As a Nigerian, passionate about the electoral process and willing to participate, he begins to wonder if the whole dynamic electoral process is designed to frustrate him or make participation a kind of survival of the fittest. This is probably the easiest way to describe the entire process of being a registered voter and eligible to vote on Election Day. From the process of visiting the office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), usually some distance from residential areas, joining the queues and eventually registering. After enduring conflicting information about the preparation of his Permanent Voter Card (PVC), he finally takes the trouble to visit the INEC office to collect it and receives the answer that the voter card is not ready yet. This is the situation for many Nigerians who remain determined to contest the 2023 general election as the challenge with PVC collection persists.

Beyond these unavailable PVC challenges, there have been a number of missing PVC reports, miscommunication about the place and time of collection, and alleged extortion by INEC officials in the process. The combination of all these factors is enough to undermine the confidence of citizens to participate in the process. Although the commission categorically stated that the last batch of cards is ready for collection from December 12, 2022 to January 22, 2023. This information was expanded by organizations working on elections in an attempt to mobilize citizens to collect their cards and participate in the 2023 general elections. . The ecstasy that followed this news, especially for potentially new voters who had just turned 18, was marred by the challenges experienced collecting PVC in Nigeria.

More than 2.1 million PVC uncollected in Lagos, Abuja – INEC

Neighbors of Jos ask the INEC to bring PVC to the polling stations

With close to 20 million permanent voter cards not collected since 2011 and another more than nine million new ones registered between June 2021 and July 2022, the least Nigerians deserve is an effective way to ensure that all eligible voters collect their cards and participate in the 2023 general election. The commission itself in recent times has continued to lament the low collection of PVC in several states, which remains a matter of great concern. For example, there are about 1.7 million uncollected PVCs in Lagos state, about 500,000 uncollected cards in Abuja, more than 160,000 people in Kogi state have abandoned their cards at INEC offices in the state. This is the case in all 36 states of Nigeria.

Without a doubt, the reprehensible attacks on the INEC offices in some parts of the country have not helped the preparatory cause of the elections with more than 50 offices attacked in the last three years. However, the threshold for holding credible elections must not be lowered, especially in the area of ​​citizen participation. While it is the responsibility of registered voters to visit the INEC office at their local government of registry to collect the cards, as INEC does not distribute voter cards to people’s residents, the commission must develop effective strategies to ensure that the process is smooth.

There is no doubt that INEC has recently taken advantage of the use of innovative technology to promote transparency and ensure efficiency in its process. With complete data on registered voters and printed PVCs, the commission with the support of CSOs can develop a strategic operating standard to make the process easier and faster. This intent will first allow for the accurate identification of eligible voters whose PVCs are in the INEC office through their names, phone numbers, email, and location from 2011 to date. In this regard, a mass email or short message service (SMS) can be sent to potential voters who have yet to pick up their PVCs with information such as local government, districts or the address where they could pick up their cards. Although SMS is said to have been implemented, it needs to be decentralized to all locations and all citizens who have yet to collect their PVCs since 2011.

This will certainly go a long way toward first informing citizens that their cards are ready for pickup and the exact location where they can pick them up, while alleviating the challenges of endless visits to the wrong locations or encounters with unavailable PVCs. Basically, the idea is not to “spoon-feed” the potential voter as some may claim, but to make participation easier and more seamless. The citizens themselves must show zeal and willingness to participate in the process by asking the right questions and consulting through the corresponding channels, especially with regard to PVC Collection, INEC Local Government Offices, Registration Area Centers, location of the polling stations and contacts of the electoral officials in their place of electoral participation. Beyond this, the electoral management body must continue to provide accurate and timely information primarily to counter misinformation about the entire process. This will build some level of trust with citizens and further promote transparency as all eyes seem to be on the commission to deliver its most credible process since its inception.

With 29 million voters, which is barely 35% of the 84 million registered voters in 2019, there is an opportunity to ensure that the future of Nigeria is not decided by a minority of its voters, which are only about 10% of the total population. . In 2023, Nigerians have a chance to use the power of their PVCs to vote for the right leaders and all stakeholders, especially INEC, need to up their game so as not to undermine citizen confidence as elections approach. .

Abideen is the Kwara State Coordinator of the NotTooYoungToRun Movement and Director of the Brain Builders Youth Development Initiative