Thursday, 1st June 2023

PVC collection awareness boosts ‘take back country’ campaign

By Eno-Abasi Sunday and Ogochukwu Uzokwe
19 June 2022   |   3:49 am
For decades, the phenomenon of “cooked” election results, and the perception that most political leaders are not legitimate products of elections, discouraged millions of Nigerians from exercising their franchise.

Permanent Voters Cards.

For decades, the phenomenon of “cooked” election results, and the perception that most political leaders are not legitimate products of elections, discouraged millions of Nigerians from exercising their franchise.

The accumulated apathy found expression in many ways, including the failure of those of voting age to register and obtain their Permanent Voters Card (PVC).

Of late, the unprecedented enthusiasm shown by prospective voters towards “taking back their country” appears to suggest that most Nigerians may have suddenly realized the need to engender something akin to a political revolution in the country.

Across the country, thousands are trooping to designated centres to get themselves registered, and this is happening weeks after the online registration for PVC ended in May.

Interestingly, those behind the drive to get millions of their compatriots to perform their civic responsibilities in the next round of general election include youth leaders, religious leaders, activists, non-governmental groups, market associations, and professional bodies. The impetus appears to be the failure of the political class to deliver dividends of democracy since the return of civil rule in 1999.

Strong also is the understanding that unless citizens demand good governance, Nigerians may continue to labour under the yoke of worsening insecurity, and unabating criminality evidenced by banditry, kidnapping, and endless bloodbath.

In the last two decades or thereabouts, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has spent billions of naira on voter education, and on encouraging voters to come out and vote during elections, but not much came out of all these judging from dismal figures posted during past elections.

The unfolding scenario appears to suggest that the reverse may be the case as the nation prepares for another round of elections in the next eight months.

Indeed, the enthusiasm, which is driving the surge in voter registration is not coming from just a section of the society, but multi-directional. Social media influencers have also contributed significantly to this campaign.
Unprecedented Awareness Creation For PVC

THE nonchalance displayed by most Nigerians when it comes to civic responsibilities is simply legendary. That explains why millions of them that are of voting age are still without PVCs. However, the state of ugly things and the feeling of disillusionment that is ravaging the people, among others have contributed their quota to spurring ordinary citizens to show greater interest in who governs them going forward.

Matters are helped with the rising actions taken by individuals and groups to get many to join in the search for good governance. One of the first to champion the call for youths to rise and get registered to vote before the registration elapses is the presidential candidate of Labour Party, and former governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi.

In a recent tweet the politician asked his teaming supporters to ensure their data is captured before the deadline.

On his verified Twitter handle, Obi wrote, “Fellow Nigerians, to exercise your constitutional right to elect leaders of your choice, you must vote. To vote, you must be registered.

“INEC PVC online and physical registration end on 30th May and 30th June, respectively. Don’t miss the deadlines,” he added.

The General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Enoch Adeboye, had also called on Nigerians to register to vote in the 2023 election.

During a sermon, he said: “You are Nigerians and you were a Nigerian before you became a Christian. You have a duty to your country to register to vote and to make sure that your vote will count.

“You must register; you must vote; you must sit down there after you have voted, and make sure that they count the votes, and you take note of who they said won. You must make sure that there is no more rigging in Nigeria,” Adeboye added.

While some attribute the surge in the number of youths gunning for PVCs to the 2020 #EndSARS protests against police brutality, which they stressed awakened their consciousness and underscored the need for them to take steps to change their destinies.

They also added that social media platforms like Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter, and others also contribute meaningfully to encouraging the upsurge in voter registration.

Other than the charge handed the youths to register to vote, and by so doing, take back their country, some believe that the choice of presidential candidates of the two major political parties was responsible for youths moving to take their destinies into their hands.

One of those who share this belief is the Chairman of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), Chief Ralph Nwosu, who said: “When the PDP voted Atiku, Nigerians waited to see what APC would offer, and having presented Tinubu, it aroused their anger and hence their determination to vote the two parties out of power next year. You will still see more registration and that’s the reason we all should impress it on INEC not to close its portals for registration, and collection of PVCs until next year, or towards the end of this year as against the June ending it proposed.”

Youths, Others Deploy Strategies To Attract Would-be Voters
THOUSANDS of Nigerians, especially youths thronged the Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS), Lagos, to be part of a free concert, which was headlined by celebrities including rapper Falz and singer Teni.

Thousands of Nigerians gathered at a free concert recently in the commercial hub of Lagos that was headlined by celebrities including rapper Falz and singer Teni.

Falz, a revolutionary singer wrote in an Instagram post: “If you haven’t registered yet, come and register at the venue on the day! It’s a critical moment for us. Tell someone to tell someone, please. Prime entertainment meets civic responsibility.”

No PVC, No Prayer Request, Salary, Treatment 
OTHER than the concert, which also had the blessings of INEC, Yiaga Africa, and the European Union (EU), clerics are unrelenting in pushing their members to rise to the challenge of building a new nation.

It was in this spirit that a yet-to-be-identified parish priest, in a video that surfaced online, last week, denied members who do not have PVCs entry into the church auditorium.

