Voter Suppression through Permanent Voter’s Card, By Bamidele Adémólá-Olátéjú

Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú

The Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) is a solution in search of a problem. We must admit that there is a systematic attack on voting rights in Nigeria. The Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) is making it harder for people to vote with their vanishing PVC’s. They came out ill-prepared despite having large funds at their disposal for the PVC idea; under the pretext of preventing voter fraud and safeguarding election integrity. We know the drill; there is nothing remotely independent in INEC except in name only. With every passing day, the commission unveils new and existing practices that are designed to restrict voting rights.

The voting processes in the 2011 election were criticized by concerned citizens owing to inflated votes in the South South and the South East. However, almost everyone agreed Mr. Jonathan would have won anyway. Today, the Nigerian voter is facing quite a different set of challenges. There are growing concerns about voter registration list manipulation; voter caging and other modes of voter suppression; voter list purges in various states especially in opposition controlled states. The cumbersome registration process, faulty machines, inexperienced agents are a few of the factors making it more difficult for citizens to register in the first place.

I have been to registration centers where residents had to buy toner for the printer to print out the voters card. After registration, the PVC is another unwarranted layer of complexity guaranteed to result in voter suppression. This failed exercise, a few months removed from actual voting is regressive and it poses significant barriers for
eligible voters trying to exercise their most fundamental constitutional right in a landmark election, that will be hotly contested. The commission has come out in damage control mode to allay the growing fear among the voting population but Nigerians know better. The government and its agents are masters of deception. They are always in the business of that, which they deny not doing. The INEC is heaping the blame on the software. What software? Are they the only one using that software in the world? The software company must have “architect” the solution before they bought it or they must think of us as morons who will buy any lie. Before hand, the population of
Nigeria is well known and those of voting age can be extracted from census data and actual data collected during registration. They must know before hand that the software must be able to scale and not degrade under heavy query. The hardware must be very redundant for the kind of data that is stored. There are many democratic nations with
more voting population than Nigeria, where is the beef? It is ingenious and dubious to blame the backend (read – vote-fraud prevention software) for keeping people from casting ballots. The PVC, by its cumbersome rollout seemed designed to preventing more people from participating in democracy.

How can 1.4million voters vanish mysteriously from the rolls, possibly due to scrubbing by INEC’s software system? What are the criteria for flagging and purging the voter’s register? Why are there no tight algorithms for the crosschecks despite the billions spent in procuring the systems? Why is the incidence of scrubbing disproportionately higher in opposition states especially in Lagos and insignificant in the South South and South East? These are legitimate questions for INEC. This issue is not a partisan issue, it is not an APC or PDP issue, it is about so much more. The right to vote is a basic right and the right must be inviolate. If INEC does not right this wrong, it will undoubtedly be wreaking havoc upon the civic lives of millions and setting the country up for civil unrest. This very Nigerian attack on the human rights of other Nigerians must not be allowed to stand.

For the avoidance of doubt, voter suppression efforts are good atdetermining the outcomes of close races, if you do not shout enough, if you do not protest hard enough, this will be the beginning of every attempt at distorting election results going forward to favor incumbents. There are many cynical ways to disenfranchise political
enemies, and this is one of them. Given the record of electoral bodies in Nigeria (who are historically an appendage of the political party at the center), nothing is beyond them. In Osun State gubernatorial election, we saw large scale voter intimidation never before seen in this land but the people of Osun were resolute in exercising the right to choose whoever leads them. As citizens, you must fight for your right, be vigilant, do not allow anything that can tarnish the confidence in the integrity of the democratic process even before the
ballots are cast.

I urge you to appreciate the power of your vote. Nobody’s vote is more important than yours unless you don’t show up. Get your PVC, no matter the inconvenience and no matter how long it takes. If getting a PVC is
not possible, be armed with your old laminated temporary card. Bear in mind that polling stations can be changed, polling units can be combined, anything can happen. All manner of tricks will be employed to disenfranchise you, but vote! If election was held in Iraq and Afghanistan, election must hold here. Say no, to all built-in failures
calculated to scuttle the 2015 elections for the President of the Federal republic. Vote!

Bamidele maintains a weekly column on Politics and Socioeconomic issues every Tuesday. She is a member of Premium Times Editorial Board.

Twitter @olufunmilayo


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