week after, we should assume that everything has been sorted out, all the people who are registered their cards have been printed. Then it will be only those whose cards are printed but haven’t been collected. So, on the day of the election or a day before the election it will be made available in every polling booth in the country. 

We can help with logistics but if a day before the election is not okay for them (INEC), it can be done on the day of the election. Since they are in possession of the PVC’s, we can say, when they are bringing the election materials, they should bring the uncollected PVC’S together.   We will have something like a Help Desk within a few distances, about 100 meters, to the voting area, for people to collect their cards.. it will not take more than an hour or two for people to collect their PVCs. 

INEC does not need to spend one kobo, it is we, the stakeholders, helping out with better understanding of the logistics. We will bring in the Help once they key into it. Nigerians are interest in this 2023 election, knowing its importance. They (Nigerians) now know that they cannot afford to joke with this coming election. People who are interested in this election, knowing its importance who wants to vote should be assisted to vote. The advantage also will be that all the people who came to collect their PVC on that Election Day will vote. so, what we are saying is simple: Let INEC bring all uncollected, printed PVC’s to the voting areas, close to their polling booths, create a Help Desk, to be manned by stakeholders like us (NESH, NESG etc) and we will distribute the PVC’S with ease, and it will not add to their cost.