Owners of uncollected PVCs
AS the distribution of the Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) draws to a close ahead of the March 28 Election Day, it is worthwhile to ask who the owners of the uncollected PVCs are. The inquiry is warranted because there are still bundles of PVCs left uncollected at the distribution centres. Who then are the owners of the left over voter cards? While everybody seems to blame the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), for all the PVC distribution problems, there is reason to believe that after all, it is not INEC that has disenfranchised everybody. Several factors are responsible for the unclaimed PVCs.
According to INEC, as at March 12, 81.22 per cent of eligible voters had collected their PVCs. That represents 55,904,272 out of 68,833,476 registered voters. That is “A” score for INEC. The percentage score on February 28, the original election date was 78.93. The election was postponed due to critical logistical issues bordering mostly on PVC distribution in many states. The new dates are March 28 and April 11, 2015 AD. In a way, the postponement afforded INEC the opportunity to finalise the PVC distribution. The political parties also used it to fine-tune their strategies. Above all, it doused the tension that mounted in the political horizon. People are now calmer to vote than otherwise would have been the case.
Going by the latest figures released by INEC in Abuja, Ogun State had the least distribution rate with 50 per cent representing 914,767 eligible voters out of the 1,829,534 registers voters. That means some 914,767 registered voters are yet to collect their PVC in Ogun State. On the other hand, Zamfara State is leading other states with 95.97 per cent representing 1,435,440 eligible voters out of 1,495,717. Therefore, some 60,277 registered voters are yet to collect their PVC in Zamfara State.
While the overall PVC distribution figures seem skewed in favour of the northern states, the national percentage of 81.22 is significant and should warrant holding elections. The differential between the north and the south, for me, could be due to voter apathy than anything else. It would surprise many to learn that Northern Nigerian electorate are more politically conscious than their counterparts in the south. While many in the south would be apathetic, some waiting till the last minute, voters in the north will not waste time to go and register and, or collect their PVC when it is announced. It is amazing.
The foremost reason why many PVCs were uncollected is death. President Goodluck Jonathan nominated Professor Attahiru Jega on June 8, 2010 as the new INEC chairman. The controversy that trailed the 2007 general elections was enough reason for him to discredit the extant voter’s register. Consequently, Jega’s first assignment was to embark on a new voter’s registration that involved capturing biodata of voters including fingerprints.
Since 2010 when that exercise was conducted, thousands of those who registered have passed on without being captured in the voter’s registration database. Without having those names deleted, the names remained in the database as if they were alive. Their PVCs were, therefore, produced along with those of the living. It would be delusion to presume that all voters who registered in 2010 are still alive. Those living have gone to collect their PVC while the dead cannot. The uncollected PVCs of the dead are among the bunch of unclaimed ones. Because there is no effective vital registration in the country, this problem will continue into the future. To stop PVCs being issued to the dead, INEC should device a way of capturing the names of deceased voters via hospitals records, etc. There should be a way of transmitting the names of deceased voters to INEC once the death certificate is issued by a hospital.
The second category of unclaimed PVCs belongs to people who have relocated from their place of registration to another. For instance, there are about 3.3 million internally displaced persons in Nigeria due to the Boko Haram crisis in the northeast of the country, many of who registered for the election. Because these people have been forced to move, they are no longer in a position to collect their PVC. Apart from this, there are a host of registered voters who have fled their usual place of residence to their home states for fear of election violence. There is no accurate figure on the number of people in this category. The point is that the PVCs of voters in this category are among the unclaimed because the owners are not available.
The third group is voters who face work pressure in their establishments and as a result have no chance to collect their PVC even during weekends. My investigation reveals that some voters in some financial institutions are in this category. It is shocking to learn that staffers of some establishments are too busy that they hardly have time to do any other thing for themselves other than work. These people work daily including weekends. Public holidays have no meaning to them. They are disenfranchised by their establishments and not INEC. My concern is that when people who are supposed to be enlightened are forced to forego their civic rights in something as crucial as election, where the leadership of the country would be decided for the next four years, then they have themselves to blame when things go wrong. They can’t even complain. Their PVCs are among the unclaimed ones that give negative picture of INEC’s performance.
Furthermore, we should not forget apathy. Apathy creates negative tendency in people such that their attitude towards anything is lackadaisical. This should not be ignored. Just as there is voter apathy that compels some eligible voters not to vote for lack of interest, the collection of PVC equally has its own apathy. There are people who are indifferent, totally uninterested; who have lost faith in the system; who don’t believe that anything good would come from the election.
Finally, there is a small percentage of registered voters who cannot find their PVC after visiting their distribution unit to collect. These ones have made frantic effort since the exercise started but for no fault of theirs, they can’t find their cards. These are the ones who can truly claim disenfranchisement if at the end they are unable to vote. Apart from this, all the other groups enumerated above have themselves to blame and not INEC. The dead are, however, excluded since they were not the cause for their fate. The sum total of all this would roughly make up the 18.78 per cent gap or 12.9 million in PVC distribution.