While other clerics have devised diverse ways of getting their flocks to recognize the compelling need to discharge their civic responsibilities, the Catholic Archbishop of Owerri Diocese, J.V Obinna, proudly showed off his PVC during his valedictory thanksgiving service as a way of encouraging others to register.

The General Overseer of Omega Power Ministry (OPM) Apostle Chibuzor Gift Chinyere, who made all 300 branches of the church available for use as registration centres for PCV, also joined the league of clerics that are impressing on their members, the need to vote in the next election.

As he directed his members to get their PVCs, he warned that those without PVCs won’t collect prayer assignments, adding that traders without PVCs won’t be allowed to sell in the OPM Divine Market.

On his verified Facebook page, he wrote: “From today, you cannot collect prayer assignments without showing your PVC. All traders in OPM Divine Market will not be permitted to sell in the market if he, or she does not have PVC…”

As part of its operation show your PVC, the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), urged Christians to go to church with their PVCs on Sunday, June 26, 2022.

The National President of the PFN, Bishop Francis Wale Oke, while addressing journalists at the PFN National Secretariat, in Lagos, said it was one of its strategies to change bad governance in the country.

“We have set aside Sunday, June 26, to encourage Christians regardless of their denominations to show their PVCs, or ensure that they get one because we are prepared to change the narrative,” he said.
Employees are also bearing the heat as some of their employers have asked them to get their PVCs or forgo their salaries. The Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), Friday, joined the league of such employers when it said that employees would not get their salaries until they obtain their PVCs.

This came on the heel of an earlier directive by IPMAN’s National President, Mr. Chinedu Okoronkwo, asking its employees nationwide to obtain their PVCs, before the expiration of INEC’s June 30 deadline.
Poor State Of The Nation As Fillip For Surge In PVC Collection

IDAYAT Hassan, Director of the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), an Abuja-based policy advocacy and research outfit is of the view that because of the feeling of disillusionment that is ravaging the nation, “citizens have honestly lost trust in the government both past and present. The ongoing ASUU strike, the high rate of unemployment, and the absence of positive things to look forward to can shape the thinking pattern of Nigerian youths. Of course, this could have a significant impact on the outcome of the 2023 election. With the youths having the highest percentage of the country’s population, their decision could greatly direct the outcome of elections.

“The emergence of Peter Obi of the Labour Party as the third force is still yet to be taken seriously by some people because of the lack of a strong political structure to prosecute the presidential election, but it is still early to say that youths will hold firm, trust the electoral process and move to vote in an individual, rather than a political party when all other political dynamics are yet to be introduced into the process,” she said.

Hassan added that with the country being a “heavily religious nation,” the “no PVC, no entry” sanction imposed by clerics sort of imposes “a sense of responsibility on their congregations that God cannot help a people that are not doing their part, that is getting their PVCs and exercising their franchise to bring about change in the nation. The clerics’ actions have tremendously helped INEC. By making available spaces for the registration of new voters, and the attendant publicity of the process, they are helping to strengthen the process, and also playing their roles as faith-based organisations.”

The CDD boss stressed: “Nigerians generally want fresh options as they are tired of being ruled by a generation that has continually promised, but fail woefully in delivery. The youths have just realised that power is in their hands. From the perspectives of being young, having the numbers, and an understanding of the electoral process, they are fighting for something new using the PVC registration and collection as the first step. The outcome of the primaries of two leading political parties has clearly shown them that they have to move swiftly to change the narrative. Civil Society Organisation (CSOs) have also played their roles well in the areas of advocacy and sensitising on the electoral process, including the electronic transmission of results. Consequently, people are now better equipped and have this belief that their votes will count.
#EndSARS Protests As Fillip For Demand For Good Governance

BOTH Hassan and the Executive Director, Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth, and Advancement (YIAGA) Africa, Samson Itodo, believe that the #EndSARS protest heightened the spirit of activism among the youths, just as it established the compelling need to demand a better deal when political leaders allow things to go wrong.

While maintaining that Obi’s entry into the fray may not, stricto sensu be responsible for the surge in the demand for PVCs, Hassan, a development advocate said: “We cannot categorically say that Obi is the reason for the rise in the number of youths that are trying to register to vote. But there is, however no doubt that his call has influenced the youths. But we believe that since the October 20, 2020, #Endsars protest, Nigerian youths’ spirit of activism has been awoken, and citizens are now beginning to take up responsibility, and ownership of
the country.

“They have realised that they have to play their parts to make this country great. We can agree to some extent that having a higher percentage of youth showing interest in the electoral process can be seen as a revolt or a revolution, but a total revolution will be seen as a complete takeover of the entire political space. So, we cannot call it a revolution at the moment,” said Hassan, a lawyer.

On his part, Itodo, a community organiser and development practitioner said: “Young people are angry, tired, desolate with the state of governance in the country. How do you explain the fact that young people are not seen as assets, but as a threat? That is why police brutality targeted at young people has increased hence the resistance that we saw during the #EndSARS protest. Looking at unemployment, the rate stands at about 33 per cent. So, young people are just tired and angry with the failure of leadership to deliver on electoral promises. Consequently, there is anger, resentment, and disillusionment in the land, but there is a recognition that the only way to fix this is for young people to come out and cast their votes.

