by Osho Samuel
YES, INEC SAVE NIGERIA FROM VIOLENCE
As tensions reach its climax as regards the forthcoming General elections, there is a need to avoid discepancies which could emerge from any of the key players. The key players in the 2015 elections are: the aspirants of the two dominant parties, the electoral umpire; Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and the electorates. For the electorates to exercise their franchise; there is a need for them to register with INEC and possess a valid Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC). The bone of contention is the sudden crave of INEC for PVC as the electoral umpire makes it mandatory for every voter to have one.
During the registration for the 2011 general elections, Temporary voter Cards (TVC) were issued. For as many as could present the cards to verify their identity at the polling units were allowed to cast their votes. INEC berated individuals who had double registration as their names were deleted and even threatened to prosecute such individuals. In 2011, the electoral umpire under the leadership of Prof. Attahiru Jega declared that it was processing the Permanent Voter Cards (PVC) and it will be issued for use in the 2015 elections. It is quite appalling to know that it took INEC 4 years to produce the PVCs and not only that but they are yet to successfully distribute the cards to the voters. The implications of INEC’s body language concerning the general elections could spell danger for the nation’s political terrain.
Despite the uneven distribution of PVC, INEC has declared that without the PVC presented, made it compulsory for every electorate to present their cards before they can vote. Majority of the potential voters, don’t even have their names on the register talk less of getting PVC, this was due to the move of INEC in 2011 to delete names of individuals with double registration. This set of people are technically disenfranchised which means that though they might have their aspirants, they cannot vote. Looking at Nigeria’s constitution and the Electoral Act, INEC is not empowered to strip voters of their right to vote because of double registration. They could have deleted the double, keep the details of the voter in the register and probably prosecute the individual.
The distribution of the PVCs is also a source of worry to voters as it was supposed to hold for three days and to be collected in INEC Local Council Offices. The feasibility of this method of distribution is questionable. Only about 30% of the voters have collected their PVCs and this is barely a month to elections. This means that electorates will need to travel to their different constituencies where they registered to get the card. Take for instance Corps members scattered all over the nation, how many will be willing to travel as far as 10 hours to get the PVC? Why is INEC so adamant on PVC? The electoral body has failed in its responsibility to make the card available early enough and it should not be the electorates bearing the burden of their inefficiency. The voters’ register will always be available at the polling centers. The voters’ register is biometric meaning that it has the picture, fingerprints and details of the voter; it can be used to cross-check the identity of voters as they approach the polling booth. This only means that there might be a suspicious agenda behind the mandatory decree of PVC usage.
In any electoral setting willing to witness a free and fair election, one thing is required, and that is a solid trust and confidence of the electorates in the electoral umpire. This trust comes only by transparency and objectivity on the part of the electoral system. There is likelihood that more than 50% of electorates will be disenfranchised by the decrees of INEC and this could lead either to violence or electoral apathy. Electoral violence seems to be in the offing because of the politically heated up atmosphere. If the violence is not properly handled, it can lead to the cancellation of elections. It will be commonsensical and wise for INEC to allow both PVCs and TVCs knowing that every voter’s identity can be validated in the voters’ register prior to voting. It is quite understandable that the PVC is a smart card based voter ID which stores information such as bio-data, biometrics and facial image with security features which abhors counterfeiting. Nothing is special about these qualities since we have not even developed to the extent of making use of e-voting. The electoral system of the nation needs massive development and INEC all in the name of looking sophisticated should not take this election away from the determinants; the electorates. Let them exercise their power even if it means postponing the use of PVC till 2019.
by Tijani Olumayowa
NO, EXCEPT NIGERIANS WANT TO FORGET FREE AND FAIR TOO
On Friday, at Goodluck Jonathan’s campaign rally in Enugu, the President said he was glad that Nigerians are getting conscious of the need to vote and the need to get their PVCs. He highlighted the progress in INEC as one of his successes in government. INEC may not be the best it can be, but it is sure far from what obtained in 2003 and 2007, there’s now a more credible twist to the commission.
Over the past week, I was in the frontline of Permanent voter cards (PVC) observation across the nation. On social media, I engaged @inecnigeria as regards PVC and engaged my northern friends on the speed of PVC distribution in the north.
@inecnigeria said the registration for voter card across the Nation has closed, meaning those who turned 18 in January or early February would not be expressing themselves at the polls in February. On transfer of voter cards from one state to the other, the commission said the cards may not be ready if transferred at time to close to the register declaration date.
The Obvious Unseen
On the other front, the news from my Northern friends hasn’t been impressive enough; a particular friend serving in Lafia said the case in some parts of the north was only second to pathetic, saying Nigeria may not have credible elections come February.
He said there are many villages in the north that have been ransacked by Fulani migrants, making it Impossible for INEC to mobilize corps members to those areas for PVC distribution, and the ones given to corps members cannot be taken to those villages, so politicians approach corps members and tip them into selling PVCs.
According to him, Corps members are no longer posted to ransacked villages for the fear of the incessant attacks. To make matters worse, INEC has declared time and again, that elections would not hold in three states in the northeast except security operatives can guarantee the safety of its staff. Even when they can’t guarantee the safety of themselves!
The Obvious expectations
In the light of the foregoing, it is certain, that the elections would have numerous questions to answer in the end, but those questions would be easy to answer. The questions that would find no justifiable answers are the PVC based questions.
Many have requested that PVCs be scrapped and the voter registers be used for voting, with the excuse that this would give all registered voters the opportunity to exercise their franchise seeing that the process of PVC collection is cumbersome, and can been postponed till 2019.
The Attendant results
The PVCs currently given are made from details of biometric capture done from 2011 to 2014, yet there is news that some political parties are planning to clone PVCs to run the elections in their favour. What would then be the case if the people are granted the opportunity to use those paper-made temporary voter cards?
There would be no need to get professionals, IT experts to clone cards, anyone who can successfully handle Microsoft word or Corel draw can make voter cards for as many names that show up on the voters register.
This would go a long way in marring the outcome of the said elections. INEC has said it would publish the names of all registered voters in January, meaning any political party can access the list and make like TVCs for Nigerians who are not willing to exercise their rights, thereby making it possible for monkey to vote on behalf of baboon, seeing they have similar identities.
According to INEC 38.7million people have collected PVC, this is evidence that the PVC collection process may be cumbersome, but its progressing slow and steady. If INEC is pressured into neglecting PVC for TVC or Voters register, then Nigerians should forget about anything Free and fair or free of fear.