One of the most critical ways that people can influence decision-making is through voting. Voting is a formal expression of choosing a preferred candidate for an office.
“If you do not vote, someone else will decide for you. Your vote is your power. And that power begins with collecting your PVC. With your PVC, you can either vote someone in or kick someone out.”
One of the most critical ways that people can influence decision-making is through voting. Voting is a formal expression of choosing a preferred candidate for an office. In a democracy, the right to vote is one of the ways citizens can influence the decisions about how political leaders govern their countries. Citizens exercise their right to vote when the government decides to hold elections. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted unanimously by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, recognizes the integral role that transparent and open elections play in ensuring the fundamental right to participatory governance.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Article 21 states: Everybody has the right to participate in an election through direct or indirect voting. Everyone has the right to equal access to public service in his country. The will of the people shall be the basis of the election. It shall periodically express in genuine elections, which shall be by universal and equal suffrage. Hence, it shall take place by secret ballot or equivalent free voting procedures.
To vote is one of the political exercises bestowed on every citizen in a democracy. In a perfect democracy, the logistics of voting would be quick and easy for all citizens. Yet, unfortunately, this idea has never been the case in Nigeria. It has always been a demanding exercise, even more so today with the Permanent Voter Card (PVC). Now, more than ever, we face increased difficulties in voting presented by violence at voting centers, vote-buying, election fraud, rigging, prevalent insecurity, snatching of ballot boxes, ceaseless postponement of elections, poor planning, and clumsy voting process. The reality is overcoming these roadblocks can be a time-demanding process when parties are benching on ruling either by force or by deception. Besides, for many of our communities, the logistics and preparation leading to voting are made so impossible that people are not ready to sacrifice their time to exercise their rights as Nigerian citizens. For the elderly, the risk of voting is so high that going out to collect their PVC jeopardizes their safety despite being elderly and part of high-risk groups. This notion has always led to significant shortages of votes in every election.
An American human rights activist once said voting is not only our right but also our power. As evident as this idea may be, people across Nigeria seem to have given up on voting as a catalyst for a positive change. Nigeria has an estimated population of over 200 million, yet these numbers have not been an actual representation of the voting population. Since Nigeria became a democratic country in 1999, there has been an increase in voter apathy. In 2015, 15.3 % of the Nigerian population determined the result of the Presidential election. That is 42.4% of the registered voters. While in 2019, 18% of the population (about 35% of registered voters) voted in the Presidential election. This estimate means fewer than four people determined who won in 2019 for every ten eligible voters. The 2019 elections recorded the lowest election turnout Nigeria has recorded since independence for a presidential election. The big question is, what number will determine the upcoming 2023 general elections?
Inarguably, we must participate actively in the election process and change the narrative as we countdown to 2023. We must be proactive about the Nigeria of our dreams and constantly work at it. As citizens, it is our civic responsibility to collect your PVC. Remember, no one can vote in any election without your PVC. Luckily, technology has now made the process easier. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has made the registration for a Permanent Voter Card (PVC) easy through its online registration portal. So, make use of this advantage to collect your PVC. Also, apart from getting our PVCs, volunteerism is helping people worldwide get involved in the conversation around democracy and elections. And there is no doubt that it is continually helping to strengthen national democracy by contributing to the increasing awareness and education on pertinent issues on governance.
We are encouraged to use this enormous potential to mobilize and accelerate the electoral process. For example, we can develop and launch a #Go and Get Your PVC project. The project could aim at educating and empowering Nigerians to collect their PVCs to be ready to participate in the forthcoming general elections. We also call on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to simplify the entire electoral process and make the electoral process more responsive and usable to Nigerians by acting as an information point for different categories of voters.
We understand how important this election is in Nigeria today. Why we try to join parties to change the dynamics of the election in Nigeria, we appeal to the youth to go and get their PVC. For young people to be represented adequately in political institutions, processes, and decision-making (particularly in elections), they must get involved. The first critical step is to collect a voter’s card that enables them to become participants, decision-makers, and influencers. Criticizing from the sidelines or on social media would not make much difference. If you do not vote, someone else will decide for you. And once he decides, it may not be about your interest. This anomaly must change if we want to build a great country that will compete among the comity of nation-states in this 21st century. The real power is in your one vote. Your vote is your power, and that power begins with collecting your PVC. With your PVC, you can vote someone in or kick somebody out of the office.
Dear Nigerian youth, remember that every nation determines its election by the people who participate. It is time to get involved and use the power of numbers to sustain our democracy. So, get your PVC today!
Rev. Ma, S.J, is a Jesuit priest and doctoral student in public and social policy at St. Louis University in the state of Missouri, USA.