Voter Apathy a Major Problem in Oyo State —Odekunle, Chairman of OYSIEC Forum

Dr. Olusegun Odekunle is the Chairman of the Oyo State Independent Electoral Commission (OYSIEC) Polling Officers Forum and the Polling Officer of North East Ibadan Local Government. He talks with ABIODUN AWOLAJA about voter apathy in the state and various issues. Excerpts:

Due to what people perceive as poor governance, many Nigerians are not as excited about elections at all levels as they naturally should be. What is your experience in the Oyo State Independent Election Commission (OYSIEC) in this regard?

My experience at OYSIEC so far has been good. We have noticed that our people do not strongly believe in the electoral arbiter, perhaps because of what has happened in the past. But things have changed and now the votes count. I can say that categorically. The election I conducted in my local government accurately reflected the wishes of the people, but I did not have a large number of people running for office, based on the number of registered voters. Maybe people don’t really trust us, even with all the assurances given that we were going to be fair. And I can say categorically that no trickery ever takes place unless sanctioned by the people. If you say you don’t want rigging, there won’t be rigging because you have the total number of voters on the list and you can’t expect more votes than that. If a voting unit has only 73 registered voters, there’s no magic you can do to create, say, 100 voters. You can’t have one for two: once you have your PVC, it only applies to you. And don’t forget that we have so many other processes. We have biometric verification, we can do manual verification. Even when you don’t have your PVC, we can verify your data. So rigging is out of the question, but many people are still living in the past, believing that the election will be rigged.

What specific measures have you put in place to ensure that the elections are free, fair and credible?

Electronic voting was partly announced and implemented. You have biometric verification: the bottom line is that two people can’t vote twice or show up twice. My biometrics are different from yours. Now you have completed your registration and you have what is called 4-4-2. You have a NIN record and all your fingerprints are captured. With any of your fingerprints available, we can bring out your data. He canceled the rigging. As the results come out, they are transmitted to the national portal. This is to eliminate the rigging.

What is the status of ongoing voter registration in Oyo State?

We still have voter apathy. People did not react well. Even those who initially responded by registering to vote haven’t looked back. As I speak to you, currently in Oyo State we have over 7,00,000 uncollected PVCs, enough to bring in a new government.

Have people not been informed, say by SMS, to come and collect their PVCs?

There are many media channels and platforms where people are informed. As I say now on behalf of the OYSIEC Election Officials Forum, PVCs are ready, especially for those who registered with INEC before and until December 28, 2021.

What is the collection process? Are people supposed to pay money?

No. It’s free. In the data entry process that was done, they were given a ticket. You just have to go with your ticket to the local government where your polling station is. Go to the INEC office and your PVC will be given to you free of charge.

Many people say that when municipal elections are held, they are usually won by the ruling party. How do you respond to that?

It may have been like that before, but the elections conducted under the watch of His Excellency, Governor Seyi Makinde, were not like that. I had direct experience and had the privilege of speaking with some people in power. They never mandated us to ensure that the elections were won by the ruling party. We gave leverage to everyone: APC, PDP, Labor Party, etc. At the council level, we have candidates from other parties who have won in the Oyo region and in Ona Ara. But you know that the presidency is an accumulation of votes in different fields and that we made the PDP win. But it’s not magic. That’s what people did.

What do you want people to do now that they’re not doing?

We appeal to our people in Oyo State. If you want good governance, the power to make it happen is in your hands. Continuous voter registration ends by the end of this month. It is by law. In a few days, the online portal will be closed. We have just over a month left for the biometric capture to take place at the respective INEC offices in the 774 local government areas of the country. So I want our people to come out and do their recording. You can switch from one voting unit to another. If you previously lived in Kaduna but are now back in Oyo State as a result of terrorist activities, this does not prevent you from exercising your civic responsibilities. You can transfer from Kaduna to Oyo. You can transfer within the same state, from one local government to another local government; and even within the same local community, from one polling station to another polling station. The window is open now, but you only have a few days to do so.

Other than that, you can correct the name and gender if there was any mistake in the previous registration you made. Also, if you have lost your PVC or it is degraded, you can request a replacement. This is why I mentioned four cardinal points: new registration, rectification, transfer, loss or replacement. You can access it on the INEC portal or visit our respective offices in the 774 local authorities.

What are the main challenges facing OYSIEC in Oyo State and how do you think you can overcome these challenges?

Part of the challenges we face is people’s perception that INEC offices are remote or very remote from their location. How I wish there would be greater collaboration between OYSIEC and the political parties. OYSIEC is an independent body. Also, the State Electoral Commissions should have greater synergy with INEC not only in Oyo State but across Nigeria. We hope to have sufficient resources to organize voter education. INEC staff may not be sufficient for this; this is why OYSIEC is available. We can go from town to town, town to town, markets, etc., to educate voters, to let people know that the power of change they demand is in their hands.

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