President Goodluck Jonathan reawakened the issue of voting by Nigerians in the Diaspora on Thursday in Niamey, during a meeting with Nigerians in Niger Republic. The president said he had directed the Independent National Electoral Commission to look at the possibilities and try to work out a plan under which Nigerians in foreign lands could vote in presidential and governorship elections.
It’s a lofty idea to allow citizens to vote in foreign countries at elections in their home countries. Many advanced democracies have adopted the practice. But for a country like Nigeria, implementation of such idea may create far more problems than it is meant to solve, what with the lack of capacity to properly police the domestic political environment.
There is no comprehensive biometric data of Nigerian citizens and with the porous borders and very thin lines of demarcation between Nigerians and nationals of other African countries, identifying who a Nigerian is for now is heavily dependent on traditional methods of recognition that have often failed.
Taking voting rights outside the country would only add dangerous international dimensions to this local problem. Those pushing the idea of Diaspora voting must insist on doing the first things first: having an authentic register of all Nigerian citizens.