In the last couple of weeks, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has led the news. About everything from undistributed, stolen and rescued permanent voters cards (PVCs) to well meaning encouragement for INEC to bare its fangs at election related hate speech. And then there are the kites zigzagging everywhere: postponing the elections because INEC is not prepared and not using the PVCs and card readers – never mind that some politicians have allegedly invested in fake PVCs.
However, INEC should be in the news for other reasons as well but few seem to be paying attention.
The first is the INEC voter register for the 2015 general election published January 14 2015. We now know that we have sixty eight million (68,833,941) registered voters, fifty four million (54,341,610) PVCs ordered and thirty eight million PVCs collected. What we do not know is why or how INEC decided to make only 54 million PVCs when we have 68 million registered voters. It is also curious that while INEC admits that there are 16M (16,927,045) registered voters yet to be provided their PVCs it is not clear if these 16M are part of the 54million ordered or entirely separate. If you add the 16M to the number who have collected (38M), we get 55M – which is 1M higher than the number INEC says it ordered. Or is this 16M the balance of what has not been ordered out of the original 68M? No. Because when you deduct 54M from 68M you get 14M – 2M less than the number of registered voters INEC says have not been provided PVCs. The numbers are do not provide a complete picture.
The FCT has 881,472 registered voters but only 850,360 cards were ordered. Adamawa has 1,559,012 registered voters but only 1,529,636 cards ordered, Delta 2,275,264 registered and 1,909,291 ordered. Every state had numbers shaved off. Yet, for those who thrive on mystery, conspiracy theories and the improbability of coincidence, when we compare the 2015 register with the 2011 one, we find that the NE, NW and NC, lost 3M voters while the SS, SW and SE gained 1.6M.
INEC’s voter register also tells us that the NSA, Sambo Dasuki is wrong about 30M uncollected PVCs because INEC’s register indicates that 71% of the 54M ordered have been collected, which
leaves 15.5M as of January 14. Logically and hopefully this number is much reduced since then.
The second reason we should be talking about INEC is the House of Representatives and Senate candidates’ list. 90% of the attention is on a few presidential candidates, 9% on some of gubernatorial candidates – while thousands of candidates are escaping scrutiny and we are loosing the chance to examine the impact of electing them in February. We are also ignoring the opportunity to engage the candidates who claim to be running on certain demographic issues.
The top contenders for the presidency have had a few political ads talking about gender inclusivity, with one candidate admittedly with more of a track record than the other. However, INEC’s lists do not support their words. For over 1600 candidates for the House of Representatives, PDP have only 19 female candidates, APC has 26 and Labour, 15. The party with the highest number of female candidates for the House is the Mega People Political Party (MPPP). The numbers are worse for the Senate. Out of a total of 747 Nigerians vying to get in PDP, APC and Labour out did themselves and fielded 7 each. MPPP led again with 16. In summary, women did not do well in any of the major political parties.
When it comes to age, youth fare no better. The Senate is still the retirement home of old generals, ex governors and ex any government position. The youngest candidate for the Senate is 25 – but this could be 52 written backwards considering the minimum age in the Constitution is 35 while the oldest is 74 with a lot 60+ candidates.
There is a lot more the numbers are telling us – including about the States but our ears are filled with defamatory words and our eyes blinkered with derogatory cartoons and tasteless newspaper ads. We stubbornly refuse to see the big picture about democracy and what it is supposed to mean, not just for participatory representation but also for the delivery of good governance and fulfilling the contract between citizens and government.
Until those of us with PVCs press ink stained thumbs on the ballot papers next month, there is still time to absorb the information we have and do the right thing: to think right and vote right.
Ayisha Osori is a Graduate of Law from the University of Lagos and Harvard Law School and most recently (2010) graduated from the Harvard Kennedy School with a Masters in Public Administration. Called to the Nigerian and New York State bars in 1998 and 2000 respectively and 2013 Eisenhower Fellow from Nigeria. In 3 words: writer, mother, status quo rattler.