As the clock ticks…

140,000 voters’ cards unclaimed in Sokoto, says INEC

With Christmas and New Year celebrations over, attention has now shifted again to politics and politicians, as the clock ticks for the general elections. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has officially flagged off campaigns and Nigerians everywhere are waiting with bated breath to see or hear something different from what they are used to. Surprisingly everywhere seem to be quiet. Not much is happening in terms of real campaign. Nevertheless, Nigerians want to know if our political actors and their followers have come of age and if there is any sign of maturity and vision in the conduct of the coming elections.

INEC chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, has assured us that the commission is ready to duplicate the “success” of the 2015 general election. – Although that election was alleged to have been massively rigged in favour of Buhari. Former Head of Operations and logistics, Amina Zakari, has also said that N85 billion has been voted for logistics, suggesting that the logistical problems we saw in previous elections will be no more.

But there are eight million Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) awaiting collection in INEC’s coffers. This is sad! It is sad because the general election is due in February. The Presidential and National assembly elections will be held on February16th and, on March 2nd, Nigerians go to the polls again to elect Governors and state House of Assembly members.

INEC cannot guarantee the distribution and collection of such large number of cards within the time available. It is the responsibility of INEC to make the PVCs available on time to avoid irregularities from last-minute rush. It is discouraging to know that a huge number of cards are still in INEC’s possession up to now. The question is why?

What really constitutes readiness in the eyes of INEC? If the PVCs are not yet in the hands of voters by now, can we trust INEC to take care of the logistical issues that usually cause voter frustration on Election Day? Issues such as late arrival of materials, transportation of INEC staff to and from polling stations, especially in remote areas, as well as security and functionality of card readers.

We hope that INEC has anticipated these problems and found solutions ahead of time. Other issues such as snatching of ballot boxes, rigging, ballot stuffing, vote buying, voter intimidation and violence need adequate attention. Collection and distribution of PVC are the least of our problems and should have been settled ever since.

Another nagging question is why INEC has not published the list of candidates. According to INEC, the list of Presidential and National Assembly candidates will be released on January 17, while Governorship and State House of Assembly will be published January 31. It is unclear why this is so because Campaigns have started.

What it means is that some candidates are not sure if their candidacy is recognised by INEC, and voters are also unsure who is running for what. This is ugly! INEC may argue that two weeks is enough but it is not.