The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) commenced the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise yesterday, April 27, at designated places in the nation’s 774 local government areas. The exercise, according to the Chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, will run until a few months to the 2019 general elections.
We commend INEC for the early commencement of the CVR for the registration of those who turned 18 years after the 2015 general polls, and those who did not register for the last general elections for one reason or the other. The exercise will also give all those who registered during the last CVR but have not collected their permanent voter cards (PVCs) the opportunity to do so. Also, registered persons who have moved from their previous abodes and cities to new ones will be able to transfer their voting points to their new places of residence. The electoral agency has, however, warned that it is an offence for anyone to register twice. It also published phone numbers of electoral officials that will attend to the enquiries and problems of the general public on the exercise. The commencement of the CVR almost two years to the 2019 elections is in line with INEC’s early announcement of the time table for the polls.
The CVR is one of the most important rituals of the democratic process. It is, therefore, pivotal to the success of the electoral process. We urge INEC to give the present exercise its best shot so that all the hiccups associated with the previous exercises under its erstwhile leadership can be reduced to the barest minimum. We note with sadness that many eligible voters could not participate in the 2015 general elections due to the poor handling of the CVR and their inability to collect PVCs, for no fault of theirs. Many of the 67 million registered voters were not able to vote.
The inability of many eligible voters to participate in the 2015 polls over registration challenges amounted to disenfranchisement, which is anathema to the spirit of democracy. It is worth reiterating that elections are a celebration of democracy and no one should be stopped from exercising that civic right on account of shoddy handling of voter registration. The registration process should not be so tedious as to discourage or alienate potential voters. When this is the case, democracy loses its beauty and the legitimacy of governments produced becomes questionable.
This is why INEC must do everything within its power to ensure a hitch-free exercise. The Federal Government should also avail the agency all the funds and logistical support it needs for a smooth registration of voters. The objective should be to ensure that every eligible voter is registered. If possible, the PVCs should be issued at once, so that the problems experienced in previous exercises, when voters were issued temporary cards but were unable to collect PVCs will not recur. With adequate deployment of Information Technology, this should not be impossible to achieve, if INEC determines to do it.
But if, for any reason, voters have to return for their PVCs as is likely to be the case, we urge INEC to improve on its logistics such that the registered voters are able to promptly obtain their PVCs from clearly designated places, without the challenges that attended the last exercise. The registration process should be easy, efficient and quick.
The electoral agency, under its new leadership, must show evidence of having learnt from the failings of its past leadership, as far as the CVR is concerned. The nefarious activities of some desperate politicians, their agents and unscrupulous INEC officials, which marred previous registration exercises, especially relating to the collection of PVCs, should be anticipated and effectively curtailed. The success of the entire electoral process, we must always remember, starts with how well this registration exercise goes.
That is why INEC must prioritise voter education and general public enlightenment with regards to the current CVR. The agency and the various registered political parties in the country must realise that they have often failed on this important assignment, and determine to do better this time. Early reports from some states, such as Imo, concerning the current CVR showed that INEC embarked on road shows to sensitise the people to the commencement of the exercise. That is a good step that should be replicated in all parts of the country. Other public enlightenment events and voter engagement activities should be created and sustained throughout the duration of this registration exercise to keep it in the consciousness of the people.
We urge all citizens who have attained the age of 18 to participate in the current CVR exercise. Already registered persons who have not collected their PVCs should check their names on the register and collect their cards while those who have changed abodes since the last CVR should visit the designated registration points to transfer their voting centres to their new areas. The right to vote and be voted for is inalienable and should not be neglected by any citizen who wants to be counted worthy of his or her country.