It is a popular fact that Nigeria has historically experienced a cadre of leadership that has largely left citizens out of the policy and decision making process, particularly on issues that impact their daily lives. In more recent times, Nigerian citizens have expressed concerns about the implementation of government led initiatives; of particular note is the ongoing Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) voter registration exercise which is gearing the nation up for the 2015 presidential and national assembly polls in February 14, and the gubernatorial and state house of assembly polls on February 28. Next year’s election will come complete with the Permanent Voters Card (PVC), a security enabled chip that will store voters’ bio-metric information and ultimately reduce the occurrence of multiple identification issues and other discrepancies during the elections. According to the Commission, the new cards were allegedly meant to be distributed to all registrants, including those who were given temporary voter registration cards to vote in 2011. However, according to many reports, polling units were not staffed with INEC officials who were supposed to be handing out the PVCs.
The pre-election process has been less than optimal and has left many citizens feeling excluded from an exercise, the outcome of which may bring the credibility of next year’s election into question.
CHANGE MAY HAVE TO START ON THE GROUND
Lagos based Nigerian, Kunle Durojaiye narrated his personal experience. “I missed the INEC voter registration in 2011 while I was completing my MBA program in the UK” he told IJINLE AFRICA.
He was determined to perform his civic duty by participating in the process this year (2014), but actualizing this desire did not happen without challenges. According to him, “Information was sparse, incoherent and hardly easy to follow”. Because of this, he missed the final phase in Lagos. Then somehow, INEC extended the final phase (phase IV) of the registration process to allow more time for voters.
“INEC asked eligible voters to go to their nearest polling unit to register to vote. People tried for days, but there was not one official at the polling units”, Durojaiye said. Upon further probing, he was informed by his local government office that he would need to visit a centralized unit at a local primary school in Lekki (Ikota), Lagos, where apparently, all the election officials were located. On arriving at the location, he met utter chaos and realized that it would be too much of a hassle to try and register that day. He returned the next day, and determined to place his vote, he stayed for a while and was eventually registered after a two hour wait under the hot scorching sun.
“The crowd amazed me; they were all people who hadn’t registered at all”. He wondered how many [people] were really registered, and whether those who were interested in registering knew how to or where to go. After observing responses on social media to this cluster, he realized that a lot more people were unaware that registration was closed.
“People can’t vote. Simple”.
Motivated by these contextual problems encountered in the roll out of the pre-election process, Durojaiye originated a survey, in partnership with The ScoopNg, a leading Nigerian site for all things politics, policy & public affairs to birth Polling Nigeria. Polling Nigeria is set to be the first publicized independent and non-partisan online poll of its kind in the country that will capture the attitudes and perceptions of Nigerians on various issues that affect them. Polling Nigeria is supported by BudgIT, a non-profit organization which promotes civic participation and fiscal transparency in Nigeria. The first survey will assess the opinions and attitudes of Nigerians regarding the ongoing INEC voter registration process.
The importance of capturing raw data cannot be underestimated, and at a time when citizens are eagerly seeking government transparency, Polling Nigeria has the potential to actively drive accountability while engaging citizens and the government’s response in solving many problems on the ground.
According to The ScoopNG, Polling Nigeria seeks to be a trust worthy source of information that will be presented to the public in the most transparent way possible. “We want to be the curators of the opinions and perceptions of Nigerians; to have them on record and to make those who are supposed to see and know them to do just that”.
Increased community participation can be an effective policy making tool and can help bring about positive social and environmental change. What is yet to be determined is how quickly the government will move to change. Citizens remain hopeful, but every vote counts. For more information on the survey, visit: POLLING NIGERIA
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