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PVC: Our “lethal weapon” for social change

Among the numerous and established features of democracy, periodic elections come top of the list, for obvious reasons.   First, periodic fair and credible elections are…

Among the numerous and established features of democracy, periodic elections come top of the list, for obvious reasons.  

First, periodic fair and credible elections are the template which sets in motion other characteristics that define democracy. For an election to be adjudged free and fair, with some aspect of credibility, there must be citizens’ participation, liberty to choose without intimidation, vote and be voted for. While it is incontrovertible that there are no flawless elections across the globe, nonetheless, it is expected that an election should conform to these features to be credible. 

In the buildup to Nigeria’s February 2023 polls, expectedly, all manner of intriguing and flagrant disregard to common sense, practice and the rules of the game, by political actors in the country became rife, and more pronounced. 

Political actors are shamelessly engaged in a subterranean act of recruiting their foot soldiers to track voters, and convince them to sell their rights – Permanent Voters Card. That’s ridiculously the height of irresponsibility.  

Over the years, cases of sale and purchase of PVC were quite low. But recently, the sitution has gained amazing traction in our political space. What is more appalling is that those engaged in this dastardly act are in a way responsible for the sorry state of the economy, which has impoverished many, to the point they’ve resorted to the sale of the only weapon they possessed, which could liberate them, and ignite a positive change in the polity. 

The recent spike in this  despicable act is not unconnected with some innovations by the electoral umpire, INEC. The Electoral Act 2022 as amended is ostensibly the new nightmare of politicians. The act among many things gives legal backing to some of these technologically innovative ideas, that allow for the transmission of results, electronically, which is expected to eliminate electoral fraud and sanitise the election. 

Two major critical takeaways from the act include the Bimodal  Voter Accreditation System (BVAS). It is a technological device used to identify and accredit voters’ fingerprints and faces. The device is also used for capturing images of the polling unit result sheet (Form EC8A) and uploading the image of the result sheet online. 

Next is the INEC Election Results Viewing Portal, IReV. It operates as an online portal where polling unit level results are uploaded directly from the polling unit, transmitted, and published for the public. At the front end of the online portal, members of the public can create personal accounts with which they can gain access to all uploaded results stored as PDF files. 

The political fireworks and gimmicks began the moment INEC made it clear to adopt these innovations for the 2023 polls. The opposition that greeted these pronouncements squeaked to high heavens. Many untoward reasons  and half-truths were adduced by political actors, especially those with infinitesimal chances of victory, to dissuade INEC from adopting the iconic milestone. 

Nonetheless, typical of a Nigerian politician, when all efforts to disrupt the process and deter INEC from achieving and implementing these breakthroughs, they had recourse to their next plan. 

And the next plan is the resurgence and prevalence of sale of PVCs we are witnessing across the country at the moment. The other option open to politicians is vote-buying.   

The law, particularly the Electoral Act,  states categorically that the PVC is not transferable as stated in  sections 114 and 145. It has further shut off any possibility of a purchased PVC, to be used by another person, regardless of any explanation adduced. 

But selling a PVC is akin to mortgaging one’s entire future, possibly with that of their unborn generations, for a little money. Any individual with conscience and any form of morality would resist the temptations. Exchanging or selling one’s PVC is like selling their birth-right. Of course, the PVC is theirs, rightly so. But since it is impermissible to take one’s life, that is according to the law, despite the life belonging to him, selling the PVC is  the same too. 

Having known these irrefutable facts, why then would any politician wish to go ahead, despite   all of the impossibleness, and purchase PVCs? The aim and target of the politician in all of these is to deny their opponents votes.  

If politicians had keenly and consistently provided democratic dividends for the electorate, there wouldn’t be need for last minute panic and desperation to jostle for votes.  

In Nigeria, citizens glorify public or elected officials, which is what has been fundamentally wrong with our system. Public office is a privilege; not a right. Whoever is elected is privileged and must be accountable to his people who voted him in.  

Gladly, some arrests have been made across the country. Security operatives should expose the identities of their main sponsors, and be prosecuted openly. This could deter others from following the same path. 

Because in the coming days, especially as the elections draw near, more PVC sales and vote-buying would be on the rise, except of course security set out to tame it.  

It mustn’t be security alone. Every stakeholder; both traditional and religious leaders, civil society organisations and those who seek genuine change should be on lookout for those engaged in this criminal enterprise.  

No matter the circumstances, selling of one’s right, the PVC, which remains by far the most lethal weapon that should be used to force or bring about social change through the ballot box should be discouraged. 

The logical thing to do is remain steadfast and resolute.  


Mohammed is with the Department of Political Science and International Studies, Ahmadu Bello University-Zaria