Politics

Surge in voters registration and INEC’s response

By TUNDE JOSHUA, POLITICS EDITOR

As the ongoing Continuous Voters Registration (CRV) exercise ends on June 30th, 2022 there seems to be renewed awareness and enlightenment across the country for those concerned to strive to beat the deadline set by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

They are Nigerians who have not registered at all, those just attaining the adulthood age of 18 years and others that want to transfer their voting centres. This is thanks to civil society and faith-based organisations with support of foreign donor agencies that have penetrated communities courting collaboration of traditional and religious leaders to sensitize citizens on the need to be involved in the selection process for political office holders for better representation and good governance.

Trade associations are not excluded in the awareness drive, even though it may have political undertone and or be ethnic influenced in a few instances. In some areas densely populated by Easterners in Lagos, the drive for voters registration is massive.

The Trumpet learnt that punitive measures are even applied against anyone that fail to comply with the registration order. Recent development in Lagos in which there was report of attack on Nigerians who trooped out for the exercise was highly condemned by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which said such attack cannot deter anxious people wishing to register.

The PDP said it was disturbed by the dastardly action allegedly instigated by leaders of All Progressives Congress (APC) to prevent citizens, particularly people of the South East region resident in Lagos State from collecting their Permanent Voter Cards (PVC) to enable them vote in the 2023 general elections. “That action by the APC in Lagos is part of its desperate design to use violence to sabotage free, fair and credible elections in 2023 having realized that Nigerians have rejected its Presidential Candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu ahead of the polls,” claimed the PDP.

To this effect Hon. Debo Ologunagba, National Publicity Secretary of the PDP in a statement on Saturday said “Asiwaju Tinubu has been in morbid fear of the soaring popularity of the PDP Presidential Candidate, Atiku Abubakar, hence the attempt by the APC to stop Nigerians from obtaining their PVCs to vote in the elections; an action that portend serious threat and danger to our democratic process.

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“Is it not an irony that the party of the government of the day that pretends to have the support of the people and professes continuity is busy chasing away prospective voters? “The APC is already suffering from Pre-Election Fever Syndrome in trepidation that it cannot win in a free, fair, credible and transparent process where Nigerians are allowed to freely express their will.”

The PDP said it is particularly disturbing that this pattern is a resurgence of previous attempt in 2019 where APC leaders harassed Nigerians, especially the people of the South East and threatened to throw them into the Lagoon should they vote for any other party other than the APC.

“It will also be recalled that similar act of violence was unleased on Nigerians in the Isolo axis of Lagos in the 2019 general elections, where the APC, upon discovering that it has been rejected at the polls, openly sponsored and unleashed terror on innocent citizens and destroyed all votes cast.

“The APC has again become chaotic and desperate because Nigerians have recognized it as what it is; a Special Purpose Vehicle which was hurriedly put together to defraud the nation. Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the APC must know that they cannot surmount the determination of Nigerians who are now rallying on the platform of the PDP to use this 2023 general elections to take back their country from the stranglehold and misrule of the corrupt, incompetent, inhumane and rudderless APC,” said PDP.

The party cautioned Tinubu and the APC to thread carefully and rein in their “thugs, hoodlums and terrorists” as they will be firmly resisted by Nigerians. Also in a self convinced drive, icons in the nation’’s entertainment industry are set to lead an unprecedented street and social media awareness campaign for voters registration.

Burna Boy, Davido, 2Baba, Tecno, Zlatan, Olamide, Kizz Daniel, Wizkid, Psquare, Teni, Phyno, Zoro etc are set to organize a 10 million walk and operation show your PVC. Though, this is politically laden as it was said to be in support of Peter Obi, as it was said the artistes did a collaboration and produce an album that would become a national campaign jingle for the presidential hopeful who is running on the platform of the Labour Party (LP).

“We are paying all the network providers and making the jingle a free callertune for the millions of network users in Nigeria. “Imaging running a paid ad on all social media handles with PO as the man on stage. Imagine using the October 10, 2020 images to say no to voting for the looters of our economy. Imagine shutting down Twitter with traffic in support of this man.

