The Permanent Voter Card (PVC) is recognized by many as an object carrying the power for change. It is sign of the capacity for choice and the catalyst for deciding who is in power. But according to Joel Ademisoye, an Adjunct Professor of Geography at the University of the District of Columbia and Bowie State University, Bowie, Maryland, “Many Nigerians of voting age take the utility of PVC in the election process for granted.”
So, why are the electorate reluctant about obtaining the supposed “power” card? Of what use is the PVC besides giving the power to vote? Of what significance is the PVC to the lives of Nigerians who have lived to see administrations fail in their promises after one another? What does the present generation have to look forward to in the imminent elections of 2019 if they obtain the card and decide to vote?
According to the National Population Commission (NPC) and the National Bureau for Statistics (NBS), 61% of its 180 million population members are eligible to register as voters. However, the 2015 general election saw to the registration of 68.8 million eligible voters, that is, 38 percent of the population. Relatively the percentage suggests a state of low interest or participation by many Nigerians in the country’s politics, particularly in its electoral process.
Amongst the 68.8 million eligible voters who registered for the 2015 elections, only 28,587,564 Nigerians went to the polls to cast their votes on the day of the general election, which translates to 15.9% of the country’s total population, a small number of voters across the country. The Nigerian government thinks establishing more public awareness programmes to mobilize and educate the Nigerian voting population about their civic duties and responsibilities to exercise their voting rights is the solution to electorates indifferent to getting the PVC.
The experience was not great for Josephine Anieze, who registered at the INEC centre at Oregun high school, Ikeja in 2014. When the 34 years old was asked what her PVC collection process was like, she responded “PVC ke, ah! It was stressful. It took me a month to locate a registration center, on top that sef, I spent almost three months trying to get the yeye card.”
For Miss Kehinde Apata, she refused to obtain the card because she was told one will have to pay 500 Naira to fast-track obtaining the card. She also added that a sum of 5,000 Naira was demanded to be paid before she can retrieve her lost card. In spite of the perceived obstacles to obtaining the PVC, some people still bother to go through the 20-30 minute process of registration, hoping they get to use it for their personal endeavors.
Apart from giving the power to vote, owning a PVC comes with additional perks, such as having a valid ID to open a bank account, retrieve a sim card, or as a requirement for eligibility in politics. Besides, it is easier to obtain during the election period compared to the national identity card, which could take years. These benefits can explain why over 40.2 million registered voters took the time to obtain the PVC they didn’t use for the 2015 election.
Increasing announcements about getting the PVC has further spurred electorates; though they do not necessarily intend to put the card to use in the coming election. Speaking with The Nerve Africa at the INEC registration centre at Tokunbo Ali primary school, Ikeja Lagos, a public administrator with the Lagos state government Mrs Opeyemi noted that publicity is why she came to register.
“I’m just here to get the card and nothing less. You never know when it might come in handy,” Mrs. Opeyemi said. When asked if she is excited to have a license that can guarantee participation in a National change process Mrs Opeyemi responded “I do not intend to vote in the coming elections. It won’t make any difference, I mean, the system is corrupt as it is.
“We have less hope to hold on to compared to what we use to have in the past. It would take a revolution to bring the change the Nigeria needs. So many doors that have been open need to be closed,” Mrs Opeyemi added.
“It’s assurance things now o,” said a young man who pled anonyminity. “O ma make sense tin ba gawo, ju kin lo vote fun eyan ti o sure, oye e bayii?” (It is better to sell my vote, than to vote for a candidate who has no guarantee.) For this young Nigerian, a win-win situation is what he is gunning for. This is a reflection of what Barr. Akharame Izedome Lucky, Coordinator of Youths Arise for Un-diluted Change, called “a political system that accepts the votes of young Nigerians every election year, pay them peanuts as political thugs and consultants during elections, discard them after elections and keep them in the waiting rooms and corridors of government offices for the next four years.”
As much as the PVC has been identified to give veto power to electorates, less is been said when it comes to getting the right person into power. The PVC does not guarantee that the most qualified candidate would be elected nor the elected candidate will do an excellent job when he/she gets into power.
In a country like Nigeria, the slogan “your vote counts” and the concept of “your vote can bring the change you want” has been rubbished by a bitterly divided political class that exists in the nation. Many political analysts have attributed some Nigeria’s problem to sad misunderstanding of the principle of multi-party system in a democratic environment.
In the Nigerian politics, no party is different from the other in its political and economic operations. The federal, state, and local government is based on government and opposition principle i.e. the party with the highest number of legislators would form the government, leaving the other parties in opposition to lick their wounds. The resultant political horizon of Africa’s biggest economy is a bitterly divided class of oppressive majority and often rebellious minority, and not just this problem but also the existence of faction groups in one political party or the other.
However, the dynamics of the Nigerian political system is never predictable. Today it is balanced, tomorrow chaos is the order. Nothing seems sure at the moment. Integral solutions that are available are not often presented. We all know what’s best for the country; hence, other people’s solutions should not be considered. Nigeria is now a country where law and order has absconded.
With the 2019 elections approaching, so much needs to be done beyond providing and obtaining the PVC. Africa’s biggest economy is faced with leadership crisis that transcends what an election can solve. Electorates need to ask, do we keep voting for candidates who seem to charm us with their wits or those who campaign for an undefined change? Do we actually think the PVC is our chance to get the change we truly desire? Truth is, there is so much to sleep on and ponder, but 2019 is imminent and the time for inaction is long gone.