It is quite disturbing to survey the scenario surrounding the presidential elections only to realise that the main source of political tension and indeed greatest threat to the nation's peace and stability is Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and its permanent voter cards (PVC) gamble. Worse still, the All Progressives Congress (APC) whose bid for the nation's presidency has become synonymous with desperation and do-or-die posturing, has been quick to add the PVC palaver to its tinder box of explosive electioneering by obdurately insisting on February 14, even if this means disenfranchising up to 30 million voters. The looming disenfranchisement of a huge chunk of the electorate has understandably also heightened public consternation at the seemingly deliberate scuttling of the four-year routine of general elections by the inexplicable introduction of an innovative nuisance. All these contrived challenges have morphed into a monstrous menace with barely two weeks left before the elections and nobody seems to have the guts to put INEC in the dock.
To begin with, what was the point of replacing the existing voter cards? If you ask INEC you get the lame excuse of wanting to make the cards "permanent" by weather-proofing them and making them more resistant to wear and tear. But we have general elections only once in four years thus ridiculing the whole notion of wear and tear or weather-beating that ostensibly necessitated the now pointless innovation. A voter card is not like a driving licence or a national Identity card that you have to carry with you because you will need to show it to Federal Road Safety Corps or police patrol teams or validate your identity at the bank or embassy. In a nutshell, the PVC is the unnecessary creation of the INEC moguls whose eyes are focused on the usual spin-offs from "project implementation" than the basic needs for a free and fair election process.
Just rewind the tape and you will see how virtually every general election is burdened with the introduction of one contraption or the other, from electronic voting machines to digital computerised cameras, at humongous costs in foreign exchange, only to be dutifully discarded in INEC's museum of nuisance innovations. Since no questions are ever asked about INEC budgets and how they are blown in post-election euphoria, it's the INEC moguls who gleefully retreat from the spotlights with the rewards of project experimentation as bonus retirement benefits. Otherwise, INEC moguls would not be so persistent in being a prominent part of the problems with our election management while posing as diligent umpires forever seeking new ways of resuscitating old hitches to justify the bottomless budgets they always come up with, comparable only to the federal budget but for being generally unaccountable.
As our latest encounter with INEC innovations worsens, it is remarkable that the intransigence of INEC moguls increases in a barely-concealed bid to "bold face" their way through yet another fiasco that cannot by any sinister stretch of election engineering be attributed to the millions of Nigerian voters who are now being victimised for "low collection rate". In reality, the low collection rate is a direct consequence of the lousy logistics deployed to entrench the PVC as the latest brain-wave with scant regard for the rationale and feasibility in the face of increasing time and space challenges. The public media is awash with the harrowing tales of frustrated registered voters running from pillar to post under the clueless direction of INEC officials and still not finding anything to collect. Add the plethora of complaints concerning pending transfer requests, deleted data, left-over unregistered but qualified voters, tormenting queues, absentee officials, incompetent officials and you begin to wonder whether INEC moguls have a hidden agenda.
A hidden agenda is arguably the only open explanation for INEC failing to place full orders for the production of all the 68 million PVCs needed in good time for earlier deliveries and convenient timely collection by voters. They placed orders for 54 million instead as if to see how far that figure will go before ordering more so that the spin-offs will spill-over only to realise too late in the day the need to get the balance of 14 million, not from nation's security printing plant but from far away China where one of its jittery officials had to be despatched to make the best of a bad situation. Meanwhile, even the initial 54 million cards are being delivered in instalments, not to mention the several millions of yet to be registered voters whose details still have to be sent to Beijing, or the over four million others whose data were consumed by viruses in INEC computers hungry for their own spin-off!
Against all these formidable self-inflicted hitches and glitches, Professor Attahiru Jega remains in professorial denial of the inevitability of rescheduling the elections, dishing out hollow assurances hinged on the tactless possibility of keeping the PVC palaver raging till the eve of elections. Even when an insightful National Security Adviser Col. Sambo Dasuki helps with a sensible straw to salvage the drowning don from a disgraceful departure from INEC by harping on the glaring time constraints and the fortuitous availability of extra time within constitutional limits, Professor Jega would rather pander to the gallery of confidence tricksters in opposition ranks whose voodoo instincts abhor any extension of election date as a recipe for losing out to incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Somehow INEC has lost its focus on facilitating the participation of the greatest number of registered voters in the elections within the lawful time limits and is instead engrossed with rear view mirror of retrogressive politicking.
In the circumstance we find ourselves, it is very tempting indeed to ascribe all the disaster-dating devices and adamant embrace of dead end approach to the presidential elections by INEC to the covert conspiracy with the APC's sworn conviction that any shift from February 14 would result in the fourth time failure of General Buhari to snatch the nation's presidency. For the avoidance of doubt, hear it from Lai Mohammed : " “They know for sure that if they don’t postpone the elections, there is no way they can win. They are just terrified”. And if the elections are not postponed, 30 or so millions of Nigerians will be disenfranchised, so that APC which is terrified of more popular participation in the election will lose. And INEC is playing along with this treacherous plot in order to cover up its scandalous resort to a nuisance innovation called PVC, now better known for Pruning Voters' Clout. Definitely PVC is for APC.