StoppAGE of voters registration has disenfranchised lots of people

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By Daniel Kanu

Former Nigeria’s  Ambassador to Greece and Minister of Culture and Tourism,  Chief Frank Ogbuewu, in this exclusive chat with Sunday Sun, speaks on the voter’s registration exercise and need for time extension, 2023 election as decider to the nation’s political future, security and Ebonyi State politics, among others. Excerpt:

  

The Independent National Electoral Commission  (INEC) has stopped further registration of voters? What is your reaction to this development?

My reaction to it is that a lot of people have not registered, so stopping it as they did is disenfranchising a lot of people, that I know. INEC is calculating  the period of registration without taking into cognizance the fact that the time that they were in the offices registering was COVID-19 period, when the people were not actually able to communicate or even go out. It was quite difficult then for people to get registered and people moving from their local government areas or from where they are living to their local government areas to get registered, and not many people could do it that time. Of course, getting to the place of registration was difficult because of transport and other difficulties, especially in the rural areas. So, INEC calculating those COVID period as part of the time they have given for the registration should be re-considered. For me, that period should not be added because people were mostly indoors as most places were shutdown with massive restriction of movement. People were not opportune to either travel or move around to go and register and you can recall that there were times offices were no longer open due to the COVID pandemic and nothing was happening that time. So, all that I am saying is that those period (COVID period) which the INEC has calculated or accepted as part of the period used for registration is wrong and their decision to stop the voter registration should be reconsidered as I said earlier, so that more eligible voters can go and get registered. COVID is not totally gone any way, but it is no longer as bad as it was in those days. When people started going back to work there was also the problem of the machines being inadequate, I mean the number of voter machines were not enough. For instance, in my own area in Ebonyi State, the machines were grossly inadequate, not enough to do the job as it should be. My local government area of 20 wards and you have just two machines. How many people can they register in a day? At times the machine malfunctions too. As far as I am concerned a lot of people have been disenfranchised by stopping further registration. I agree they (INEC) should have enough time also to tidy up from their own side for the voters cards to be out on time, but that should not be the reason for the people to be disenfranchised. I still think it’s important to give an extension. The people, Nigerians want to make a statement with their vote in 2023 and it will be good to ensure that they enjoy their voting right. I am appealing to INEC to let them please consider that people are enthusiastic about contributing to the choice of who is going to be their president, this time around. Not only who is going to be their president, but also on who is going to be in positions of authority in other positions. Nigerians are truly dissatisfied with the situation of things in the land and they now want to be sure on the integrity of the person or persons that want to be on the driving seat. Nigerians do not want to leave anything to chance again as far as governance is concerned, so they must be encouraged by ensuring that they register, especially now that they are willing to vote. They should not be stopped from registering because they want to determine who their next leaders will be. If the people have all this good intension in their minds boiling and they are stopped by INEC it’s not a good arrangement. Even if INEC extends it to the end of August, it will be good because it will afford the people, eligible voters, more opportunity to get registered.

But why do you think that Nigerians are now enthusiastic about registering to vote?

As I said, many did not have the opportunity to register during the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID period was difficult for people to travel. Also 

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those that wanted to register, people that were in remote areas also had transportation challenges, the machines were insufficient when they (INEC) decided to go to the wards. In some wards in my area, for instance, they could not register even upto 50 persons a day. In some places they had just one machine that was not even working to full capacity. Another reason people are enthusiastic is that they are now more conscious and want to decide who now leads them. I think Nigerians are not satisfied with what they are getting from their leadership, so they perhaps want to ensure that they choose who now leads them looking at the person’s integrity, character, credibility and all that. Nigerians want good governance and they now want to genuinely decide through their votes the person or persons they want to lead them, the persons they can trust, the persons that have their interest at heart, not the ones that are selfish.

  

The National Assembly has also given an impeachment threat to President Buhari. Do you think the threat will amount to anything meaningful?

You know I am not a legislator yet and not part of those that issued the ultimatum, so I may not know if the threat will be an empty one.  I think that it is the lawmakers themselves, those in the National Assembly that will be in the best position to answer this question. Anything I say, I mean my view will end up as an ordinary guess work and I do not want to do that.

What is your take on the state of insecurity in the country?

Of course, everybody knows that there is insecurity in the land and everybody is feeling the heat. You see, the way security is discussed in Nigeria is not what it is supposed to be. The way we are discussing security issues in Nigeria is not the best way to do it. Security issues, especially sensitive issues are not supposed to be discussed in the public. You don’t reveal your strategies in the public. Security needs to be discussed in a special manner, it’s a sensitive issue and when you discuss it in public, even the persons that you are targeting will know your plans and will plan way of escape. I don’t discuss security in that manner that you lay your plans, your arsenals public, no, it is wrong. I rather discuss it with professionals and let them know how I feel about it and what I think can be done, but not in the public.

Some of the attackers of the Ondo Church massacre have been caught…?

(Cuts in) We don’t know the true story yet. The information that we are getting, we don’t know which one is true. You know, sometimes we also have fake news. Let’s wait until we get the authentic true story from the right quarter.  Our security situation is worrisome and all hand must be on deck concerning this task.

What do you think is the way forward for Nigeria?

The year 2023 will determine it, yes, it will determine the way forward and that is why INEC should give Nigerians the unique opportunity to register.

What type of president do Nigerians need in 2023?

Remember it’s not yet campaign time. You know I am a party member of a political party and I may be accused or misunderstood as campaigning for my candidate. During campaign, we will put all the facts on the table for Nigerians to see and they will make their choice. During campaigns I will speak on such issue. That will be the right time to talk about it.

Looking at your state, Ebonyi, are you hopeful your party, PDP, will survive the onslaught that will be coming from the APC, now that the governor (Dave Umahi) has decamped to join the APC?

My state is a PDP state and PDP will still win Ebonyi State. it is not the governor that is PDP, the governor is an individual and he has just one vote, no governor has more than one vote. What you can get from me for free is that PDP will win Ebonyi State.

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