If there are three words we’ve heard consistently leading up to the 2019 elections, it is definitely Permanent Voters Card. The importance of getting your PVC can never be over-emphasized, but unfortunately, poor and dilapidated systems have made it extremely uneasy, especially for formal and informal workers, to get your PVC. We’ve heard stories about people having to register three times, people having to pay out-of-pocket for diesel in the INEC offices so that the generators can be put on and processes can go forward and also stories about people cueing for six hours to get their PVC, only to be told to come back the next day.
Unfortunately the system makes it extremely difficult for people to obtain their PVC’s, which was one of the main reasons for the extremely poor voters turnout in the 2015 elections, however when did two wrongs ever make a right? The most important thing is for us to understand our duty as citizens. The highest office in Nigeria is not that of the President, but that of the Citizen; we are ultimately the employers and until we start exercising our duties and rights as employers, we won’t see the results that we’ve been yearning for. We have to be able to rise above the challenges in front of us and go through the unnecessary stress based on poor systems, if we ever want to see a Nigeria where obtaining your PVC is the most straight forward process. The implications of not voting are far more dire than waiting for six hours and trying over and over again to get your PVC. The fact that 29 million people decided on the next four years for over 190 million people in 2015 is actually quite scary in reality. But it gets scarier – there is a proven and direct correlation between abandoned PVCs and poverty rates.
Statistics show that the top ten states with the most abandoned PVCs are in the South, while the top ten states with the highest poverty rates are in the North.
Based on abandoned PVC rates, more people in poverty stricken states are voting come elections. With more votes being casted in less developed states, we can empirically conclude that a good number of votes are not given with voters education. Illiteracy is a factor of poverty and therefore, many are influenced by rice and money bags and do not vote based on manifestos and understanding, but based on short term satisfaction. We cannot blame those who vote under the influence of rice and money, after all 67% of Nigerians live below the poverty line. Furthermore, INEC offices are only open during working hours on weekdays, which makes it extremely difficult for formal and informal workers to obtain their PVCs. The solution is more important than the problem though, which is that we need to overcome the barriers stopping us from voting and go through the process to achieve the results that we need to see. But, we should still call on INEC to ease the process for formal and informal workers.
Moving away from the implications of voting, we need to also understand purpose. 110 million Nigerians today are thirty years and under, which means that the majority of Nigerian citizens are youths. Therefore, as a democracy should voice the majority while protecting the minority, we need to understand that all decisions within the polity should serve as a direct representation of us as youths. The Not Too Young to Run Bill will certainly pave the way for us to play a role within the political arena, but we need to ensure that we act on the bill.
Getting your PVC is one thing, but all Nigerian youths should register to a political party and play the most important role. Politics can only work in our favor when we stand up and ensure that it works in our favor. We will continuously be pushed aside if we do not act on the power that we have and show our leaders that our nation must be in our hands. Not enough youths are civically engaged and we don’t seem to understand the dangers of remaining silent. Playing an active role in politics is bigger than casting a vote and it is a duty that we have to exercise.
The 2019 elections are around the corner and the primaries are about to begin. Know and understand all aspiring presidential candidates, read through the manifestos of chosen candidates, register to a political party and ask the right questions. We can only see a sustainable change in our country when we demand that change through our democratic rights as citizens and every single one of us must be involved in the process for it to happen.