President Muhammadu Buhari’s request that all eligible Nigerians should make sure they get their Permanent Voters Card (PVC) and vote anybody they want in the 2019 general elections is the best indication yet that our democracy is deepening under his watch.
Speaking at the Presidential Villa in Abuja on Democracy Day, while breaking Ramadan fast with members of the judiciary led by Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, he said voters have the right to vote for anybody they wish regardless of ethnic or religious background. He also used the occasion to call on state governors to continue with voters’ education so that the people will take their permanent voters card seriously and make sure that they don’t lose it.
The president recalled that he came to power after three unsuccessful attempts, a feat he attributed to Almighty God and the power of the PVCs as well as card reader machines. He said that it is reassuring now that anyone who goes to the polling booths in their constituency and voted, their votes will be counted and will count in determining those who lead them.
In his view, before now votes were disregarded and results written and there was nothing anyone could do about it even when the matter was brought before the courts. But with technology now, it has been made easy. Buhari repeated his appeal to the governors to embark on voters’ education, to tell the electorate that their voters’ card is their national card.
It is additionally significant that President Buhari made the remarks before distinguished jurists of the nation’s apex court that are in a position of influence in the dispensation of justice and who represent the third arm of government. Theirs is a constituency that is recognized as the final arbiter in all contests, electoral or otherwise.
A former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Alfa Belgore, who led the guests in his remarks, pointed out that the President’s position on the importance of the voters card in furtherance of democratic principles are proof that he cares for the country and is willing to do all within his powers to ensure that the nation’s hard earned democracy is sustained at all cost.
This newspaper agrees with the president on the need for voter education as well as the pertinence of the electorate exercising their franchise through deployment of the power of the voters’ card which is globally acknowledged as the power of the people to elect the leaders they desire.
While we commend the patriotic disposition to the ultimate power of the voter, it is also imperative to remind those in his government and the All Progressives Congress (APC) as well to cultivate the same patriotic democratic disposition. It is our view that with the participation of the party in the quest to entrench free and fair elections at all levels of governance, President Buhari’s appeal may remain mere wishful thinking.
By asking Nigerians to vote whoever they like in the coming elections, the president is clearly denouncing the phenomenon which saw many incompetent and even unpopular candidates clinching elective offices in the last general elections. We believe this is a timely realisation of the gross error of endorsement that brought many into power as governors and legislators.
In this vein, we fear that those who were voted into office in the 2015 elections on the coat tails of Mr President and who have woefully failed to justify the confidence voters reposed in them in the past three years may do everything possible to pervert the PVCs and card-reader machines. With their return to power now far from being guaranteed, such candidates may resort to desperate and undemocratic measures to manipulate the electoral system.
We urge Nigerians to draw inspiration from President Buhari’s admonition and to be extra vigilant in safeguarding the sanctity of their votes. The next general elections clearly present a golden opportunity for the election of only the best and most competent hands from across all the political parties to superintend the tough task of rapidly transforming the falling fortunes of the nation.
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