As the deadline for the collection of Permanent Voters Cards (PVC) draws closer, more efforts have been put in place from different quarters to encourage the electorate to collect their PVCs ahead of the forthcoming general election.
Some political parties who spoke with our correspondent have expressed optimism that Nigerians would come out en masse on the last day because it is a culture with Nigerians to do things at the last minute.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), just like the Labour Party (LP) said their camps are doing nothing special to encourage electorates to collect their PVCs either than explore the legal means which is sensitising and mobilising.
Naija News gathered that part of such efforts is the declaration of work-free days in various states like Lagos, Ondo and Ekiti so far in other to encourage workers the chance to collect.
Also, most of the leading parties in the forthcoming general election have continued to intensify electorates to prioritise the collection of PVCs because it is their only weapon to vote for leaders of their choice.
Hitherto the extended deadline for the collection is now on January 29, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) earlier fixed 22 January as the initial deadline.
However, it was gathered that even though the commission has extended the exercise, collection of PVCs from the Registration Areas at the ward levels across the country is expected to end on Sunday, January 22.
Following this, electorates would have to go to various INEC offices at local government levels starting from Monday, January 23 to the end of the exercise on Sunday, 29 January.
The collection of PVCs at the Registration Areas was initially scheduled to end on the 16th of January but was extended by one week, while the collection at the local government area office of the commission earlier scheduled to end on the 22nd of January was extended to January 29.
INEC revealed that the major reason it extended the deadline for the collection was that it was encouraged by the turnout of registered voters and the surge in the number of collected PVCs across the country, noting its concerns over allegations of discriminatory issuance of PVCs in some locations.
This platform reported on 11 January that the Chairman of INEC, Mahmood Yakubu, at the commission’s first meeting of the year 2023 presented the 2023 voter register to the political parties as part of the provisions of the 2022 Electoral Act.
The 2023 voter register revealed that a total of 93,469,008 electorates were registered voters for the 2023 general elections.
It indicated that 10 million new voters have been registered for the February 25 polls and of which 84 % are young people aged under 34.
Naija News understands that the PVCs can be likened to passports for electorates who are eager to change the narrative at the forthcoming election, as analysts have claimed that the 2023 general election might be the toughest Nigeria would ever conduct because of the presence of a strong third party force.
Along with this, is also the introduction of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), which INEC would use for the conduct of the polls next month.
The electoral umpire has clarified on several occasions that electorates without PVCs won’t be allowed to vote on election day because the PVC is critical to its planned accreditation process.
There is however a pending suit against INEC by some civil society organisations at a Federal High Court in Abuja, which is awaiting judgement on 30 January, about electorates using their temporary voter cards or the Voter Identification Number (VIN) to vote during the 2023 general elections.
Naija News in its interactions with some of the political parties discovered that nothing specifically is being done by these parties other than social media advocacy for voters to go all out to collect their PVCs.
The media aide of the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP) Emeka Obasi told our correspondent that even though he is bothered about the rate of uncollected PVC, he is positive that people would troop out on the last day to pick them up.
Peter Obi’s aide explained that nothing special is being done by the party other than to keep sensitising electorates on social media.
Obasi told Naija News in a telephone interview that “There is no special package besides what INEC is doing and offering, INEC is offering from local governments areas towards so it’s the duty of the Labour Party to sensitise people and via various social media outlets for people to collect their PVCs.
“We can only do what is legally possible, our principal, Peter Obi made a short video encouraging everybody to go and collect their PVCs, there is nothing again apart from sensitising people.
“There is nothing you can do by using radio or TV adverts, besides social media for people to go and pick their PVCs., it is your private property.”
Speaking about the rate of uncollected PVCs reportedly from the youths, Obasi said he was quite bothered because “At my local wards, uncollected PVCs are lying down and I wonder why. But you know some people transfer from where they are residing now, Many people did transfer, and they are not at home so probably they expecting to come back and collect it later or I can’t really say why they are so many uncollected PVCs.
“I don’t know, to go to register at least shows the eagerness to vote, but there is no way apathy would return because they have registered, maybe it’s the attacks on INEC facilities that have put the fear of insecurity in people, but I don’t see why people won’t go and collect their PVCs.
“But you know Nigerians all over have this idea of waiting till the last day, if you go round on 28 and the last day 29 which is the last day, you see how many people queuing everywhere to collect it. that is the Nigerian system, we have not changed.
“But hopefully, Peter Obi would come and start bringing the change in us, we need to change, if not for this generation, for the coming generation.”
On his part, the Special Assistant, Public Communications to the PDP presidential candidate Phrank Shaibu told Naija News that ordinarily the rate of uncollected PVCs should be a bother at this time, but he is optimistic the people would go and collect their cards because they are already tired and frustrated.
Shaibu submitted that “We are speaking to them, we are mobilising them, the people are already tired hungry and frustrated and they know the only way they can alter the equation is by voting, so the people are already self-mobilised.
“But what we are doing is just to reawaken their consciousness, and nothing more. No special inducement, no special project.
“The rate of uncollected PVCs ordinarily should be a bother, but you see, the people are already aware and that is why Atiku is the biggest in terms of any of the candidates who have been able to reach out to the grassroots.
“We have done as many regions, we have criss-cross more states, nooks and crannies than any other presidential candidate before the Christmas break, we did 16 states and we just finished the southwest.
“As of today (Saturday), we are in Niger to complete our route in the Northcentral before moving into the Southsouth, we would do Bayelsa State on Monday, and Delta on Tuesday, so it’s all-encompassing, Atiku is the man to pick by the grace of God Nigerians would have the opportunity to separate the wheat from the shafts.”