Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Why you should vote in the coming elections

The countdown has begun and it’s 10 days to the presidential and National Assembly elections coming up on February 14, God and court willing! I said court willing because there are overt and covert attempts by some elements to use the instrumentality of the courts to have the elections postponed in order to serve their vested interest despite repeated assurances by the Independent National Electoral Commission that it is ready for the polls. With public opinion more in support of the elections holding as scheduled in spite of some challenges with the preparations, I want to use this opportunity to enjoin all those who have yet to collect their Permanent Voter Cards to do so without further delay.
It is agreed that the Independent National Electoral Commission has not been optimal in its preparations for the polls especially with the sloppiness in the procurement and distribution of the PVCs and the card readers. We must however situate INEC’s tardiness in the commission’s inability to get the needed funding for the elections as and when due. It will be recalled that as of the first week of January 2015, INEC’s N75bn election funds were still being expected. This newspaper in its edition of January 6, 2015 quoted the Chief Press Secretary to INEC’s chairman, Mr. Kayode Idowu, as saying that, “I don’t know where the indicated figure (N75bn) will be sourced. INEC is in talks with relevant authorities on disbursement of outstanding funds and is receiving favourable consideration”. This was barely six weeks to the Election Day! I have said time and again that election is a process and not an event and some of the election materials are not on the shelf. They are tailored to suit certain specifications and the procurement processes is sometimes cumbersome except the Bureau of Public Procurement grants waiver to expedite the procedures. In fact, not all the money in the “World Bank” can procure certain election materials if the order for such is not made in good time for the vendors to deliver.
Having said that, INEC has said it now has all the PVCs of the registered voters. I want to give the commission the benefit of doubt on this. An estimated 45 million out of the approximate 69 million eligible voters have collected their PVCs as of the time of writing this piece on Monday, February 2. That leaves about 24 million yet to collect their voter cards. The commission has also extended the collection date from the initial January 31 to February 8. It has also recently decentralised the collection point to the Ward or Registration Area level as against the earlier Local Government Area collection point. That’s laudable.
However, but for the monetary factor, I would have preferred a situation where INEC will distribute the PVCs at the Polling Unit level. This would quicken the process, more so, if in addition, federal and state governments would declare at least one-day public holiday to enable civil servants and workers in the formal sectors to collect their PVCs. All said, it must be noted that whatever strategy is adopted, not everyone will be able to collect their voter cards.
The reasons for this are not far-fetched. First, voting is not compulsory in Nigeria unlike in places like Australia where voting is mandatory. Two, some of the registered voters may have died, incapacitated by sickness or travelled out of the country. Considering the fact that there is no collection by proxy, the PVCs of this category of voters will remain uncollected. Three, as a result of the security challenge in some parts of Nigeria as well as due to occupational mobility, some of the registered voters may have relocated elsewhere from where they registered. This category of voters may not have been aware of how to transfer their voter cards from where they initially registered to their new places of residence. This exercise by law ends 30 days to the polling day according to Section 13 (2) of the Electoral Act 2010, as amended.
If you have collected your PVC, I say congratulations to you. If you haven’t, hurry to your Registration Area or ward distribution point and make sure you collect before the February 8 extended deadline. Collection is what guarantees your voting right. Aside from enabling you to vote, the PVC is a veritable means of identification that is admissible in financial transactions such as opening of bank account and cash withdrawal. It is also acceptable means of air traveller identity before boarding. It’s in the same category as the National Driving Licence, “International Passport” and National Identity Card. This is because of its biometric features. So, the PVC has multiple usages. What is more, while you pay to obtain Driving Licence and travelling passport, the PVC is free! Collecting your PVC is step one. The more important action is to ensure you vote at the general elections starting next week.
A lot of times, we complain about things that are not working. The change we want to see in the quality of our elected representatives and in governance. Politics is about authoritative allocation of values as declares by political theorist David Easton. In a complementary manner, Harold D. Lasswell, another political scientist, says politics is about who gets what, when and how. It’s time to elect the right leaders into office so that we can have good governance; no patriotic Nigerian should be indifferent to this national call to duty. There is no sitting on the fence on this matter.
Political parties have been marketing themselves through their campaigns at political rallies and the media; to me, there are two broad choices before the Nigerian electorate: Continuity and change. While the Peoples Democratic Party has been campaigning on the theme of continuity, the main opposition party, the All Progressives Congress, has hinged its election battle cry on Change! Thus, the choice is ours to make between continuity and change. Of course, there are other less appealing options with nebulous manifestoes but generally speaking, the narrow choices are between the spotlighted thematic positions.
I have heard some people advance reasons why they will not vote. Some of them say the votes do not count as the outcome is already predetermined by powerful forces within and outside the election management body. Some say they have no significant dividends of democracy to show for their previous voting. They said rather than for things to improve, they have moved from bad to worse. Others hinge their lackadaisical attitude to election on the fact that they will not be able to vote due to their Election Day duties. People in this category include the security personnel on election duty, accredited observers on election duty, accredited journalists on election duty, health workers and other workers on essential duties such as the men of the Fire Service, electricity workers. The about 750,000 poll workers INEC is deploying on Election Day duty sadly too will not be able to vote just for the simple reason that there is no provision for early voting. One had also thought that out-of-country or Diaspora voting would have been allowed in this year’s elections. Unfortunately, it will not be.
For those who still believe that votes do not count in Nigeria, they need to wake up. Votes now count! What is more, it could be your vote that could determine the ultimate winner of the election. I stumbled on a piece written by Joachim Macebong on April 1, 2011, titled; “The Importance of one Vote”. The article is very instructive. Here is an excerpt: The most often heard excuse for not voting in an election is “my one little vote won’t make a difference.” Yet, history is full of instances proving the enormous power of one single vote. In many cases, the course of nations has been changed because one individual ballot was cast or not cast.
In 1645, one vote gave Oliver Cromwell control of England. In 1649, one vote literally cost King Charles I of England his head. The vote to behead him was 67 against and 68 for – the ax fell thanks to one vote. In 1714, one vote placed King George I on the throne of England and restored the monarchy. In 1776, one vote gave America the English language instead of German. Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and Rutherford B. Hayes all became the US Presidents by a margin of one vote. In 1868, one vote in the US Senate saved President Andrew Johnson from impeachment. In 1875, a one-vote margin changed France from a monarchy to a republic. On November 8, 1923, members of the then revolutionary political party met to elect a leader in a Munich, Germany beer hall. By a majority of one vote, they chose an ex-soldier named Adolph Hitler to become the NAZI Party leader. South Africa lost the bid to host 2006 world cup to Germany by one vote.”
Voting is your right, use it well!
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