Nigerians, your future are in your ‘cards’
Earlier this week, a high-ranking official of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) came out on a national television trying unsuccessfully to justify the glaring deficiencies in the body’s operations. The well-informed moderators also brought an official of one of the political parties with the intent of balancing the discussion. One of the focal points of discussion was widely circulated videos of what appeared like under-aged voters thumb-printing electoral materials and putting same into ballot boxes during a recent local government election in the country. Specifically, the video, shown on AIT and some online platforms, was said to have emanated from Kano State. We all saw the major differences between the comportment of the INEC official and the other guest. Who says we lack intelligent men and women?
The issue of under-aged voting is not new to us as a people. It has always been there in all past elections, right from pre-independence and the act of election rigging is not limited to any political party. Snatching of electoral boxes, use of thugs to intimidate opponents, outright elimination of perceived political enemies and intimidation of judicial officials have always reigned supreme during elections. However, with the expansive reforms in the electoral system and the promulgation of the electoral act of 2010, one would have thought some of these lapses would have long been checkmated. Unfortunately, that has not been the case. It is either the INEC as a body doesn’t have a full grasp of its responsibility or it is allowing itself to be intimidated by the powers that be. Some have even said INEC can never be truly independent, if its chairman remains an appointee of the president.
All over the world, manual voting is becoming obsolete. But here in Nigeria, we are still unsure of what we want. Earlier attempts to go electronic have been marred, albeit intentionally. Many questions are being asked: Why can’t eligible Nigerians living abroad be allowed to cast their votes from anywhere in the world? Why is it difficult for prospective voters to register seamlessly and collect their voters’ cards as at when due? Why are some people reportedly being denied the opportunity to register as at when due? Why are there not adequate personnel to man registration centres? Why can’t the average voter vote from anywhere in the country and with ease? Who are those mitigating against our electoral progress in this country?
See developments across the world. America, Europe, Asia, even Arab have gone nuclear. They have all long gone digital, while we continue to run ourselves down here at home, struggling with crumbs from corrupt tables. Why is our case different? Why must our hardworking citizens continue to beg for their basic rights? Is it that we don’t know what we want? Is it that we don’t have the intellectual competence? Or is that some group of individuals wants us to continue to live in darkness, why the rest of the world glow with light? What is really wrong with us as a people?
The coming of the social media has finally made life much easier, such that development is sure for those desirous of it. Information is all over. We don’t need to go far to learn how things are done. The answers are right here with us in the Internet. Why operate analogue when you can be digitally compliant? The truth of the matter is that some forces have vowed that we must remain perpetually in darkness. They want us to remain in perpetual slavery, even though we are freeborn children of the Almighty. We must, therefore, continue to demand for positive change and entrenchment of workable institutions. The country is bigger than any individual or group of people.
My brothers and sisters, our destinies are in our own hands. The voters’ card! We must protect it jealously. We must not allow anyone to cow us into selling it or given it out for a plate of porridge. Remember what becomes of our future will be determined by who we cast our votes for. Anyone who allows his fellow human to cajole him into a life of perpetual slavery will have God to contend with. As we move gradually towards another election year, let us be wise and allow the spirit of God to shine in us, so that all layers of darkness limiting our progress can be destroyed. Let us continue to demand of INEC transparency and accountability. Say no to under-aged voters. Say no to electoral rigging. Go and get your voters’ card. Say Yes to true democracy, accountability, equal rights and justice.
• Very Rev. Msgr. Osu, Director, Social Communications, Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos.
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