Postscript on permanent voter’s card ‘revolution’

The term ‘revolution’ is one of the most misused and misunderstood in our political discourse in Nigeria.

Recently, some sections of the Church, Christian faith, have added their voice in a most dramatic way to the ‘enforcement’ of Permanent Voter’s Card’s (PVC) registration and acquisition by their members.

Some pastors have gone to the extreme of even denying their members sacerdotal duties if they cannot show evidence that they are registered voters.

The reason why the Church has been called into the foray of PVC ownership is not far-fetched. Unfortunately, it does not seem to be borne out of some sudden sense of patriotism, The Trumpet gathered.

It is not due to a desire by the Church’s leadership to make any change on the damaged economy, corruption and inept leadership. The Church is rising to protect its members and itself.

The first reason is the perceived threat against its leadership, and members by Islamist fundamentalism. Second, and related to the first, is the Church’s perception that the Federal Government – by body language – does not seriously desire to provide the much needed security by engaging the fundamentalists – most of whom are foreign Fulani infiltrators – with all the forces and might of government.

Invariable, the Church is uniting itself to effect a political change through the ballot in the next elections. This new feeling is exacerbated by the murder and burning of Sarah Yakubu by some of her fellow students at the Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto.

This incidence has been quickly followed by the kidnap of the Methodist Prelate, an Anglican Bishop and currently another senior Anglican Clergyman.

None of the foregoing is as serious and dastardly as the massacre that was witnessed at Owo in a Catholic Church during Mass. The general thinking of most Church leaders is that the criminals who carried out these evils will all go the ‘normal’ way. None will be apprehended. None will be brought to justice.

The perpetrators of these evils are generally perceived to be persons above the law by circumstances of their birth and their faith and their ethnic nationality. It is not as if the divide in Nigeria has been sealed over the years of our chequered history. The National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) scheme was established after the Civil War to solve the problem of ethnic divide in Nigeria.

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Today, it has failed in this specific primary assignment. Not many youth of Southern Nigeria extraction would go to some Northern States. Ethnic hate and fear of being killed without State protection are the reasons.

The ethnic divide in Nigeria can only be glossed over by government at the peril of the state and her citizens. The new Christian visible religious incursion into Nigerian polity is caused by government that today seems to be paradoxically applauding an impending danger.

No nation that is divided along religious lines survives. PVC is the plank upon which the Church has actively entered Nigerian politics. I doubt if it is not just a first step.

Even Frederick Lugard, in his 1914 Amalgamation speech saw this divide in Nigeria when he said, “The Legislative Council of Nigeria, if it is to represent the public opinion of Nigeria, must draw its Unofficial Members alike from Calabar and Lagos in the South, and from the Minefields and Kano in the North.

To no place, however central, could the busy merchants and others find time to come in order to attend the Council’s Meetings. It would be manifestly unjust to place the Mohammedan Emirates of the North and the Mining interest in the Bauchi plateau under a Council sitting on the Coast, in which they have no representation…”

Let us also recall King George’s words in “The Nigeria Gazette – Extraordinary” of Thursday, January 1, 1914, Lagos thus: “On the occasion of the formal Amalgamation of the two Nigerians, I wish you [Lugard] to convey to the Emirs, Chiefs and inhabitants of the New Protectorate and the Colony my best wishes for their future.

Pray assure them of the great interest I take in their welfare and express my earnest hope that great prosperity may be in store for them.” Many years later the “two Nigerians” have increased. In Southern Nigerian alone we have Biafra, Oduduwa, and the Niger-Delta groups. The Middle Belt bloc is also visible.

The “Two Nigerians” citizens’ future that 1914 spoke about is now today. But it is one lacking ‘welfare’ and ‘prosperity’. We live in danger and fear of eminent attacks by bandits, unknown gunmen, kidnappers, terrorists, and thieving civil servants and politicians who are careless whether we have functional education, health and economy. Lugard may have spoken about the Mohammedan North; today a Christian South seems to be emerging. Why is our government blind to this?

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Why are we calling it a PVC revolution? Every revolution is against an existing body or system or status quo. Revolutions are meant to effect sociopolitical change. Scientific revolutions are harsher. In science a revolution is said to occur when new scientific laws emerge to replace old existing laws, thereby making the old laws obsolete and consequently abandoned by the scientific community.

In the socio-political sphere a few characters of the ancient regime may remain as vestiges of the old in the new. Nevertheless, the old is often kicked out by a new class who were not part of the status quo.

The Revd Martin Luther-King did not use PVC to enforce his Black Rights’ revolution; Herbert Macaulay, Jeremiah Awolowo, Benjamin Azikwe, Anthony Enahoro; NADECO and other Pro Democracy groups in Nigeria, etc carried out great socio-political change without the use of PVC.

PVCs are only essential if the existing structure and players are accepted as genuine constitutional provisions and statesmen. Ballot boxes can only bring about limited political change.

I say limited because today, given our political reality in Nigeria, the PVC we hold can only give us Atiku or Obi or Tinubu. Our voting for these politicians is a function of the delegate system that has foisted them on us.

They can only rule within the structure given to them by the Nigerian Constitution that they will ultimately swear to uphold on oath. Here are the limitations of those currently building castles of hope on a PVC Revolution.

Many citizens are currently acquiring PVCs because they think that their preferred candidates will gain power and effect some radical political change.

They may sooner or later begin to rally around the Church for new forms of agitations; borne out of the failure of government to guarantee life and property; and now painfully, the right of citizens to unimpeded freedom of the religion of their choice in ANY part of Nigeria at any time.

Let us collectively, with a sense of justice, truth, equity and fairness, stop this tide towards a two Nigerians before it gathers full momentum.

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