Last week, Afrobeats artist, Paul Okoye of PSquare shared his concerns about Nigerian students still in school when they were supposed to be collecting their Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC)s.
This caused a flurry of advice for students. Some said that parents could help them collect their PVCs using the INEC printout, while some students didn’t even see the point of leaving school for a PVC.
Despite the varying opinions, one thing is for sure — 3.2 million Nigerian students stand a significant chance of being left out of the polls come February. Let’s break down the problem, why it matters and who needs to take action.
There are less than four days to the deadline for PVC collection, and so far, 79% of registered voters have collected their PVCs. But what about the remaining 21%?
Well, here’s your answer — the majority of that 21% are in school doing anything BUT collecting their PVCs.
But how did this happen? To understand this, you’d need to recall the prolonged industrial strike by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) for eight months in 2022. It also doesn’t help when the ‘members’ going on strike are your lecturers.
During that period, the students weren’t just sitting at home and washing plates. Over 3.8 million students out of 7.2 million youths went to their Local Government Area (LGA) wards to register for their PVC ahead of the 2023 elections.
However, no one thought about how the students would collect their PVCs after the strike. This is now the bone of contention. Since they resumed in October, there have been tons of lectures and assessments to make up for lost time, which makes them too busy to travel for PVC collection. But that’s not all.
There are reports that some universities are scheduling exams during the election period. So not only can they NOT collect their PVCs, but there is also a likelihood that they will be excluded from voting.
Why does this matter?
There are two answers to this. The first is that students are youths. Youths make up the largest number of voters for the 2023 elections, with 37 million people. Students are the largest in terms of occupational distribution, with 26 million people.
Now, who will be left to vote if you take away the people who make up the numbers? This will cause low voter turnout, ultimately affecting who could become our next leaders in February.
Let’s not forget that this happened before in the 2019 elections. There were 84.2 million registered voters, but only 28.6 million voters showed up at the polls.
The second is the hindrance of the law. According to the 2022 Electoral Act, no individual can vote outside where they registered for the PVC. Many students already attend universities that are miles away from their local government areas, and are significantly affected.
What has been done to address this?
Non-governmental organisations such as Yiaga Africa have called out the National Universities Commission (NUC) to refrain from scheduling examinations during elections.
But what about collecting their PVCs? Time is ticking fast. The NUC also needs to give these students a pass to go home and pick this up. They deserve to be decision-makers during an election that will determine the next phase of their lives.