Nothing INEC has said about how unhelpful it is to anyone to acquire another man’s PVC seems strong enough to discourage desperados
The aspiration of every regime at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is always the same; to conduct free, fair and credible elections. Each of the regimes has always recorded success to an extent, most times underscored by the idealist public. Each of the regimes has also fallen short of meeting their lofty goals to some extent. Almost always however, how far a regime at INEC goes or how well or poorly it does or is perceived to have done at the end of the day is determined to a substantial extent by powers and circumstances beyond their control. In other words, activities on the political scene by none electoral administrator actors otherwise known as politicians have been found to impact as much if not more on the texture and perception of elections in many instances than the direct role of conducting the elections by the Election Management Body. The overarching political environment of an electoral process is therefore, critical in the preparations and delivery of elections.
Now, whereas the primary aspiration of every regime at INEC is to conduct elections that are accepted as free, fair and credible, the ultimate goal of every politician or political interest group playing on the field INEC is supervising is quite different. Politicians, be they in government or out of it have a single and ever steaming propelling force behind all they do at all times. That driving motive is to win elections by every means possible. That is the way they are. For the politician – whether acting alone or within a group – the goal is always to find a way to win, however the way is. The end will always justify the means. And the means are not always straight.
Forty seven days to the 2019 General Elections, politicians are deep in their game. The stake is high. The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), personified by their presidential candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari continues to proclaim intermittently that his commitment to conducting free, fair and credible elections is firm and he will stand by his word. Of course President Buhari is not the Chairman of the Election Management Body. Professor Mahmood Yakubu is. But the President is not unaware of the enormous capacity in the office he occupies to make, twist or totally mar an election. As a matter of fact it is the truth that an election is as good as a sitting President and his government want the election to be.
The main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party [PDP] on the other end of the rope is not convinced that the ruling party means what it is saying in terms of commitment to a free and fair contest. The PDP continues to call attention to signs it sees as ominous and indicative of the ruling party not being willing to play by the rules. Indeed PDP is suspicious of virtually every step taken by the incumbent and his party. The refusal of President Buhari to sign the new Electoral Bill for instance is for the opposition party weighty evidence that the President has some game up his sleeves. As should be expected, the PDP presents itself as the side playing by the rules. Naturally the ruling APC is not impressed.
All these should be expected. These are not only the two contending prime parties on the scene, it is election season too. Even at that, the words and assurances of the two main parties about their commitment to play by the rule would have been a source of optimism on the mindset and tendencies of the major political actors leading to the elections but for certain troubling realities. Words and posturing aside, there are ample signs that the leading political parties and their leaders are saying what they believe the public want to hear while they are busy doing the opposite of what they are proclaiming on roof top.
If, for instance, the politicians on the two major divides are playing by the rules as they declare, who then are surreptitiously undermining the electoral process by reportedly buying off Permanent Voter’s Cards [PVCs] and plotting all sorts of ambush against the PVC?
It is very interesting that the PVC has come into prominence lately. INEC’s steady tightening of the once loose ends that were easily exploited by politicians to rig elections have inevitably led all those who seek to win at elections to now develop deserved interest in the voting cards wielded by registered voters. Unfortunately, albeit very much in the ways of politicians, much of the attention they have paid to the PVC seems to be on how to manipulate or undermine the enhanced voting card.
Nothing INEC has said about how unhelpful it is to anyone to acquire another person’s PVC seems strong enough to discourage the desperado in the politicians from all manner of efforts to buy off PVCs belonging to others. Where they fail to obtain the cards through a cocktail of crooked approaches to INEC field personnel as they report regularly, the politicians turn to those who have collected their PVCs and make varied curious offers to buy off their cards.
The remarkable enhancement of the Smart Card Reader [SCR] by INEC and the insistence by the Commission that the PVC offers the only road to the voting cubicle during the 2019 election speak of the commitment of INEC to the conduct of a decent, free, fair and credible elections in the coming polls. By deciding resolutely to retire the incident form with all the dubious leeway it offers during elections, INEC is showing its hand to all way ahead of the 2019 elections. It intends to provide a level playing field for all candidates and parties and will ensure to the best of its ability that the choice of the majority prevails. That is on the part of INEC. What of the political parties? Who is behind these reported attempts to fraudulently scoop up the PVCs of innocent Nigerians? And what can the plan be in the face of the confident assurance by INEC that a PVC in the hand of any other person but the rightful owner is useless?
Who are those out to acquire other people’s PVCs and thereby deny the rightful owners of the cards opportunity to vote during the elections? Curiously, of the 84 million citizens in INEC’s Voter’s Register for the 2019 elections, quite a chunk of the number are yet to pick up their cards. These cut across those who registered in the Continuous Voter Registration [CVR] exercise between April 17 2017 and August 31 2018 and those who registered prior to 2017 but had not collected their cards.
Short of a criminal determination to undermine the system, there can be no good reason for the reported surreptitious efforts by some elements to buy off PVCs belonging to others. May be the idea is to depress the vote of opponents. Even at that there is still time to work on a voter instead of demobilizing him completely, especially as it cannot be said now where a voter will lean eventually. The political parties, especially the two major ones need to go a step further from the Peace Accord they recently signed and sign off also to a code of good conduct and adherence to honest tendencies on the way to the elections. As honest as politicians can be, that is.