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Monday, February 26, 2018

Ndigbo And The Continuous Voters Registration Exercise

It is a fact that voter registration is among the critical parts of the electoral process which provides opportunity for eligible voters to participate fully in electoral process for the purpose of electing leaders of their choice, but it appears this call to duty is mostly taken seriously by the people in the northern zone.

Experiences of the past portray people of the South-East extraction as those with carefree attitude concerning issues of elections, especially when it concerns presidential election.

They put up a lackadaisical front when it comes to going to the polls to exercise their franchise; hence they are always sidelined in the majority stake. While the northerners who are politically conscious are busy drawing their map and plotting their graph ahead of many years election, the people of the South-East who are dominantly traders are busy with their businesses and expansion from East to West, North to South. But, over time, it appears the dawn has suddenly set on their door steps as they have begun to open the page of governance.

The question, however, is: is it not rather late in the day to begin to source for a dark fowl when the night is already at its darkest? Successive governments have come and gone with the Igbo playing mostly the role of the born to be ruled. Fast forward to the presidential election of 2016, the people of the South-East abandoned their own part and towed the plotted graph of the north without any recourse to their own lineage.

They again, were divided in support of the two candidates as the greater number aligned with the North. Hence the North won the election in droves with very intimidating total as against the vote got from the entire South-East. Three years down the line of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, the Igbos have suddenly woken up from their slumber and are now championing a course for another change upon an already existing change.

Though they are not alone in the quest, there have been several loud calls from different quarters, including churches, state governments, IPOB, MASSOB, civil liberty organisations, etc for people of voting age to go out and register to vote at the designated INEC registration centers as a way of upping their votes and having a voice. The call indeed is beginning to sink in as people of voting age in Anambra State are already trooping out en-mass to register to vote. The number include those who have attained the age of 18, people that lost or misplaced their voter’s card as well as people seeking transfer of their crds following a change of location.

Though the number of potential voters coming out to register has increased since the Continuous Voter Registration Exercise started on February 12, 2018 in Anambra State, especially the state capital, Awka, however, the exercise may be hindered by lack of machines. For instance, at INEC office located in Awka South Council Area, Sunday Telegraph observed that only two machines were deployed to the council in spite of its high population. For that reason, many people are left unattended to. An official of INEC, who pleaded anonymity, said that machines were shared equally among the registration centers for the exercise, saying that they didn’t envisage a large turnout. According to her, efforts are being made to bring more machines to make their job easier.

Eligible voters on their part are beginning to express their disgust over the situation. In a chat with Sunday Telegraph, Mrs. Felicia Okoye, a petty trader with a six-monthold baby strapped to her back, decried a situation where people leave their means of livelihood to go to INEC office to register, only to stay till evening without succeeding.

She said: “This is my third time of coming here. I am hoping it will be done today since I came early.” Responding to question on why she is eager to exercise her franchise, she said electorate should begin to take things seriously. “Nigeria belongs to all of us; we should all be part of every process. We cannot continue to say we are facing our businesses while the center is not holding the foundation together.

The current administration has plunged us into deep hunger and hardship. We need to vote for people that will carry every Nigerian along as one nation without segregation. No matter what it takes, I must register and vote in 2019.” On his part, a fashion designer, Mr. Ifeanyi Ukegbu said he was at the council the previous day to register but couldn’t, only to return again. His words: “It is time for us to rise up to the occasion.

Talk the talk and walk the walk. I am happy the church is already campaigning for people to go and register. It is now a special announcement in churches, kudos to them. They are the chief drivers and once they get involved, things change for good.

You can see the number of people here now and some have gone. We need to come out and chase away evil men from power. Christians also need to pray harder for this country. “The issue is not about whether it is a Hausa, Yoruba or Igbo man that is at the helm of affairs. All we want is someone that will be a father general to all Nigerians to be there, that’s all. Nigeria has come a long way, with all the cracks to return back to the era of discrimination and persecution against certain tribes even when we remain as one nation.”

Special Assistant to Anambra Governor on Political Matters, Mr. Chibuzor Okoye, on his part hailed INEC for the gesture saying that the exercise will once again enable those who have not registered as voters in the past to do so ahead of the next election in 2019. He called on INEC to look into the possibility of creating more registration outlets in towns and communities and deploying more machines and workers to carry out the process seamlessly. He emphasized the need to increase manpower and machinery in thecapital city because of the high population.

Also, APGA chairman for Awka South, Barrister Obiorah Udeoba and an APGA Chieftain from Isiagu, Awka Local Government Area, Mr. Udochukwu Nnebedum, said that recent events in the country have spurred many more Nigerians into wanting to participate more actively in choosing their next set of leaders as there has been massive sensitization from several quarters.

The duo urged people to go and obtain their voter cards so as to be able to have the privilege of choosing who their leader would be. Expressing displeasure with the slow pace of the exercise, some students of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, (NAU), Awka, Chisom Oguh and Onyebuchi Arinze lamented that the process was difficult and burdensome, noting that many have spent hours and even days trying to register to no avail.

While officials at the state INEC office in Awka South local government area battling with large turnout of people for registration, their counterparts in Dunukofia and Njikoka Local Government Areas are redundant as they record low turnout. With inadequacy of machines at the major registration point in Awka, political watchers are worried that the state apart from the other South-East states may not be able to achieve its goal.

By Pamela Eboh

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