Continuous Voter Registration. Photo/FACEBOOK/inecnigeria
The endless clamour for the extension of the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) period is a metaphor for the failure of governance, which has given rise to public disillusionment. Left to some people, the exercise could go on indefinitely because government does not operate on schedules or time table. Everything is done on ad-hoc basis. There is no certainty about what the government will do next. The morning shows the day.
That is a typical Nigerian way of doing things that has not helped us. It is a reflection of the quality of governance and the usual public attitude towards it. Now that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has refused to shift the date again after the July 31, 2022 deadline, thousands, indeed, millions of potential voters have been disenfranchised, which is not good for the polity. But that wouldn’t have been the case if there were good governance whereby the people have been cultured to take government and issues of national importance serious.
Whereas, the culture of fire-brigade approach has become entrenched in Nigeria’s governance structure, on their part, Nigerians also have an entrenched lackadaisical attitude towards every public issue or directive. There is this peculiar inherent instinct that pervades the average Nigerian mentality, which is not found elsewhere. That mentality has conditioned most Nigerians to wait for the last minute before responding to any issue or directive from government. Poor governance plus poor public attitude lead to failure. This, unfortunately, confronts this society. It doesn’t make for progress.
The usual scenario is that Government or its agency would issue a directive for members of the public to comply. Majority of the public would ignore it and instead go about their normal businesses. Few days to the deadline, everybody would troop out, all at the same time, for the matter; in a rather chaotic manner. To get people attended to under the circumstance becomes hectic. The situation leads to bribing officials by some to gain the upper hand. It becomes survival of the fittest; a man-know-man affair. Those who cannot struggle or offer bribe are shut out.
By the time the deadline expires, most of the people would not have accomplished the task and there would be calls for extension of time to enable everybody get their turn. The time is extended by one or two weeks or a month. Unfortunately, the extension creates distortion in the original time-table for the exercise. And even at the end of the extra time, millions of people would still not have been attended to. The fact that many people were left out, coupled with the chaotic nature in which the exercise was conducted, the entire thing is messed up; thereby, rendering the collected data unreliable or messed up. Nigerians have been conditioned to live like that; we have seen it on many occasions and it has become very difficult to change.
For instance, sometime ago, the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) issued a directive for motorists to obtain a new vehicle number plate and driver’s licence. In sane climes, before that announcement was made, both the number plates and licences would be ready at the designated motor vehicle licensing offices in the country. But that was not the case. There was no clear-cut agreement between the FRSC and the state governments on who should issue the new vehicle instruments. Consequently, there were contentions and litigations here and there against the FRSC directive. While this was going on, the FRSC, knowing full well that millions of motorists had not gotten the new vehicle instruments due to several hitches, was busy setting deadline for motorists to obtain the instruments or get their vehicles impounded. How could that be? It failed woefully.
As expected, few people took the FRSC’s directive serious. Majority of Nigerians waited for the last minute. Even at that, those who made attempt to get the driver’s licence, in particular, faced very tough procedures at the few existing licensing offices. The whole thing was a sham, until there was a court order restraining the FRSC from implementing its illegal deadline. At the same time, the new number plate was declared illegal by the court, showing that the governance/administrative issues were not sorted out first.
The same lackadaisical attitude has played out in the National Identity Card scheme and the Bank Verification Number (BVN) directive issued by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) towards the end of 2014. People have ignored these directives. Assuming a deadline is set for the issuance of these instruments, there would be rush, as everybody would troop to the banks or the offices of the Nigerian Identity Card Management Commission (NIMC) to get the instruments. Right now, the organisations are begging people to come and obtain these instruments, but many are reluctant.
The scenarios described above have played out in the on-going elections being organized by the INEC. There is problem both from INEC and the voting public. The preparation for the elections, including the distribution of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) ought to be a four-year programme. As a matter of fact, the process kicked off precisely on May 29, 2019. The swearing into office of the incumbent Buhari administration on that day marked the end of the 2015 electioneering season and the beginning of the 2023 polls season.
It is, therefore, baffling that barely six months to the elections; the preparation appeared to be only halfway done. The voters’ cards appear not yet ready. The PVC, which is the main instrument for voting, is yet to be distributed across the country. While the development is typical Nigerian way, it is inimical to the system. Now that the original time-table is being thwarted, INEC would now be engaged in fire brigade. No one knows what the new outcome would be. What would happen if all the PVCs were not collected before the new dates or if the security situation does not improve across the country?
It was not surprising that INEC yielded to the pressure, which by implication, showed that it was not yet ready. If INEC had been up and doing, it would have started the voter registration and distribution of the PVCs early enough. That way, there would have been enough time for people to register and collect their cards, notwithstanding that some, still, would have waited until the last minute to collect theirs. In that case, the deadline (if any), for collection, would have been set at least six months ahead of the date of the first election. But because INEC did not do its work diligently, it became constrained by time and the commission is getting under pressure. Interestingly enough, the commission has not said it lacked the resources to do its work. What then is INEC’s problem?
By the way, there ought not to be a deadline set for the collection of PVCs, as it is done in other climes. The registration for elections is part of vital statistics gathered and stored in the database and used for national development planning. If things are done properly, people should be free to register and collect their PVCs all year round, as one turns 18. On the Election Day, those who did not have the voting card cannot vote. The same goes for all vital statistical social instruments. The practice of setting deadline for everything in Nigeria is intrinsically flawed and should be discontinued. It is usually contrived to satisfy selfish interest rather than national. It amounts to misgovernance.
Truth is that even if the election is postponed for one year, assuming that is possible many Nigerians would still not register or collect their PVCs because of the inherent poor mentality that pervades the population. In fact, if the election is shifted for one year, people will simply go home and relax. Others would continue with their normal businesses, waiting for the last minute. And now that INEC has refused to shift the voter registration date, it is hoped that the commission would be able to complete the processes to enable people collect their PVCs before the election date.
It is important to note that millions of Nigerians have relocated to other parts of the country different from where they registered initially for fear of violence. Given this unfortunate situation, there might be no end to PVC collection, if we have to wait for everybody to collect his or hers. The onus is on INEC to do its appointed job properly. At this juncture, it should be stressed that politicians should be wary not to plunge this country into crisis. Politicians did it in 1966. History should not repeat itself.
Continuous Voter Registration. Photo/FACEBOOK/inecnigeria