– By Alex O. Akpodiete Atawa
Finally, the electorates are calm after endless rumours of election postponement and purported resignation of Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega. Late last Saturday night, the chief electoral referee of the nation, dispelled rumours of resignation, stating categorically that he is not biased and will not resign. He went further to announce that the Presidential and national Assembly elections have been moved from February 14 to March 28, 2015, while the governorship and State House of Assembly elections will now hold on Saturday, April 11 instead of the original date of February 28.
The postponement was very prudent because INEC is tasked with the responsibility of making sure the elections are “free, fair & credible.” There can be no fairness if a segment of the population is disenfranchised. The postponement is within the purview of the law. Section 26 (1) of the 2010 Electoral Act which states “Where a date has been appointed for the holding of an election, and there is reason to believe that a serious breach of the peace is likely to occur if the election is proceeded with on that date or it is impossible to conduct the elections as a result of natural disasters or other emergencies, the Commission may postpone the election and shall in respect of the area, or areas concerned, appoint another date for the holding of the postponed election, provided that such reason for the postponement is cogent and verifiable.”
The reason proffered by INEC was clearly “cogent and verifiable.” What amazed some of us was why anyone would have been opposed to a postponement, when all was not well. INEC has stated that the reason for the postponement was security challenges in the North East, posed by the terrorist group Boko Haram. Apparently, this was after consultations with the country’s security chiefs. This is buttressed by the fact that the European Union (EU) has stated that none of its over fifty (50) election monitors will go to the North East because their safety could not be guaranteed. However, there are other valid reasons for the postponement, especially as it concerns PVC.
PVCs have become a common word in Nigeria lexicon since last year. However, PVC has been around in the scientific community for some time. According to a publication called The Economic Benefits of Polyvinyl Chloride in the United States and Canada, “Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is a versatile thermoplastic material that is used in the production of hundreds of products that consumers encounter in everyday life … PVC is used in an enormous variety of applications and competes with a diverse range of substitute materials. For example, PVC pipe holds a commanding share in large diameter pressure water and sanitary sewer pipe because of its low initial cost, ease of installation, long and reliable service life, and its low replacement and repair cost.”
Now back to our recent use of PVCs in Nigerian lexicon. PVC represents Permanent Voter’s Card which INEC has stated must to be sine qui non for voting in any of the upcoming elections. The problem here is that millions of PVCs have yet to be manufactured, while over 25 million PVCs that have been manufactured, but have yet to be collected. The secondary point is that even INEC ad hoc staffs have not been trained on the use of the electronic card readers and election regulations.
When I was a Professor at a University, I encouraged my students to register massively during the previous registration exercise of 2011. So, it will not be “do as I say, but not as I do”, my wife and I registered at the University polling unit. Prior to contesting for the House of Representatives primaries, I applied to transfer my voter’s registration from the University where I was lecturing to my hometown. Unfortunately, more than four months (4) after, I was informed by INEC that my transfer has not been effectuated. In fact, even a particular governorship aspirant did not have his PVC. We are of course aware of the fiasco surrounding Governor Fashiola of Lagos State.
Why will anyone be in a rush to conduct an election when doing so will result in disenfranchisement of a large population, unless there is an ulterior motive? Is it that those who were opposing the postponement of the election were afraid that they will lose the elections if all PVCs were manufactured and collected?
PVC related statistics
Number of Registered voters: 72,383,427
Number of PVC produced: 70,383,427
Number of PVC not produced: 2,000,000
Number of PVC collected: 45,098,876 (66%)
Number of PVC not collected: 25,284,551 (34%)
Number of disenfranchised Nigerians: 27,284,551 (37%)
I refuse to be disenfranchised and will not allow my fellow Nigerians or members of my constituency to be denied their right of suffrage.
Now that the elections have been postponed by six (6) weeks, the following must be done:
1. INEC must ensure that all PVCs are manufactured and distributed;
2. All stakeholders and community leaders must make sure to sensitize their constituents so that the PVCs are collected;
3. Security agencies and all citizens must collectively fight the Boko Haram Scourge to stabilize the North East because it is everyone’s responsibility.
Time is ticking again. Six (6) Weeks is not very far. Now is not the time to slack off, procrastinate or cast aspersions.
*Rev. Atawa, a public affairs analyst writes from Asaba. He is also a member of Media/Publicity Committee of the State PDP Campaign Organization.