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We, the permanently disenfranchised


Until a friend of mine posted the photograph (on this page) on her Facebook wall last Friday, I had resolved to stop sounding like a cracked vinyl disc over my PVC nightmare, even with the general elections kicking off this Saturday.

Yes, I’m ashamed to announce, I still don’t have my PVC. I’m ashamed, not for myself, but on behalf of INEC. Is there something I could have done to get it? Yes. I could have bribed someone. But must I give a bribe to get my PVC?

I know many people would readily counter that they did not give any bribes to collect theirs, but they would do well to acknowledge that millions other Nigerians have been unable to get their own PVCs for no fault of theirs. In fact, as a result of the inefficiency of the Independent National electoral Commission (INEC).

So, every time I watch senior officials of INEC reel out figures of Permanent Voters Card so far collected by voters, I keep wondering how they arrived at such figures. This is because the process INEC has put in place for the collection of those cards cannot honestly distribute 40 million PVCs in four years. Impossible!

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The figures regularly waved in our faces clearly show one thing: INEC gave out the bulk of the PVCs by proxy – even if the commission continues to deny that it did not. Tell that to the birds! The other acceptable explanation that can justify this humongous figure of collected PVCs is that the process of collection was deliberately made less cumbersome, and more voter-friendly in certain parts of the country. That, for instance, explains why more PVCs were collected in war-torn parts of the country than in some of the parts that are relatively peaceful.

How do I mean? Ask any person, who is not unemployed, and is neither a card-carrying member of any political party nor openly identified with any of the major parties, if (and how) he/she managed to get his or her PVC. It would either be that he has not collected yet, or he would regale you with tales of how he literally passed through the proverbial eye of the needle to collect the all-important card.

Over the last five years, I have made no fewer than six unsuccessful visits to my supposed collection points. After the first two visits, it dawned on me what I needed to do to get the card: drop some money. And since I have refused to give that bribe – which has oscillated between N3,000 and N500, depending on whom you meet, I still have no PVC.

It has been very frustrating!  At a point, I even thought it was because, as one tout jibed at me sometime back, I ‘was forming big man’. So, sometime last year, I approved two days off work for my secretary (who was having the same PVC problem) to go collect hers. After three consecutive days of resuming and closing with the INEC officials at her unit (including having to wake up early and getting to the venue, before the arrival of the almighty INEC staff, to put her name on the list of Awaiting-PVCs), she came back to the office empty handed.

Her tale did not vary much from my own previous experience: The INEC staff, who were supposed to have resumed by 8:00am, would stroll in about 11:00am and 12:00, find one reason or another to dress down the fellow Nigerians (lesser mortals), some of whom could have been waiting since 6:00am, call for the list, and reluctantly settle down to work.

Not minding that she reported very late to work, the INEC staff would barely have attended to 10 people before she abandons the work to go for lunch break. She would kill off another hour or two doing lunch – that is even if she did not decide to close for the day there from. If she was magnanimous enough to return, she would attend to another 10, 15 or 20 more people before 3:30pm. Closing time!  Yes, even if the INEC workers came late to work, they would never close late – or work for a single minute beyond closing time.

Meanwhile, all the other persons on the more-than-200-long list would have to go back and return the next day. However, a fresh list would have to be compiled for that next day. And many of those desperate to get on that new list, even if the reported to the collection centre by 6:00am, would have to ‘drop something’ for the security men and touts, to whom the list had been ‘officially’ franchised, before they would be allowed to enter their names on the list.

About six months later, while having a stint at a new television house, I sent out another set of staff on the same mission, but this time on the Lagos Island. After two days and visits to three Local government collection centres, they returned with the same story.

Meanwhile, INEC keeps sexing up the figures of collected PVCs across the geopolitical zones, and admonishing the rest of us for not going to collect our own PVCs.

Before my last trip to my Lagos collection centre, I visited the INEC website to verify my status as a voter. There, it was confirmed that I am indeed a genuinely registered voter and that my card is ready. However, the INEC people looked at me like I dropped from outer space when I told them that I had been on this PVC matter since 2011, when I last voted. They bluntly told me that they were only attending to those registered during the last registration exercise.

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Going by our subsisting electoral laws, multiple registration is a criminal offence. So, having registered for a PVC since 2010, I cannot register again. That means I have been technically, if not permanently, disenfranchised. That is how the rigging begins. It is not only about Nasir el-Rufai’s body bags, or having Buhari’s ‘sister’ collate the final results, or redeploying Commissioners of Police, or asking Ganduje to lock up stadiums in Kano, or making sure that the PDP campaign is starved of funds, or harassing leaders of the opposition, or making outlandish allegations about opposition arms build-up, or even replacing a suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria. The election has indeed, already been rigged with the PVC administration. Mind you, I did not say anything about underage voters and foreign mercenaries.

This election cannot be said to be free and fair if there are still millions like me who desire to vote, but cannot, because they have been denied their PVC – by the same INEC, which is wasting billions of naira on enlightenment campaign on one hand, while, on the other hand, making it impossible for us to get the PVCs. Suspiciously, INEC has stuck to its story that it is us who are not coming forward to collect our PVCs. That is why many people, especially in the opposition, insist that the electoral commission has a hidden agenda.

That both the winner of the vote, his total vote haul, the winning margin, and the pattern of voting, have long been decided. That INEC is merely waiting for the formalities of February 16 and March 2 before announcing the results. If this was not the case, how then can INEC explain the fact that it never found a need to revisit the PVC distribution model, despite the complaints from several quarters?


…Ethnic flavoured campaigns posters

Driving through the streets of Lagos, I see a lot of ethnicity in posters I come across. In one of them a certain Rhodes-Vivour, who is seeking a senate seat on the platform of the PDP, suddenly added “Chinedu” to his list of given names – probably, the same way Gov. Rochas Okorocha once asked Imo people to add “Okechukwu” to Buhari’s names.

Down at my neck of the wood in the Amuwo/Okota axis, the posters are even more laughable. Convinced that the large Igbo communities there would only vote for one of their own tribe (how insulting!), so, many posters are titled; “Nkea bu nke anyi” (this one is our own) – as in one of us.

 Even the Yoruba candidates are using the same line. One of the seemingly Igbo candidates even took it to the Yoruba: dressed himself in a voluminous agbada and proclaimed ‘Eyi ni tiwa’. At least, he recognised that the Yoruba voters (as if they too would only vote for Yoruba candidates) also have a say in the area. What he did not realise, however, is that rather than transliterating his Igbo “Nkea bu nke anyi” to “Eyi ni tiwa”, the Yoruba might be more attracted to something like “Tiwa n tiwa”.

The drama even extends to Amuwo, with a similar voter profile as Okota, and where PDP’s Hon. Oghene Egoh is seeking re-election into the House of Representatives. Although his name suggests he is Urhobo, the federal lawmaker is seriously counting on Igbo votes too. His posters bear his image and that of Peter Obi, not that of Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate.

Even YPP’s Moghalu has caught the bug. His “It’s Time” posters are reproduced in Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba – with matching tribal dresses to go with the title, Oge Erugo, Asiko Tito, etc. I guess, that means that those whose ethnic dresses and native languages are not represented in the posters should not bother voting for Moghalu and YPP, right?