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How Voters’ Relocation May Make Or Mar Today’s Election

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Nigerians have waited for this day with a burning desire. Although today may mean different things to different people in the world, it is a spectacular day for most Nigerians. It is the fifth time since the return of democracy they will be casting their votes to elect their next president. While many of them had participated in the past elections as electorates, this is the first election some of them will be legally allowed to participate. Until the law book says otherwise, it is illegal in today’s Nigeria for persons under the age of 18 to vote. No doubt, a number of voters in this election just turn 18. Like the candidates in today’s election, these set of voters have something at stake: exercise of their civic rights. Only time, not any prophet, will tell how these set of voters will utilise their electoral power.

As time eats away the anxiety of the political actors and the electorates, it is, however, imperative to know that several factors will determine the success or otherwise of today’s decisive election. One of such factors that have been overlooked by many political analysts is internal migration or relocation of voters. The more internal migrants there are, the less the number of voters that may come out for the elections, and vice versa. As in other parts of Africa, internal migration in Nigeria is fuelled by a number of factors-the most notable ones being economic recession, economic growth, education, marriage, civil service transfer and national service.

Although it is well known that people migrate for mostly socio-economic reasons, it is sad to know that in the last few years when Boko Haram members rained havoc in some parts of Northern Nigerian, many Nigerians have been forced to migrate from the affected parts to other ‘safer’ areas. But it is pathetic that many of those who migrated from their former places of abode will not be voting today; they are just going to be spectators in one of Nigerian’s most keenly contested elections.

Their movement is their downfall in this case. Since some of these internal migrants had registered in their former places of residence, they will not allowed to vote wherever they have ran to for safety, even when they have the magical voters’ permanent cards (PVCs) with them. You may not be wrong to think that many of these migrants had left their abode without their PVCs. Safety, not PVCs, was uppermost in their hearts at the time of their hurried movement.

The electoral umpire, the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), had said it would allow any electorate to vote aside where he or she had registered, without precautionary measures. It is a big crime the umpire will not take nightly. Some of the internal migrants who will not be voting in today’s elections were not, however, forced into such predicament by terrorism alone.

While some of them had done their voter’s registration while in higher institutions of learning, others did theirs in their work place. Some students who register in higher institutions of learning may not vote today, as most of these institutions have closed for the elections.

These students are back home to where they will remain as ‘election observers’. If there is electricity, most of these students, instead of going out to vote, will be listening to the election analysts and permutation commentators. That may not be a plus to the electoral system. Closely following these groups of ‘returnees’, are former students of higher learning who have graduated into the National Youths Service Corps (NYSC).

Even though a high number of NYSC members will be acting as ad hoc members during today’s election, many of them may not vote for the same reason that will make other internal migrants not vote. Their only ‘glory’ in today’s election is that they are rendering ‘essential’ service to their father’s land.

Similarly, some other persons who have recently graduated into the work environment may not be able to vote because they may not be able to travel to where they register for vote. The story of Mr Sunday Amuka, a Lagos-based banker, illustrated the scenario of this class of persons. Amuka told The Guardian in Lagos that he would not vote, because he could not travel to Ibadan to collect his PVC. “

I registered in Ibadan, Oyo State, when I was a student of the University of Ibadan (IU). Because I work in the banking sector, I could not travel to Ibadan from Lagos to collect my PVC,” Amuka told The Guardian. Another former student of Ambrose Alli University (AAU), Mr Kingsley Okoduwa, similarly told The Guardian in Lagos that there was way he would travel to Edo State from Lagos to cast his vote.

“Although the election is fundamental to the nation’s wellbeing, I cannot take the risk of traveling for six hours to go and vote in the university premises in Ekpoma, Edo State, where I had registered,” Okoduwa told The Guardian. Similarly, Mr Peter Adeyemi told The Guardian that he and his wife would not vote today because they registered in their work place, which are miles away from where they reside.

Marriage is one key phenomenon that often force several young couples to relocate. While such relocation is often viewed as positive development for young couples, it is no doubt going to affect the civic rights of some of the young couple who got married and relocated within the last four years.

Although they may have their PVCs, they may not dare to risk their lives to whenever they register to vote. That is the predicament of Mrs. Maria Ariaka and her husband, Mark, who both relocated from Surulere to Gbagada in Lagos. “We have our PVCs,” Mrs Ariaka said.

“But that is where our story end. We cannot move from Gbagada to Surulere on the day of election to vote, even though we would have loved to exercise our civic right.” If information in public domain is anything to go by, some Nigerians who have relocated abroad will not vote today.

According to those in the know, some Nigerians with the wherewithal have recently relocated to anywhere outside Nigeria, in a bid to escape possible violence. The greater the number of these people, the greater the loss to there will be to the electoral votes.

To some observers, internal migration affects a number of electorates because they have not make use of some the provisions in the Electoral Act, which give a leeway for electorates to vote irrespective of where they may be in Nigeria during elections.

Section 13 (1) of the Electoral Act says: “A person who before the election is resident in a constituency other than the one in which he was registered may apply to the Resident Electoral Commissioner of the State where he is currently resident for his name to be entered on the transferred voters’ list for the constituency.” It adds in subsection (2) that: “An application under subsection (1) of this section shall be accompanied by the applicant’s voter’s card and shall be made not less than 30 days before the date of an election in the constituency where the applicant is resident.” Observers believe that the more internal migrants make use of such provisions, the less the number of Nigerians that will be disenfranchise during elections.



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