Interestingly, it is not INEC this time that does not have the PVCs for people to collect. It is the people who are yet to go for their Cards.
From all reports and indications the Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) is steadily gaining value and reckoning in Nigeria. It certainly has not yet attained its weight in gold, but it has made remarkable progress. As is usually the case with every item that rises in value and reckoning, the PVC is increasingly being sought after by many – for different reasons.
In a society where a generally acceptable identification card with unquestionable integrity is yet to evolve, the PVC seems to have come to the rescue, to an appreciable extent. This obviously is one of the reasons behind the rise in the public reckoning of the biodata-loaded Card. The acceptability of the PVC by banks, financial institutions and virtually every other public institution as a standard identification card testifies to its enhanced profile in the society at the moment. Indeed, many are known in recent times to seek the PVC for reasons different from what the Card was primarily designed for. There is no problem in that.
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However, as useful and appreciated as all these other functions of the PVC are, they remain essentially by the way. That is to say, the true essence of the Card is located elsewhere. As it comes, the PVC is a missile specifically designed and produced by the Election Management Body for the Election Day. That is the day the Card comes to life, the day it makes its voice heard. On that very day, in the hands of a voter and within the confines of the polling booth the PVC speaks in a very clear tone, different from its subdued bearing when it is called upon to serve simply as an instrument for personal identification. In its true element within the polling booth, the PVC is a sharp knife. It can cut quite deep. It can cut aimlessly too.
The reality is that the value of the PVC differs from one hand to another. Your PVC can be more valuable than mine. It depends on what it means to the holder. PVC in the hand of a cheap voter for instance faces the unfortunate prospect of being a cheap tool that can so easily be put to a wrong purpose. On the same plane, a PVC in the hand of a hungry man stands the serious danger of becoming a blunt-edged knife with no impact. In the main therefore, the ultimate determinants of the actual value of PVC are; the integrity of the owner of the Card and the predominant perception of the integrity of elections in the system.
For any or both of these integrity tests to effectively occur, it is necessary that the PVCs are sufficiently in the hands of the people. Here lies a new concern for INEC. Having assiduously pursued registration of voters in the last sixteen months using for the first time the format of Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) INEC seemed justifiably happy with itself that the CVR yielded many more prospective voters. Alas a new rather curious problem has confronted the EMB; many have registered but few, very few have come forth to collect their PVC. The situation tends to undermine the buoyant report of the CVR, consid- ering the truth that registering a voter remains an incomplete engagement as long as the registrant has not collected his PVC. Interestingly, it is not INEC this time that does not have the PVCs for people to collect. It is the people who are yet to go for their Cards.
The story is the same all over the country. In Ebonyi State for instance, the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Professor Godswill Obioma had to approach the State House of Assembly last week in search of how best to get people to come collect their PVC. According to the REC, there are 77,487 PVCs ready for collection in the offices of INEC in the State. Barely 6000 of these Cards have been collected by the owners so far.Prof.Obioma is soliciting for the collaboration of the State legislators and every other relevant agency to reach out to communities in the State for people to come forward to collect their PVCs. As it is in Ebonyi so is it in Lagos, Ekiti and Bauchi. PVCs are awaiting collection. So where are the owners of the Cards? To imagine also that a lot more PVCs will still be supplied to the States for collection by their owners. The bulk of PVCs that are in the States awaiting collection are for those who registered in 2015. PVCs for later registrations in 2018 will still be printed and supplied. By this Friday August 17, 2018 the long stretched exercise of registering voters otherwise known as Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) will come to a temporary halt, to be continued after the
General Elections. It is well and good that INEC decided that while new registration of voters and transfer of registration will be suspended, collection of PVCs will continue till one week before the General Election in 2019.The schedule gives ample time and space to all who registered to collect their Cards before the elections.
If at the end of the day millions of PVCs are still left uncollected by their owners, the time, resources and effort spent in conducting the registration exercise that yielded the PVCs would have been wasted. That will be very unfair to the scores of INEC personnel who carried out the registration exercise in all the nooks and crannies of the States. It will also be a big disservice to popular democracy in the country. Unless ghosts have developed the desire to register as voters and indeed make several appearances in various States where they were duly captured in human forms by INEC’s Direct Data Capture Machines, the expectation is that individuals who took time off their schedules to go and register as voters will find both time and sense in also going to collect their PVCs, more so now that PVCs have gained a lot more reckoning both in the difference they make in elections and in the other sundry ancillary functions they perform for their owners.
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The worth of the PVC, however it is measured can only be an issue if the Card is in the hand of its rightful owner. An uncollected PVC is a waste and surely is of no value, not even to the criminal on an unholy political assignment to buy votes.
There are few other interpretations that can be made if millions of PVCs are left abandoned and uncollected at the end of the day, but it is better for now to hope that people will come forward to answer their names.