IT appears that the ongoing voter registration by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is generating only a passing interest from Nigerians. Yet, the importance of the exercise cannot be overemphasised. It is even more germane and propitious given the mixed fortunes of the citizenry since the country restored civil rule on May 29, 1999. The registration exercise, which is in tandem with Section 10 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), is meant for three categories of eligible citizens: Nigerians who are 18 years and above and who were not previously registered; eligible citizens who previously registered but whose names cannot be found in the voter register, and individuals who have lost or damaged their cards and would like to replace them.
The current exercise is highly crucial, especially when viewed from the twin prisms of the enunciated timetable for the 2019 poll by INEC and the avalanche of complaints and protests that trailed the nation’s electoral process during the 2015 elections. With the commission kick-starting the process for the next election, it behoves other stakeholders to expeditiously key into the system, notwithstanding that the registration exercise will subsist till January 2019. While we acknowledge the difficult times Nigerians are passing through, they must realise that their vote is their power and the process of exercising such power begins with making sure that all eligible citizens have their names in the voter register. The time to guarantee that is now when they can easily walk into the designated centres in their places of domicile for registration across the 744 local government areas in the country.
INEC has assured that it has mobilised all necessary logistics to make the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR), which began on April 27, a huge success. Such preparations include retraining and deployment of personnel and materials critical to the exercise, with the commission’s National Commissioners assigned to their respective zones to monitor the exercise. One way to determine the success of the exercise is by the citizens that fall into the categories of eligible persons registering and not waiting until the last minute before seizing the opportunity to have their names adequately and properly documented in the voter register.
No doubt, there is bound to be slight hitches and challenges in the course of the exercise, but INEC must take prompt action to address the issues so as not to discourage the majority of prospective registrants, especially rural dwellers. The complementary role of traditional rulers and local means of getting messages across to the people should not be discountenanced.Women and youths, in particular, must come out in their large numbers, as future leaders of the country. This is against the backdrop of claims that only 9,913,398 out of 24,346,157 Nigerians, believed to have attained the age of 18, were captured in the voter register in 2015.
Beyond rhetoric, all politically exposed individuals should lead the way by mobilising the citizenry for the ongoing exercise now, to avoid a repeat of the past where similar exercises were bungled because people had to wait until the election time to have their names on the register. The ongoing exercise provides the prospect of righting the wrongs of the past, which have substantially contributed to inept leadership, abysmal governance and near economic paralysis. The voter registration exercise is one sure way to address other inadequacies, including underage voting, that blighted the last elections.
INEC claims that 20 million Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) are yet to be collected. It should mount a vigorous and steady multimedia campaign aimed at creating public awareness on voter registration. As mass bodies also, the political parties should lead the way by ensuring that their members are fully mobilised to act as foot soldiers in the exercise. More importantly, the National Orientation Agency (NOA) should live up to its responsibility, as it appears engrossed in sermonizing on the Buy Nigeria policy which promotes the consumption of indigenous products, whereas people can also buy Nigeria politically by collecting their PVCs and participating in the electoral process.