By Segun Ogunlade
“Get your Permanent Voters Card (PVC), Segun, get your PVC. You know your vote is your power.” That was what an old friend told me about three years ago. A similar advice was given in a conversation I had with a friend this past week. On the surface, this is a good advice that every well-meaning Nigerian should take. We are at a time that there are more politricksians than there are politicians in the country. However, as I have always argued, more lies beyond just collecting the PVC. How do the electorate perceive politics and how it is being played in the country? The latter is a fact we cannot rule in the Nigerian political context.
True to those advocating for its collection, it is good to have the PVC. We are at a time in the country that we need to show the growing number of politricksians that we know what we are doing and are capable of making the right decisions where it matters. But what happens after the collection? Just as we have seen many people get driver’s license even when they cannot tell the gear apart from the clutch, many people now collect the PVC for reasons that are not political-related. They get the PVC so as to use it as a valid means of identification. Some of the people in possession of the PVC have shown no sign of displeasure with the situation of the country, thereby indifferent to making a change through the power of their thumb.
Some have argued that their votes don’t count and therefore have no need for the PVC asides for its use in the banking halls and police check points. However, vote buying is a common phenomenon in recent elections in the country. One could then ask why politicians would pay for something that doesn’t matter. Although their indifference can be justified in a country where people don’t enjoy anything but bad governance and continuous looting of the country’s resources, it is not the solution. People could grow tired and weary of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, but being apathetical towards electoral activities would only mean that the same leaders that brought the current problems upon us remain unchallenged. People in the political class across all levels have always played the people as in a game of chess and any individual’s indifference towards that would ensure its continuance.
Besides this, what does an ordinary Nigerian think about politics and election? Many Nigerians are naturally inclined to support the politician that is from their region or state. For some, it could mean the beginning of a jolly good thing while some just want their son or daughter to have a taste of political power. However, this has been proven wrong at different times in Nigeria polity.
We have seen at different times how political leaders have failed people from their region despite enjoy popular support. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo could not fix Lagos-Ibadan expressway that was one of the most plied road in the country in his eight years stay in Aso Rock. Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was unable to fix either the Port-Harcourt or Warri refinery that could have provided jobs for his kinsmen who are always keen on “oiyel money” or think about cleansing Ogoniland that has suffered terrific environmental degradation as a result of petroleum industries operation around the area. Besides sheer entitlement mentality, unemployment and lack of accountability from government that gets so much from “oiyel money” have made many youths in the South-South turn to pipeline vandalism, oil bunkering and kidnapping. These problems persisted under an Ijaw presidency.
Northern Nigeria has produced more heads of government in the country. Yet, that part of the country and its people are not in any way better for putting their confidence in their kinsmen. The level of illiteracy is high, the people are poverty-stricken, and killing of innocent citizens is now an everyday phenomenon. The problem of insecurity and terrorism that started as a child’s play under a Fulani president snowballed into a national problem under an Ijaw President and has now assumed different dimension and spread to different parts of the country under Fulani president, the one that promised to bring peace and tranquility to his people.
The problem of the North where the people believe they were born to rule is a peculiar one. One of such peculiarities is that their sons and daughters in good positions appears to be unbothered by the myriad of problem their kinsmen face on a daily basis. Northerners elites that are enlightened do not want others to be like them. These educated people in the north know that with education comes knowledge and with knowledge comes power – power to turn things around, power to ask questions and power to demand for a better life. The people are aware they are not getting the best from their kinsmen in power yet they continue to help perpetuate them in the corridors of power.
One of the problems we need to face solution to is how to educate people that are not ready to learn. We need to change the mindset of members of one ethnic group rarely seeing the good in members of other ethnic groups. There is need to make the Igbos see a Hausa or Ijaw man with a proven integrity as deserving of political leadership as a man from Imo or Anambra. The Hausa man needs to know that it is not only the man from the north that can run the country and that leadership is not a trait that only the northerners possess. The Yorubas need to know that an Igbira or a Bini man can be absorbed into the Oduduwa Republic because of his character and not his ethnicity, his antecedents and not the name he bears. The ordinary man and woman on the street need to be cured of their deep-seated ethnic bigotry, prejudice and distrust of people that are not their kinsmen. The electorates need to be sensitized about the need to put competency above religious affiliation and ethnicity as those things are not the best modes of determining one’s integrity. The people need to know that beyond the collection of PVC, they also need to come out and vote when it is time to do so. It is time we start voting into power people that are qualified to hold such positions. We cannot continue to allow the worst of us rule the best of us.
Telling the electorates to get their PVC is good. However, that should come with telling them to vote without ethnic colouration or sentiment is better. Nobody would move Nigeria away from where it currently is if the current set of politicians walking the corridor of power do not win. More importantly, we have to look inward to see the main reason(s) for which we go out to vote and ask if it is capable to drive the change that we deserve. Beyond the collection of the PVC lies the determination to make good use of it. Now that 2023 general election will soon be upon us like dews in the dawn, the time to begin to think and act right is now. We cannot afford to miss it again this time if we want a better Nigeria for the generations yet unborn to inherit. The enemies of the people are regrouping and we cannot afford to let them have their way. May God bless Nigeria!
Segun Ogunlade writes from Port Harcourt where he is currently undergoing the one-year mandatory service to the country.