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Ijeoma Nwogwugwu: The Chickens Are Coming Home To Roost [Must Read Op-ED]



On Saturday evening, I watched Mr. Kayode Idowu, the spokesman for the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), defend the commission’s preparedness for the elections – rescheduled or otherwise. Idowu, who kept his head bowed for most of the programme, was reluctant to make eye contact with the camera, and sat immobile like a cold marble statue whenever the programme’s presenter grilled another guest on the security situation in the north-east, at some point reeled out new data on the collection of permanent voters’ cards (PVCs) in four states.

He said as at February 10, collection of PVCs had risen to 59 per cent Lagos State, in Akwa Ibom it had scaled the 80 per cent mark, while in Rivers and Abia States PVC collection was in the range of 75 – 78 per cent. It was gratifying to know that INEC, through Idowu, decided to keep the public abreast on the PVC collection exercise, but I still wished he had given us a full update on the collection of PVCs in the 36 states of the federation and the FCT. I expect INEC to regularly publish the full data at its disposal in the coming days.

However, when Idowu limited himself to just four states in the southern part of the country, he had one objective: His goal was to dispel fears that certain states or geopolitical zones in the country had attained a higher rate of PVC collection than others. He was also dismissive of incoming tweets and emails from viewers, which were read out by the programme’s presenter on their complaints over the PVC distribution/collection exercise. In one instance, a viewer wrote to complain that he and his wife collected their PVCs through proxies (not from INEC-designated personnel at the collection centres), while another said he had been a registered voter since 2011 but was unable to collect his PVC despite repeated attempts to do so. To most of these observations/complaints, Idowu said they were “anecdotal”.

But contrary to Idowu’s assertion, these complaints were not “anecdotal”. For instance, I am aware of a registered voter who collected his PVC on behalf of his wife, I am also aware of another registered voter who was given his PVC by a young man in Ikeja, Lagos, wearing an All Progressives Congress (APC) T-shirt. How the latter got his hands on PVCs belonging to other registered voters continues to beat my imagination.

Personally, I had the misfortune of collecting my voter’s card in which I am designated as “male” instead of “female”, and this is despite repeated attempts to get INEC to correct the error committed by the commission’s official who registered me in 2011. I was told that there was nothing they could do about it and could not be registered twice. Quite frankly, I am prepared to live with this error, knowing that the biometric capture of my fingerprints could only belong to me and no one else in the world.

That Idowu was attempting to defend the electoral commission on the distribution/collection of PVCs arose from the fact that INEC had come under harsh criticism from a section of the public and especially the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over its lack of preparedness for the polls prior to their postponement.

PDP, in particular, has been at pains to show that other that the issue of security concerns which was used by the INEC boss, Prof. Attahiru Jega, as his excuse for the postponement of the polls, the commission itself was not ready for the exercise. Jega, the party held, was prepared to disenfranchise a third of registered voters in the country under the guise that not all 68.8 million registered voters would come out on the day of the polls to exercise their franchise. On this, PDP hit the right spot, as it is INEC’s responsibility to ensure that PVC distribution/collection is widely dispersed, as this accords credibility in any election, and not to speculate on voter apathy.

Not stopping at that, PDP went ahead to undertake a PVC collection analysis showing that collection in the north-west and north-east sections of the country, considered to be the strongholds of the APC presidential candidate, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, was much higher than sections of the country it assessed as leaning towards President Goodluck Jonathan.

It wondered why Lagos with 5.9 million registered voters, the highest in the country and not afflicted by the insurgency, had attained a collection rate as low as 38.39 per cent as at February 4, relative to Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States which had collection rates of 68.41 per cent, 80.68 per cent and 74.95 per cent, respectively. (According to the INEC REC in Yobe, the collection rate in the state had crept up to 88 per cent by February 11.) PDP further queried how the three states with a combined registered voter population of 4,593,061, an insurgency that has led to the death of thousands, the displacement of millions of residents, and occupation of several local government areas by the terror group Boko Haram, could have attained such high figures.

If truth be told, it is not just the PDP that has been scratching its head over the collection rates in the three states hardest hit by the insurgency. I have also wondered how and who collected these so-called PVCs in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe. I have searched for news stories suggesting that INEC designated officials were deployed in Boko Haram-occupied territories to distribute PVCs and have come up with none. I have enquired if it was possible for the cards to have been distributed at internally displaced persons’ camps and/or mountainous hideouts and caves where displaced persons had run to in Borno, Adamawa, Yobe, Gombe, Bauchi, Abuja, Cameroun and Niger Republic, and the answer I got was a resounding “no”. I have even wondered if the territories said-to-be occupied by Boko Haram were perhaps not actually occupied, thus enabling INEC personnel to distribute the cards unhindered. But I dismissed my own assessment to be too far-fetched.

Finally, it dawned on me that the wool was being pulled over our eyes by INEC. Its data was horribly flawed and insincere. We were being sold a lie, a dummy, call it whatever you want to! Even the PDP had not been able to fathom that the so-called figures attributed to the three Boko Haram-afflicted states and perhaps several others were phantom. They are non-existent and had been cleverly hiked up by the commission to arrive at a pre-determined conclusion. The long and short, it makes sense to give certain states high PVC collection figures so as to justify the high number of votes accorded to the candidate of its choice.

This finally explains why APC, which is adept at shouting to the rooftops, appears not to be bothered and has kept loudly mute over the fact that INEC was about to embark on a poll in which millions of votes would have been disenfranchised. This explains why despite statements by the opposition party weeks before the polls were shifted that it had instructed governors of the APC-controlled states to declare public holidays to enable registered voters collect their cards, Lagos State, which had one of the lowest collection rates did not bother to do so until two days before the pre-election postponement deadline for the collection of PVCs on February 8.

Even when Lagos declared Friday, February 6 a work-free day for its public sector workers and appealed to the private sector to allow their workers collect their cards, the communication to the public was deliberately bungled, as it was primarily sent out via a text message by the governor’s SA Media, Mr. Hakeem Bello, to media houses the night before. As a result, people in Lagos on February 6 did not know that the day was a work-free day and went about their business as usual.

Most significantly, it confirmed my long-held view in private conversations that the real battleground states in the 2015 elections are concentrated in the south-west zone, chiefly Lagos. It has demystified the argument by the APC for over a year that all it needed to enthrone their candidate in the Presidential Villa are the north-west and south-west zones, the zones with the highest number of registered voters. Otherwise, why hasn’t APC been concerned that Lagos and Ogun, followed by Oyo, as at February 4, had the highest number of registered voters without their cards? Or perhaps APC was unconcerned because its stalwarts and governors already had in their possession millions of PVCs, as narrated by the prospective voter who collected his from a non-INEC designated staff adorned in its T-shirt.

Well, the chickens have begun to flutter and shall soon come home to roost. In all this, the person I have the most sympathy for is Buhari. He, of all people, has been deceived by his party that claimed it could deliver the south-west convincingly to him in a “free and fair” contest. It was a myth magnified by the misconception that the national leader of his party, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, had delivered the south-west to Jonathan in 2011 and could turn the tables for Buhari, forgetting that the Lion of Bourdillon’s sphere of influence has always been limited to the governorship elections.

But from all indications, the vote in 2015, like that of 2011, is very likely to reflect the deep fault line that divides northern and southern Nigeria.


Article written by Ijeoma Nwogwugwu


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