Across the country, the campaign for collection of permanent voter cards, PVC, by young Nigerians ahead of 2019 has intensified. But it is actually a vindication of the ideology of one of the newly registered political parties, the Alliance for New Nigeria, ANN, Samuel Ajayi writes

T he ferocity with which organisations, individuals, churches and groups are urging Nigerians, especially young professionals, to get their permanent voter cards, PVCs, has shown that the 2019 general elections will be very interesting. It is also an indication that Nigerians are beginning to believe that their votes will now count and the power of the people to do away with any government they deem not performing has been strengthened.
Kabir Akingbolu, a Lagos-based lawyer who has handled many election petition cases, said ordinarily, collection of voter cards should have been a continuous exercise since it was part of the statutory obligations of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to carry out voter education from time to time.

“It is a continuous exercise,” Akingbolu told THISDAY. “If people have been collecting, we won’t be talking about it the way we are doing now. INEC has kept quiet before now. It does not make sense. People ought to have collected before now. It is your civic duty to vote. Before now, elections have hardly been free and fair. It is thuggery and what have you. People now have renewed confidence in the electoral system and therefore, INEC should do more in terms of voter education. It should be continuous exercise. It should not be when elections are close by or when people are talking about changing the current government they feel is not doing well. INEC has a duty under the law to be doing this.”

But even at that, the campaign, many might not have noticed, is targeted at professionals and technocrats who have often not been involved in both in the political and electoral processes. And they form the bulk of those who use the social media and the internet. Going by this, this is where the ideology of the Alliance for New Nigeria, ANN, one of the newly registered political parties has become instructive. From when it was just a political group seeking the nod of INEC to be registered, the ANN has always hinged its emergence as a political group on the need to galvanise professionals and technocrats to be involved in the political process. The aim of the party, its promoters said then, was to ensure that Nigerians who operate in the corporate environment see politics as not the exclusive preserve of professional politicians.

In an earlier interview with THISDAY, the pro tem National Chairman of the party and Harvard-trained health development expert, Dr. Jay Osi Samuels, said the problem is that professionals and technocrats who are comfortable in their private zones have behaved as if politics does not affect them. To him, nothing could be farther from the truth.
“We, professionals, have ceded the leadership of this country to professional politicians for long. Even those of us who claim we are comfortable, that is relative. Some of the things we could afford in the past, we cannot now. We are far behind now in that so-called comfortability. We don’t even know what we happen in few months time. And it does not seem we will get the right answers to the issues we are raining. Why then should we continue to believe these same people will solve our problems for us? Why don’t we take the gauntlet and try to rescue ourselves? We are in the political space to say that even if politicians have failed, there are some of us that care for our country. We must let Nigerians know we are not hopeless. That is why we are calling on all right thinking Nigerians to come on board and be part of the action some of us have taken and help to retire and replace this class of leaders we currently have.”

In order to drive this home, the group, before its eventual registration by INEC called itself the ‘technoticians’. It is a hybrid of technocrats and politicians where, according to Samuels, the 80-20 rule applies. In other words, they are 80% technocrats and 20% politicians. Samuels threw more light during the interview:
“No matter what, when you are involved in politics, you have to play a little bit of the game. You cannot be totally immune from it. That is why we say we are much more of technocrats than politicians. But since we are involved in politics, we are a hybrid of it but more of professionals and technocrats in the political environment.”

John George Itodo, a lawyer and one of the spokespersons of the party, said the problem is that so many Nigerians have chosen to be outside the political process and rather than drive the movement to take the country back, they are more comfortable complaining about the situation of things in the country. Itodo said the aim of the ANN is to change this and work on those Nigerians who have not been really involved in the political process to be involved now and do so through the ANN.

‘The campaign all over the country for people to go and get their PVCs is a clear vindication of the ANN and what we stand for,” Itodo told THISDAY during the week. “We actually started the campaign. All of us cannot mount the rostrum and be campaigning or even contesting for elections. But we can determine the outcome of elections and political contests through our involvement in the process. And that is why the ANN has provided a veritable vehicle for professionals and technocrats through which they can influence the governance of the country. What we started has now assumed a life of its own. But is also shows the foresight of those who conceived the ANN vision.”
Insiders within the party said 2019 might come too soon for the party as it sees its drive towards changing the nation’s political history as a marathon. However, sources close to the party told THISDAY that that the party is set to field candidates for the governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states later this year.

“Yes, you are correct,” Samuels confirmed toTHISDAY. “We will be fielding candidates for both Osun and Ekiti during the governorship elections. We are working assiduously towards this and that is the only way we can tell Nigerians that we mean business and we were not registered to make up the numbers.”

As the campaign for people to get their PVCs intensifies, the unintended role played by the ANN cannot be overlooked. And that is how societies get changed. It usually starts innocuously.