Shambling and shambolic! Those are the words that best describe what has become of the distribution and collection of the Permanent Voter Cards, PVCs, which represents a very significant aspect of Nigeria’s electoral process.
Indeed, these are not the best of times for Professor Attahiru Jega, National Chairman of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
With just some 41 days to the most crucial in a series of elections, that is the presidential election, fresh facts emerging suggest that millions of Nigerians may be barred from participating in the process.
This is so because the sine qua non for voting, which is the PVC, is not in the hands of many Nigerians – without it, they cannot participate in the voting exercise for the different categories of election.
By the same token, a number of Nigerians have arrogated to themselves the role of loco parentis.
What this means, strangely, is that whereas the Electoral Act and the guidelines provide that individuals are to collect their PVCs in person, duly signed for after due identification as the bonafide owners of the PVCs, some District Heads in some states of the North are being allowed to collect and warehouse PVCs on behalf of their wards in the district.
That is not all.
The real danger for Nigeria’s crucial electoral process is that Jega’s INEC, either through sheer incompetence, egregious design or just as a victim of the now too familiar but retrogressive malaise afflicting the nation known as the Nigerian factor, an exercise that should ordinarily bring Nigeria closer to electoral civilization, has been made to look like rocket science through the instrumentality of an unscrupulous engagement.
The data in possession of Sunday Vanguard shows that the PVCs’ collection, an exercise which the All Progressives Congress, APC, leadership alleged was being manipulated by Jega’s INEC and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, as well as the Presidency, to achieve an expected end, has been orchestrated in such a way that, on balance, there are more PVCs in the hands of the electorate in the North than those in the South – as at today.
Sunday Vanguard learnt that the PVCs collection exercises across the country, an engagement that was fraught with inconsistencies, disorganization and confusion, did not meet the expectations of even the leadership at the Commission.
Although, after the public dramatization of the collection of PVCs, prospective voters, who did not get their PVCs, were expected to proceed to the local government offices of INEC to collect them, many have come back with tales of disappointment.
Done in phases, that aspect of the electoral process demonstrated to a large extent the level of unpreparedness of INEC for next month’s elections.
Sunday Vanguard’s usually dependable source at the INEC headquarters disclosed that one of the major problems, which have given rise to this present state of stasis, is Jega’s decision to constantly micro-manage the process. Whereas Jega’s insistence of micro-management may be hinged on his intention to deliver free and fair elections, the enormity of the workload is such that cannot permit micro-management but delegation. And even in instances where Jega was said to have delegated, the individuals he has put in charge have almost always had an agenda allegedly hinged on sectional, primordial and prebendal considerations.
A clear indication of this played out when one of such individuals in the Commission came up with a sharing formula for 30,000 additional Polling Units, PUs, whereby the North got over 21,000 leaving the South with just a little over 8,000.
The consequence of the needless time, logistics and defence of the lopsided allocation of the PUs, is what has now come back to haunt Jega’s INEC with the shambles that the PVCs allocation has become.
Sunday Vanguard was informed that Jega has been having and is still having sleepless nights because of the developments surrounding the PVCs collection.
Though some officials of the Commission continue to put up a bold face, sometimes lying about the status of the percentage of collection so far, there is a glaring mismatch with reality.
The latest data as procured from INEC shows that with the round of PVCs collection at the PUs across the country, the collection status are as follows:
South East, 59.22 Collection
South South, 66.66 Collection
South West, 43.15 Collection
North Central, 69.89 Collection
North East, 81.09 Collection
North West, 80.18 Collection
From the data (see box below), the South-South geo-political zone, which has the highest collection compliance percentage in the entire southern Nigeria with 66.66, does not match the least in the North, which is the North-Central zone, with 69.9 percent.
In fact, at one of the interactions leading up to this report revealed that in some parts of the North, the reason for the very high collection percentage in some parts of the North “is that some District Heads were allowed to collect PVCs on behalf of prospective voters”.
“Sunday Vanguard source said: What we discovered is that some people have compromised the process.
“In some parts of the North, some District Heads were discovered to be collecting PVCs on behalf of the owners. This is in sharp contrast to the strict adherence to the rules of the game as carried through by those in the South.
“Some of these instances are being looked into”.
Two months ago, Sunday Vanguard discovered that in Kano, contrary to the Electoral Act and guidelines, some people were conducting house to house registration of voters.
As revealed at that time, it took the intervention of the head of one of the security agencies, in collaboration with Jega, to stop the illegality.
INEC continues to wax optimistic about the possibility of ensuring that most voters get their PVCs, there is already talk in some quarters that the Commission may be compelled to revert to the use of the temporary cards for some categories of voters. On a positive note, however, Sunday Vanguard was told that an international training was already on-going in China for 12 staff of the Commission regarding the PVCs and Smart Card Reader.
According to the INEC’s schedule, it ought to have completed a local training programme for its staff by the eve of last Christmas.
The figures for eight states were not available as at the time of goping to press and they are Kaduna, Katsina, Adamawa, Borno, Niger, Osun, Rivers and Ekiti.
It would be recalled that the Ekiti and Osun elections were conducted using the PVCs. And without prejudice to the use of the PVC in Osun and Ekiti, the non-collection of the cards account for the seemingly low turnout.
STATE % DISTRIBUTED
TOTAL % OF PVC DISTRIBUTED IN SOUTH EAST == 59.22
AKWA IBOM 60.0
CROSS RIVER 69.2
TOTAL % OF PVC DISTRIBUTED IN SOUTH SOUTH ==66.666
TOTAL % OF PVC DISTRIBUTED IN SOUTH WEST=== 43.1535
TOTAL % OF PVC DISTRIBUTED IN NORTH CENTRAL == 69,894
TOTAL % OF PVC DISTRIBUTED IN NORTH EAST=== 81.0925
TOTAL % OF PVC DISTRIBUTED IN NORTH WEST === 80.18