Does INEC have the capacity to let people decide?

INEC - elsieisy blog

Three days ago, I was in an uber – from Eleganza in Lekki – home.

Ordinarily, using the services of a ride-hailing platform in Lagos Nigeria, should not be worthy of mention, however, the conversation I had with my uber driver made the ride a memorable yet thought-provoking one.

The ride was without drama until we got to the traffic light at Jakande. As we tried turning into Osapa London on our right, a white minibus blocked our entrance as it waited for the traffic light to turn green. There is an unholy alliance between disorderliness and public transport drivers in Lagos state.

My Uber driver, who seemed to be a middle-aged, educated man, got out of the car to have a word with the driver. I was almost embarrassed because such a ‘necessary’ act will only serve as an attention-drawing tool toward the red Toyota Camry and the person sitting behind. And if you know me, I don’t like attention, I enjoy being in my own bubble and getting the job – whatever it may be per time, done.

When he got back into the car, I was of the opinion (which I shared with him) that he shouldn’t have gone down to have a conversation (read as ‘exchange words in a heated manner’) with the minibus driver.

“Why not?” he asked.

“It won’t make any difference”, I replied. “He will do the same thing at the next traffic junction without a care about the results of his actions to others and himself.”

“So, do we just let people do whatever they want without making an effort? This is exactly how Nigeria has become what it is today. Everybody does things just as they want, whether right or wrong without consequences and no one to guide or caution them as the case may be,” he said.  

The above was the beginning of a very meaningful rant from a concerned, passionate, and frustrated Nigerian. He spoke about what Nigeria used to be and what it is now, which he described as a shadow of itself.

“Do you have a PVC (Permanent Voters Card)?” I asked.

“I have never voted in my life,” he responded. “But this time, something in me wanted to vote and play my part. To be part of this movement led by the youths. Maybe there might be hope for the country,” he continued. 

“But my sister, I am discouraged. These people are not ready to give us our PVC and I am not ready to leave my daily bread for days just because of a PVC. Man must work if man go chop,” he added.

In his opinion, there seems to be a deliberate attempt to disenfranchise voters. And if I am completely honest, the same thought has crossed my mind. To get an idea of where his sentiments came from, I asked him why his new found urge to exercise his democratic right was fast waning.

He described how he once dedicated a day to register for a voter’s card. According to him, he got to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) registration point by 7 am and was told to write his name on a list with a couple of other people he met.

The list was to be the order in which they would be attended to. But he spent the whole day at the registration unit without being attended to. He also noticed that a few people who were familiar with the INEC agents came in later on and were attended to. People like himself who didn’t know anyone waited in vain. He said as he walked out of the INEC registration unit at about 5 pm, he vowed never to waste his time trying to get a voters card, again.  

I heard and understood him. He typifies the average Nigerian. We are a resilient people and over the years, have put so much effort into work and productivity which has inadvertently made the idea of work and the workplace a trench of suffocation to prove relevance.

Like clockwork, you have to be busy, or no one will see you as being productive. So, when a Nigerian tells you they do not have time, they really do not.  So, our faulty system thrives on the idea of Nigerians not having time to live or to pursue any civic activity including getting their voter’s card

Although, some Non-Governmental organizations are organizing conferences and concerts to encourage voter registration, and estates and communities are collaborating with INEC officials to register residents on weekends.

The spotlight is still on INEC, whether it has the capacity to let people decide? Whether it will allow as many Nigerians as possible to vote, and choose the set of leaders who will steer the Nigerian ship for the next 4 – 8 years?

Are we really taking back power in 2023 or should these efforts be seen as a long game for the time that we can truly take back power? Are we playing the right cards and do we have the right incentives for the desired result? 

Ultimately, like my uber driver, the onus is on us as Nigerians to be ready to play our part in removing reckless minibus drivers trying to obstruct Nigeria’s path to progress.

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  1. The case is definitely that INEC is trying to discourage voter participation by making it tough to secure your voter’s card. I’m sure things are a lot easier in the Northern part of the country. Perhaps someday we’ll get it right, not just in the next four to eight years. We should be playing a long game.

    1. Have you been to the North?

      You’ve not been there to see how they live and, how organized they are.

      An average Northerner knows who his local government chairman is, and goes around with his radio (not to listen to the top ten songs in the country, or to catch up with the Kardashians or the Lagos Housewives but to listen to news especially interviews of the rulers of the land).

      Above all, an average Northener with at least a WAEC result belongs to a political party and he attends party meetings and conferences.

      Most of them do not wait for an election year to register for their PVC, and they continue to visit the INEC office to demand for their cards.

      INEC have offices across the country, and they employ the same number of staff across the country (well, in some part, less). But, the point is, the Northerners knows how important the PVC is and they barely wait for the rush hours before they go for it. You know the case down here.

      I will advice you to erase this your thoughts because INEC cannot decide to make a process tough or try to discourage people from voting and of course, they can never treat the Northerners specially.

  2. INEC is not trying to discourage anyone, the truth is, they are as guilty as the people.

    Some years back, I was robbed and my voter’s card was part of my belongings collected forcefully from me.
    I didn’t wait until an election year to retrieve my voter’s card because I know how important it is for me to exercise my right.

    Since I come of age (to vote), I have never missed the opportunity to exercise my civil right.

    What Elsie says here (below) is a two-edged sword.

    “So, do we just let people do whatever they want without making an effort? This is exactly how Nigeria has become what it is today”

    For so long we have allowed the minibus driver to have his way and do what he likes because we failed to address his mess.

    INEC is a body, with staff that resumes office on every working day of the year. For 3 years, they barely see people that come to their office for registration or the retrieval of their voter’s card.

    But, one year before the election, 200,000 people or more will go to the center for their cards. And, these people expect a miracle. Because, if 10 (or less people) can help 200,000 people register, and retrieve their cards in less than 24 hours, then it is saved to call them miracle workers!

    Until we are ready to make things work, no system or structure will work in this country, no matter how good it is.

    Great work Elsie, please don’t stop writing.

    1. You have raised important questions which have direct link to the rot in our educational system. If we must do better as a people then we must know better. Thank you for your comment

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