OVER the years, especially since the emergence of the fourth Republic in May 1999, Nigeria has been recording low turnout of voters in elections which is not a good sign for democracy.
This has been a source of worry to many keen pundits. But recently, a good number of Nigerians, particularly the youth who had not been enthusiastic about voting or being part of taking political decisions in the country, suddenly become very interested in participating in the electoral process and started trooping out to get registered to obtain their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs). This resulted in an unprecedented surge in INEC registration centres in all parts of the country as intending voters queue for PVC in the ongoing voter registration exercise.
JUST as well-meaning individual and groups began to heave sighs of relief that young Nigerians are beginning to toe the right path to set things right in the forthcoming election, news backed by videos circulated in the social media showing fellow Nigerians scaring away aspiring voters as they trooped out en-masse to register to get permanent voters cards.
IN ONE of the videos, some residents of Lagos who went for the exercise of getting registered as voters to be eligible to perform their simple civic duty of voting during elections were not only harassed but were stoned and chased out of the centre.
BEFORE then, similar incidents were reported about people being chased out of a registration centre in Imo State by those alleged to be armed bandits or unknown gunmen.
THESE developments in our democratic polity is extremely worrisome and should be of great concern to all well-meaning Nigerians, INEC, the governments and security agencies.
IT IS our belief that the surge is an affirmation of the increasing confidence Nigerians have in our electoral process and that it is the duty of the government and the electoral commission to continue to ensure that this confidence is sustained.
THIS is why it beats the imagination of right thinking persons that anyone in his right senses would think of harassing and intimidating the persons who came out to peacefully attempt to contribute their civic quota to the democratic process by obtaining their PVCs. Is it no longer the constitutional right of every Nigerian who is 18 years of age and above to register and vote in any part of the country he/she resides without hindrance?
WE THEREFORE, strongly condemn the intimidation and violence evidently meted out to the people and urge security agencies and INEC to rein in the trend.
WE CALL on political parties, their candidates and supporters to desist from instigating people to take such action which is clearly a desperate design to use violence to disrupt or sabotage the forthcoming election.
Whatever may be their reason for embarking on such actions that will threaten the nation’s democratic process, they have to bear in mind that there is still enough time for anyone to campaign and sell his or herself or whoever among the candidates he prefers instead of resorting to violence in order to stop political opponents.
]It is also important for politically active persons to note that any candidate who is afraid of winning in a free, fair, credible and transparent election where Nigerians are allowed to freely express their will is not worth being in the race and must be resisted as Nigerians now know better.
WE IMPLORE INEC to distribute more equipment and personnel to registration centres where there are influx because originally, the commission should have enough PVC for qualified voters. Urgent provision should be made to register all adults, who desire to exercise their civic rights in 2023 and beyond.
WE URGE all eligible Nigerians to insist in getting registered to exercise their right in the forthcoming election no matter the intimidation or harassment political detractors pose. They should bear in mind that they have the power to make the changes they want and make the difference. Therefore, they should never give up.