Millions of Nigerians, us included, believed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) when it said it would adhere strictly to the Electoral Act, deploy the use of the BVAS and upload results in real-time to the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV). 

[INEC chair Mahmood Yakubu / Punch]

What played out was the opposite. Across the country, results were not uploaded in real time as promised. Nine days after the general elections, results are still being uploaded to IReV, calling INEC’s competence and integrity to question as it has already declared a winner.

INEC’s failings have led to an atmosphere of distrust and may have the effect of creating voter apathy. There’ve even been reports of people destroying their Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVC). 

https://twitter.com/youngskidmusic/status/1630697781957476356

Destroying your PVC is the wrong approach. In a few hundred words, we hope to convince you why you should still use your PVC to vote on March 11.

You are in the majority

There’s a common expression, “majority carries the vote.” It means that in a democracy, the people’s choice of a leader should reflect whoever gathers the most votes. While the president-elect, Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), has been declared the winner, the victory is disputed in court following protests by the opposition parties over election irregularities.

[President-elect, Bola Tinubu]

Opposition votes combined outnumber the winner by nearly 6 million. The importance of this should be evident. It sends a message that despite irregularities, the people can still have their say with their ballots. Abstaining from elections because they don’t go as planned is the equivalent of cutting your nose to spite your face. Remember, the matter is still in court. Whether you turn up or not, elections will proceed. 

Higher voter turnout reduces the chances of rigging

You’ve heard this one before, and it’s true. The more people turn out, the less likely the possibility of rigging elections. The saying that there’s strength in numbers carries more weight than you realise.

The 2019 elections had a 35% voter turnout. This meant 65% of eligible voters didn’t vote. When INEC planned the election, it did so with the assumption that everyone would come out to vote. Millions of unused ballot papers are susceptible to manipulation when the majority don’t come out to vote.

[Ballot papers / Guardian Nigeria]

If, on the other hand, voter turnout is in the high eighties or nineties, there’ll be fewer available ballots to swing the election in favour of any one candidate.

Higher voter turnout is also a thug’s nightmare. A determined voter populace keeping watch at their polling unit will be tough to intimidate because how many people you fit beat? Besides, citizens are better informed and prepared based on how things played out in the February 25 election. So don’t be afraid. Go out and vote.

State elections are more important than you realise

All eyes were on the February 25 elections, and understandably too. It’s the top job, and you want whoever gets that seat to merit it because leading Nigeria today is not a job for the fainthearted. 

However, it’s a mistake to think it all starts and ends with who gets to be president. Arguably, governorship elections are just as important. Your governor can wake up one morning and ban okadas rendering thousands of people jobless. Governors can increase tuition fees of state universities on a whim. They can decide that local government elections won’t hold.

They are also, as we’ve seen now, very capable of using the powers of their office to sway elections in “interesting” ways. As citizens, it’s in your best interest to vote for candidates not based on ethnic considerations but also based on their character and competence. If a candidate has a history of owing salaries or pensions, for example, a vote on March 11 will make clear that such impunities will no longer be tolerated. Coming out to vote on March 11 will send a message that citizens won’t be dissuaded.

We’re all learning lessons from the conduct of our elections, but the critical point is that regardless of everything, you should come out to vote on March 11. It’s hard, but it’s necessary. You won’t get this chance again for another four years.

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