Imagine INEC declaring Peter Obi the president elect come 2023. “The journey starts now. We can make the looters urinate on themselves when they see the force behind our movement. Enough is enough. Can you imagine! Peter Obi as President come 2023. Please share, let’s make Peter Obi go viral,” the message on the social media handle of the campaigners read.

But, stop to think of this: what suddenly made the youths to get interested in voting? Could it be that one of the political parties has selected someone with the right message for them? Are the youths shifting from their abode in the social media to real life especially now their votes can count?

An anonymous youth mobilizer who spoke to The Trumpet said youths have woken up from their political slumber which explain why they are are rushing to get their PVC. “They have learnt that they can determine who leads them. They no longer want those politicians who had lived out their own youths and are now determined to spend that of their children’s and grandchildren’s. Nigerian youths consist of 65% of the current population.

“The worrying news to the political establishment is that there are more than 48 million Nigerian youths of voting age. And they are annoyingly trooping out to obtain their PVCs,” he said. He also said that the new Electoral Act recently signed into law by President Buhari few months ago gave hope to Nigerians, particularly, the youths.

According to him, the youths have confidence in the fact that the law allows electronic transmission of results from the polling booths hence rendering political contractors, ballot box snatchers and result sheets manipulators useless. He said “results of any election in Nigeria can no longer be changed at the collation centres! Rigging of 2023 elections is nearly impossible. All results will be transmitted from 176,846 polling units to INEC’s server and can be viewed by anyone from all the world online real time.

The implication is that the winner of the 2023 presidential elections shall be known by 7pm on the Election Day without waiting for INEC pronouncement. “A political tsunami is about to happen as millions of youths jostling to get their PVCs have a different idea on who to vote for. They no longer listen to anyone neither do the majority of them believe in tribal marks.

If they are not stopped, the results of the 2023 elections will shock the world. Record had it that as at 2019, INEC had a total of 84,004,084 registered voters. Only 28,614,190 turned out to vote for president. Buhari won with 15,191,847 votes.

The Trumpet recall that last year, the Commission resumed the current nationwide CVR exercise. An elaborate calendar of activities spanning over 12 months was released. The introduction of the online pre-registration system and the new INEC Voter Enrollment Device (IVED) helped to reduce the long queues witnessed in the previous registration exercise in 2017 and 2018.

Also did INEC created additional registration centres and deployed more machines. In three states of Anambra, Ekiti and Osun , the exercise was devolved to ward level to give more citizens the opportunity to register ahead of their off-cycle governorship elections. Similarly, on weekly basis since 5th July 2021, the Commission has been giving weekly detailed updates on fresh registrations nationwide.

But it was unfortunate that in some places the exercise was disrupted by general insecurity. In other places, INEC Local Government Areas offices were consistently attacked resulting in the suspension of all activities, including voter registration.

A number of IVED machines were snatched and uncollected Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) destroyed. Worse, registration officials were violently attacked. Some of them were abducted but later released. In one sad incident, an official lost his life.

Despite these challenges, the CVR has continued nationwide. However, as the deadline for the suspension of the current exercise approaches, the Commission said it has received reports of a surge in the number of prospective registrants that daily throng our State and Local Government Area offices as well as designated centres in many states across the country.

Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu last Thursday at a meeting with Residents Electoral Commissioners in Abuja reassured Nigerians that the INEC remains committed to ensuring that all citizens who wish to register are given the opportunity to do so.

He disclosed that already, some of the Resident Electoral Commissioners have requested for more voter registration machines to ease the congestion while promising deployment of additional machines to areas of need immediately.

“We will always respond positively to the needs of Nigerians and therefore appeal to all citizens to be patient with the Commission as we strive to serve them better. We appreciate the desire of Nigerians to register as voters.

Let me reassure all eligible registrants that no one will be left out,” he assured. Keeping his words, the Commission has deployed additional 209 bimodal machines to the five South Eastern states, Lagos and Kano to tackle the sudden surge in registrations. Chairman, Information and Voter Education, Barr. Festus Okoye, who disclosed this at the weekend said in some states, the sudden turnout of prospective registrants was overwhelming.

“Consequently, the Commission convened an urgent meeting with all the Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) yesterday Thursday 9th June 2022 to review the situation so that eligible Nigerians who wish to register are able to do so. The necessity to urgently deploy more voter enrolment machines to ease the congestion at the registration centres was identified as a priority.

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