By Maria Famakinwa
The role of the electorate in a democratic experiment cannot be over-emphasised because of their importance in determining where the pendulum of elections swings.
To ensure this, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) who is the election umpire including Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and concerned citizens of the country have devoted time to educate the general public about the voting process to prevent voters apathy and also stressed the need for those who are yet to collect their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) to do so within the time limit to avoid being disenfranchised.
Despite the efforts made, it was surprising that some days to the much awaited elections, INEC Committee on Information and Voter Education Committee chairman, Festus Okoye said that some Nigerians were yet to collect their PVCs. He said, “the reports from different states indicated that many Nigerians have collected their PVCs. Most Nigerians are aware that the Commission registered a total of 84,004,084 eligible voters, out of this number, 14,283,734 were registered during the continuous Voters’ Registration. The collection of PVC is still on till February 8 thereafter, the commission will recall all uncollected PVCs and keep them in quarantine with the CBN and they will remain there till the elections are over.
Correspondent moved round the streets of Akure, Ondo State capital to ask how many of the voters have collected their PVCs and how prepared were they for the coming elections. An Akure base civil servant, Mrs Teniola Iwayemi said that she could not wait for the election day to come as she was prepared to cast her vote for her preferred candidate. “I am very prepared for the election because it is the beauty of democracy. I love taking part in the process of electing who governs us. I don’t have any excuse for not voting since I have gotten my PVC. Besides, elections days are work free days. So, I must vote because I am qualified.”
On why some citizens do not like to vote despite being qualified, she explained that some of them are discouraged because of violence that characterised past elections and chose to stay indoor for safety reason.
Sharing similar sentiment, a businessman at Oja -Oba market in Akure, Mr Wilson Onyeka who showed his PVC to prove his level of preparedness added that in order to ensure that he does not misplace his PVC, he keeps it in his wallet and take it to any where he goes. “I am prepared, this is my PVC, it is my right as a citizen of this country to vote which I will not deny myself. All I want is that electorates votes must count. That is the only way the citizens of this country can develop interest in the electoral process. However, we want the authority concerned to take drastic steps against vote buying which may cause chaos on election days.”
A 20-year-old Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA) student, Adeyinka Owolabi who expressed joy that he was able to collect his PVC last year December noted that the coming elections will be the first time he will be excersing his civic duty, since he was born because he was not up to the voting age during the last general elections. “I will be glad to vote in the coming election as it will be my first time of voting because I was not up to the voting age during the last general elections. The only challenge I am facing now is that my parents do not want me to go out on that day due to fear of violence which characterised past elections across the country but, I will do all I can to convince them because I want to have that experience.”
A teacher, Mrs Ajibike Popoola, also expressed her readiness to vote in the coming election as she urged every registered voters to come out en mass and cast their votes for the candidates of their choice. “I am ready to vote and I also educate others why they should be part of the voting process. We must speak through our votes. It is not enough to sit at home and condemn, let us go out to cast our votes because it is our right. I will equally advise that electorates comport themselves in a peaceful manner and shun any act of violence. Parents and religious leaders should talk to the youth not to be tools in the hand of politians so that the election will be devoid of violence. “
A fashion designer, Mrs Abibat Nurudeen in her submission revealed that she might not vote because she has relocated from where she registered unless she will be able to get a cab that will take her to her former house. “I am not sure if I will vote because I registered at High School area where I was living before but now, I reside in Oda town which are two different areas. Unless I get a cab that will take me to my former house where I registered very early in the morning, I might not vote because it is not a trekable distance.”
Nurudeen who observed that many electorates will be disenfranchised because of her reason appealed to the electoral umpire to allow vehicular movements before 8.am so that those in her situation can also vote.
An artisan, Mr Isiaka Tafa, speaking on his readiness said that he registered in Kwara State before coming to Akure and every effort he made to transfer his PVC was not successful.”I registered in my State, Kwara and later came to Akure as my job demand, I went to INEC office with my friend, Yusuf to fill a form for our PVCs to be transferred to Akure. Surprisingly, only my friend saw his PVC mine could not be found. I was told to come back on a particular day, I went but it was the same story, I was told to re-register which I did but since then, I have not gone to check because I was discouraged. But now, I will go to INEC office to check if my PVC is ready.”
A man who simply wanted to be identified as Mr Niyi explained that though he registered and collected his PVC but will not vote because Saturday is his church worship days and urged INEC to make week days election day so that citizens like them will be able to vote. “The only complain I have against INEC is fixing Saturday as voting day without considering some of us who worship on Saturday. If they can shift it to week days, I will definitely vote after all they do shift election to week day if it did not take place on Saturday that was originally fixed.”
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