Problematic voter card

Casual Musing with Chioma Annette

Email: Twitter: @cutechyoma

ChiomaWhen the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced that the Permanent Voter Cards (PVC) were ready for collection, I rejoiced because the polling unit where I registered was down the road from my house and I thought it was going to be a stroll in the park

The criteria listed by INEC before a PVC can be issued looked pretty straight forward: The person must have registered before, the individual’s name must be in the voters register displayed at the Polling Unit, the person must have a Temporary Voters Card (TVC), but if that is missing something to confirm the person’s identity must be brought, the individual must be physically present at the collection centre as collection by proxy was prohibited. For those unable to collect during the specified period, the collection centre would be the INEC office in their LGA. All simple and straight forward right? Not quite.

This is my voter card collection experience. I have a never-say-die spirit and will pursue anything to its conclusive end. Thankfully I have recorded more success with this resolve and it helped me a great deal when I went to collect the card.

My work schedule prevented me from collecting my permanent voter card at the stipulated time. The INEC officials arrive after I leave for work and close before I return in the evenings. However, I was determined to pick up my card and I set out to do so no matter what.

The particular day I decided to collect my card, I did not leave for work early. I walked down to my Polling Unit and you should have seen my smile when I saw my name and picture among those pasted on the wall. INEC officials were not around so I asked some of the security men seated there if they knew where the officials would be. I was advised to go to Kosofe Local Government Area office located at Ogudu, Lagos so I drove to Ogudu in search of the local government office. When I got to Ogudu, I stopped at a junction to ask for directions from two pleasant female traffic wardens. They asked me to look out for the Ogudu Police Station right on the road because the Local Government office was directly opposite the station. I thanked them, drove off, found the police station and found parking space on the road as well.

At the INEC office at the local government office, it was a beehive of activities. I managed to find my way in, approached one of the staff and told her my mission. She looked at a list she had and told me that my collection centre was not at their office but at the Anthony Village High School. Disappointed, I got into my car drove to work with a mental note to go to the school the next day for the card.

By 8am the following day, I was at the school and there was a crowd there already. I asked a lady on the queue if she was there to pick her card as well but she was queuing up for fresh registration of voters. Since I was on a different mission, I managed to squeeze through the crowd and accosted one of the INEC officials seated behind a computer. I told her my mission. To my chagrin she told me that INEC was no longer issuing permanent voter cards. I told her that I saw my name on the wall of my polling unit and what that means is that my card was ready. She told me to disregard what I saw on the wall, what I was told at their office, join the queue and re-register. I was stunned. My never-say-die spirit made me head back to the INEC office to try once more. My instincts disagreed with what she said too.

I headed back to the office at Ogudu and parked inside the compound this time. Immediately the smell of locust beans (iru) hit my nostrils and I met one of the office attendants cooking efo riro on a kerosene stove right inside the office. There was another lady seated in that office shouting “e fi eja si o” (please add fish). I calmly approached her and she was patient enough to listen to my story. She then went into an inner office, came back with a list, asked for my temporary voter card and then told me that the all cards for voters in my polling unit were with her and asked me to return later in the day as she was busy at that moment. I refused to leave and told her I would wait. So I waited.

Three hours later, I drew her attention to the fact that I needed to get to work. That was when she gave me a form to fill and thumbprint on. After that she opened a metal box beside her, retrieved my temporary voter card and handed over the new card to me. So why make me wait three hours?

Dear INEC Chairman, you do have a lot of work to do.