The electoral body is on track
With some of its recent activities, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is increasingly trying to raise the confidence level in the electoral process. About a month ago, the electoral body announced the date for the 2019 general elections, two clear years ahead and a time long enough for all stakeholders to put their house in order.

Last week, after wide consultations, INEC announced the commencement of the continuous voter registration (CVR) across the 774 local government councils in the country. “We want to assure Nigerians that the current exercise is just the beginning,” said INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmud Yakubu. “We are considering deploying personnel to cover 8,809 wards and 120,000 polling units.”

To the extent that the essence of democracy is to afford the people the opportunity to choose their leaders and subsequently participate in the way they are governed, we believe that INEC is on the right course. However, the road ahead is still nonetheless long and thorny. While millions of citizens are now in a position to perform this important duty of electing leaders, many others could not do so in the past because of one problem or the other. As we therefore seek to deepen our democracy and advance the common good, it is important that all persons of voting age are included in the voter register in order for them to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed franchise as well as have a say on how they are governed.

The present exercise by INEC offers those who have just turned 18 years of age or those who did not register previously to do so. In addition, those who have changed abodes can rectify their registration just as those who could not collect their permanent voter cards (PVCs) before the last general elections and therefore could not vote now have an opportunity to do so. “The commission wishes to reiterate its commitment to consolidating our democracy by ensuring that citizens are given the opportunity to register as voters on a continuous basis as enshrined in the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) well before elections,” said INEC in statement.

Indeed, the registration of voters and the collection of the PVCs are central to the success of our electoral democracy. We are acutely aware of the challenge associated with the production and distribution of PVCs during the last general elections. It, indeed, raised the political temperatures to abnormal levels. Barely less than two weeks to the presidential elections earlier slated for February 14, 2015, the electoral body could only distribute less than 45 million PVCs to eligible voters out of the 68 million registered voters. Equally numbing was that substantial numbers of the outstanding were still being printed and thus prompted many to ask at the time: If millions of PVCs were still being printed less than two weeks to the election, when would they be distributed across the nation? And when would they be collected by the voters?

The challenge was underlined by the difficulties voters encountered in their bid to collect the PVCs already distributed. Across the entire nation, the cards collection centres were either inadequate or there were no officials to man them, leading to inexcusable delays and stress. Many could not find their names in the register and for some of those who did, their cards were not available.

Viewed against this background, we commend INEC for not only trying to improve on the operational template inherited from his predecessor, but also to fine-tune the process with a view to eliminating past lapses in the forthcoming general elections. And as Yakubu has promised, we expect the exercise to be extended to the wards to ensure that anyone eligible to register is registered.
We appeal to all Nigerians to cooperate with the commission to ensure the success of the exercise.