He continued: “It is important to highlight the fact that youth turnout for elections has been very poor. In the 2019 election, the level of youth turnout was less than 30 per cent. Keep in mind that the youth demography on the voters’ register is about 51.1 per cent. Young people are not voting; they are not showing up during elections. The fundamental question to ask here is, is it a result of inertia, or it’s a form of resistance? When they don’t vote, are they also speaking? And I say Yes because they are rejecting this prebendal form of governance that just concentrates power on an elite that is reckless, and only concerned about using political power to advance their agenda, and not necessarily represent the people. So, young people are showing up at INEC registration centres to collect their PVCs, or to get registered so that they can vote in the next election.

“This new wave stems from the fact that there is a realisation within the country that bad leadership cannot take us out of the doldrums. It is also indicative of the fact that the best solution to our crisis; to our leadership problem; to this failure of government to provide insecurity is through the ballot box, and this realisation has come about because of the active engagement of young people in advocacy; civic activism and #EndSARS one; the state of insecurity, and the fact that on social media, young people are asking critical questions,” he said.

He continued: “The second factor responsible for this enthusiasm is INEC’s innovative approach to creating an online platform for young people to commence their registration. So, I think that the INEC registration portal is a masterstroke because, for the first time, people could commence their registration online and young people were excited about this considering the huge number that has registered. It is important to point out that about 78 per cent of those that are registering to vote are young people and it tells us something.

“Third, innovations introduced into the Electoral Act 2022 are also responsible for the new wave of enthusiasm as people increasingly believe that their votes would count. The belief can also be gleaned from the way that citizens and young people engaged in the electoral reform process when the National Assembly rejected the electronic transmission of the result. A lot of young people on social media mounted pressure; they protested.

Now, they have a law that guarantees, or provides for electronic transmission of results and provides for electronic accreditation using the BIVAS. I think, also tied to this is the fact that, to a large extent, young people are just tired of old and expired politicians who not only seek political power but also want to die in power. These young people, mindful of their resilience, energy, and innovation, feel that they can actually do better in public office.”

Besides the feeling of disillusionment heightened by raging insecurity, banditry, kidnappings, and unbridled violence, Itodo said that the state has failed in its responsibility to prioritise peoples’ welfare. “How do you explain the fact that ASSU is on strike and students have been at home for months now? That is unacceptable but within this period, we’ve seen public officials procure nomination forms for as high as N100m in their bid to become president. Recently also, we’ve seen civil servants and political appointees steal as much as N80b. How do you explain all these? When young people see this, they are angry, and even wonder what kind of country does not care about its citizens and their wellbeing; does not guarantee freedom of expression, but always looking for ways to gag and shake citizens,” he said.

The Co-founder of Amplified Online Radio said that the task before Nigerians, is how to ensure that 60 per cent of young people come out to vote in 2023, “but those 60 per cent must make informed choices because if uninformed people show up at the polling post, they are going to vote for incompetent people who lack capacity, lack moral capital, and character to hold offices. I expect to see young people voting for individuals who have emerged from democratic primaries, have legitimate qualifications, meet competence criteria, and that of the right character to provide leadership. It is also very good to see that our religious leaders are taking up the gauntlet, and mobilising people to register. It is a terrific strategy by the church. Our religious centres are now acting and playing their roles as agents of social transformation, I think it is a welcome development. What I am opposed to, is the group that seeks to compel people to register, those that are applying the “no PVC, no entry” rules. For me, it is undemocratic because electoral participation or political participation is not compulsory within our electoral jurisprudence.”

He added that, if you want to sustain political engagements, “then you have to be persuasive in encouraging people to go and register because people can have their PVCs if you compel them to, but it is no guarantee that they will vote, especially where you have a disengaged citizenry. We must be mindful of the fact that people have a right to nonparticipation because not participating is also political participation in a sense and there is expansive literature that explains this in detail. So, encourage and persuade people to go and register and collect their PVCs but don’t force them to vote because when you force them to vote, you are undermining a democratic principle.

“Let’s not be shocked, or surprised if there is a joker in the 2023 elections. I think that with this actively engaged citizenry, if their participation is sustained to the election day, then we might see some upheavals in the political configuration in 2023,” Itodo cautioned.

The lawyer and Co-Convener of Say No Campaign Nigeria advised the electorate to subject those who present themselves for the electoral contest to public scrutiny. They should be asked difficult questions both for legislative, as well as executive elections.

Voters also need to pay attention to the legislative elections because there is so much attention on executive elections, in particular, the presidential election. We need legislators who can raise questions about the actions of the executive.

“We need legislators who can put people at the centre of governance. Let us all focus our attention on legislative elections, and ensure that only competent leaders who have a character go to the National Assembly, and not those that go to the National Assembly and turn it into a rubber stamp assembly,” the convener of the
“Not Too Young To Run” Campaign.