Adesina Afeez Adebare displays his voter’s card at an Inec centre.

One of the most sought after commodities right now in Nigeria, is voter’s card; not just any, but the permanent one which goes by the acronym PVC. Getting the PVCs in the first place was not easy as Nigerians had to literally struggle for them. What with inadequate computers for registration and other logistic problems. After sweating to get registered in the scorching sun for days, they battled to lay hold of the card, frequenting collection centres with the hackneyed Nigerian phrase of ‘come today, come tomorrow’. While some gave up the quest out of weariness, many others persisted (in the ‘can do it’ Nigerian spirit) and succeeded. Then INEC had the good sense of extending the distribution period again and again. Going by statistics, an average of 82 per cent of registered voters have the permanent voters’ cards. This is considered a success as experts say those who eventually turn out to cast their votes on Election Day are often not more than 60 per cent of total voters (never mind that in one past election total number of votes cast in a state was almost equal to its population).

 Why did most Nigerians of voting age make it a point of duty to get their voters cards this time around, unlike in years past, when apathy reigned supreme? A plethora of organizations were drumming it into people’s ears to go get their cards. Civil organizations, religious groups, political parties, opinion leaders, traditional rulers, youths and women groups, you name it, they all added their voices to the chorus, urging their members and people to endeavour to get it. Add to it the media, especially the new media to which many Nigerians, young and old, are now gradually hooked because of its spontaneity of information, and then you will agree that this is one election that has generated the most active interest in Nigeria. The levels of education, (literacy level I mean) and internet penetration have risen. So people are now better informed. When you are bombarded left right and centre about getting a voter’s card, you cannot but be egged on to action even if you were not so interested before.

Quite apart from its voting purpose, the PVC has another common advantage, namely that it is a form of Identity card. It is acceptable as a veritable means of identification in banks, post offices, for financial transactions, collection of documents and in other places where you are needed to produce an identity card for one reason or other. Harping on the significance of a permanent voter’s card, Emir Muhammad Sanusi II of Kano told his people, “Your five million population would be a waste without you having your card by your side to elect who you want”. And Reverend Uma Ukpai of Victory Cathedral Fellowship Centre, Uyo raised the ante when he told his congregation: “The 2015 general election is too important for a Nigerian of voting age not to participate in electing their political leaders for the next four years. If you are a true member of this fellowship and you have not collected your permanent voter’s card, know that you will not partake in our communion service. We must take this election serious because we must rise up and protect our future”. So possession of PVC is now a condition for receiving ‘holy’ communion?

 To further recognize how important PVCs are, consider that there has been reports from across the country, of their being stolen, even from INEC’s strongholds.  The police have however, recovered some of them. Thefts of PVCs have shifted from INECs offices to the card holders themselves with armed robbers also throwing their hats into it. In Adamawa State for example, a political party alleged that gunmen were robbing their supporters of their PVCs.

Some people are now allegedly buying off the PVCs by offering between N1000 and N5000 in exchange for them. Advising his parishioners against selling their cards, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos diocese, stated, “We are told it is one man one vote, one woman, one vote, one young person one vote. The card should be kept safe for purpose of Election Day. I have mine, even if you give me one billion naira, I will not sell it out because I will be selling my right as a patriotic Nigerian”.  There are also reports that in a part of Lagos, motorcycle riders  a.k.a. okada operators arrested by the police were being asked to surrender their PVCs in exchange for their seized motorcyclists. The latest is people being asked through text messages for the last four digits of their PVCs. This is what Nigerians call ‘419’. There are of course, variants of 419. When a man was arrested with a large quantity of PVCs, he said he was taking them to their owners who are elderly persons living on the mountains. A resident electoral commissioner in one of the southwestern states which ranks lowest in PVC collection said he resisted attempts by some persons to collect the cards by proxy, insisting the owners should personally come for them. 

Given the way people are being deprived of their PVCs through trickery, bribery, intimidation, theft or outright robbery, one may align with a political party in Adamawa State which is advising its supporters to deposit their PVCs in banks for safekeeping. I guess many are learning for the first time that apart from cash, they can also keep their valuable assets like gold, documents and now PVCs in the strongholds of banks. Since they are now permanent, I suppose we should now forward them to banks after voting, for safekeeping till the next election in 2019. This I guess, would guard against their being stolen by unscrupulous persons, lost or misplaced by us through negligence or carelessness, their being destroyed by the elements such as fire outbreaks or even being eaten up by house rats .What do you think? PVCs are now valuable assets.

IKEANO ([email protected] 08033077519)

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