Opeyemi: Ogun: The mystery 600,000 PVCs
THE 1946 Constitution, named after the then Governor of Nigeria, Sir Arthur Richards, was widely opposed by different groups and nationalist parties in the country not only because they were not consulted before it was promulgated but that it did not secure greater participation of Nigerians in the management of their own affairs. Contrary to the promise made by his predecessor, Governor Bernard Bourdillon, the Richards Constitution came into force with little opportunity for discussion by residents of colonial Nigeria. With the retention of Clifford’s ‘elective principle on a limited franchise’of only four seats in the Legislative Council and increase in the power of the Governor, it was evident that the country was almost as far from representative government as she was in 1922.
According to the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroons (NCNC), the fact that only four members were to be directly elected into the Legislative Council, as was the case in the 1922 Constitution, had exposed the British Government to the criticism that from the year 1922 to the year 1945, “Nigerians made no advance at all towards any qualification in election by adult suffrage of those who represent their interests in the Legislative Council.” The party, it must be underscored, did not limit its justified opposition to press statements in the media but sent a delegation to Westminster to, among others, protest the rape.
Of course, there were other nationalist parties in the country then but it was the NCNC that picked the gauntlet to obtain support and funds for the London trip. It is instructive that the agitation against the Richards Constitution did not only lead eventually to its short life but the all-inclusive Ibadan General Conference of 1950, preparatory to the enactment of the Macpherson Constitution of 1951, which moved the country closer to representative democracy.
Ogun State, South West Nigeria is not the least populated state among the 36 in the country. But it boggles the mind while as at mid-February, 2015, its eligible voters should have had the least access to the Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) in the comity of states in Nigeria. As if this was not strange enough, thousands of petitions were reportedly directed to the Governor by eligible voters, including the numbing allegation that about 625,000 PVCs carried Ogun State code, but the photographs on the cards did not match the faces of registered residents in the wards where the cards were displayed. The governor specifically confirmed this anomaly in his own Ward 11 at Ita-Eko, where the mystery cards were equally observed.
This, naturally and under normal circumstances, should have agitated the minds of all stakeholders in the forthcoming general elections, especially the political parties canvassing for votes. The Governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, is not just the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the coming polls but the one the citizens should eventually look up to on their agitation to collect the PVCs. Just like Herbert Macaulay (and later Nnamdi Azikwe) rose to the occasion, it was Amosun that took up the gauntlet by visiting the state office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to raise the allegations and ask that something urgently be done so that all the 1.8 million eligible voters get the PVCs and that no one should be disenfranchised.
However belated the reaction of the opposition parties might be, they should have at least raised the alarm further because the 1.8 million registered voters are residents who will vote for the parties of their choice on March 28 and April 11. But what did we get from the leaders of these opposition parties on both the shocking low distribution of PVCs in Ogun and over 600,000 fake PVCs? Silence! Funeral silence! Then condemnation of the governor for speaking for the voiceless.
Hear the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as reported in the papers on Friday, February 20, 2015: “Governor Amosun, being a candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who is also standing for election in the April 11, 2015 governorship election, just like every other candidate standing for elections, has no legal and moral right to visit the INEC office to complain about the distribution of the permanent voter cards (PVCs) in the state. This is crass opportunism, and open blackmail, aimed principally to compromise the integrity, neutrality and independence of the election umpire. We condemn this in totality. There are other windows open and available to vent any perceived, assumed or imagined ‘irregularities’ in the conduct and operations of any independent commissions and or agencies. For instance, Governor Amosun could issue press statements, grant press interviews or even write official but open letters to the commission to register his protest…”
Is there any law preventing the candidates of political parties from visiting a public place like INEC office? None. How does an open visit to INEC office on such a matter of public importance result in the compromise or blackmail of the institution? But for narrow and parochial politics of the opposition, or more importantly, their hidden agenda, should their leaders not have joined Amosun in marching to the INEC office to register a serious protest over the low distribution of PVCs and the over 600,000 mystery PVCs that have flooded Ogun State?
Now, my worry is, and Nigerians should take this very seriously, the statement by the PDP did not raise any issue on why Ogun State is miserably lagging behind in its adults getting the PVCs let alone raise any concern on the mystery PVCs that have been observed and seen in virtually all the 236 wards in the state.
This can only lead, inexorably, to one conclusion – the party (PDP) may be a suspect! This is the product of logical reasoning. Till date, the leading opposition party in Ogun (PDP), with its allies, has not issued a single statement or expressed any concern or worry on the inexplicable low distribution of PVCs in the state. Who then are the people they are expecting to vote for them? It then means they have a hidden agenda.
Now that the news of the fake 600,000 voter cards is in the public domain, it is the responsibility of all stakeholders, especially INEC, to withdraw the mystery cards and ensure all eligible voters in the state get the original PVCs. No one, party or institution must be permitted to subvert the will of the electorate – through any means. We must all join hands in resolving the mystery PVCs, including sending a delegation to INEC headquarters in Abuja to demand that right thing be done. The people of Ogun must not be prevented from exercising their political sovereignty through the ballot box.
• Soyombo, public affairs analyst, sent this piece via email@example.com