By CrossRiverWatch Admin
I have been around our dear mother-earth and indeed, our beloved Cross River State for some time now as an adult of 18 years and above when I became qualified to vote and be voted for, and have been around as an adolescent with the knowledge to see and know certain things.
In all these years, whether during the time of national census registration, national identity registration or voter’s registration and PVC’s collection, I never witnessed the type of carefully planned and committed mobilisation of resources and human agents in a statewide enlightenment campaign across the 18 local government areas to ensure that Cross Riverians and other citizens of Nigeria living and doing lawful businesses in the state gets registered for their voter’s card as well as go for the collection of their PVC’s as massively carried out through the directives of Obol Senator Professor Benedict Ayade as the governor of Cross River.
Even as this writer prepares this article today, Tuesday August 28, 2018 to hit the cyber space, there is ongoing enlightenment announcement by both the Calabar Municipality and Calabar South Councils for people to go for their voter’s registration and PVC’s collection at designated areas before the August 31, 2018 dateline, just as fillers from other local government areas of the state equally indicates that similar efforts are ongoing courtesy of the strong directives of the state’s number one citizen, Governor Ayade.
It is an irrefutable and stark reality that over the years, Cross River as a state and as a people remained among the backbenchers when it comes to the issues of voter’s registration exercise, national identity registration and national census and other national issues affecting our wellbeing in general.
Over the years, during the national census and voter’s registration exercises, figures of the state to be specific, ranked among the lowest in the country not because we do not have the population but because there has not been serious commitment on the part of both the government and people of the state towards the aforementioned important national exercises.
In the 2006 national census for instance, Cross River state was placed 27 with abysmal population of 2,888,966 million persons with a national percentage of 2.063, which gives the state a population of 4 to 5 million today. In reality, Cross River State population was far much higher than the 2006 figure and would certainly be far much higher than the today’s estimated figures.
The negative implications to the state and its people is that in the area of local governments, Cross River has only succeeded to move from the original seven local governments in 1987 when Akwa Ibom was created to 18 local government councils as of today, while Akwa Ibom, for instance leaped from 10 local governments to 31 today. The least which should have come to Cross River is between 21 to 22 local government areas.
For instance, old Oron Local government in Akwa Ibom has been split into five local Governments of Oron, Okobo, Onna, Uruan and Urue Offong/Oruko, while Obudu which enjoyed the same status with Oron prior to 1987 creation has only been split into Obudu and Obanliku local government areas.
In the same vein, in the area of voter’s registration exercise from the time of manual to the current electronic voting system, it is the candid view of this writer that the state has not gotten its fair share or representation largely due to lack of sufficient commitment on the part of both the government and the citizens.
It has been alleged that in the past we had a situation where there was a political will to mount consistent enlightenments in this directions, primordial interest was emphasised to the unjustified advantage of some areas that it will not have given even the blind any trouble to know that such an area was not as populated as claimed.
In the same vein, it was also alleged by some persons that the figures of the 2006 national census in the state were unjustifiably skewed to favor a glaringly under populated area to the detriment of other larger and most populated areas, meaning that populations from such areas will have to be cut down to accommodate what is not real.
The same scenario was applicable in the hitherto manual voter’s registration and voting system where there were alleged widespread cases of registrations from the so-called voiceless minorities areas were wickedly cut down by those who possessed the political-know-how so as to keep them in check politically and to deny them right to more polling units and political wards.
Similarly in the current electronic voting system it is alleged that orchestrated effort were exerted in several areas in the state by some powerful individuals to ensure that certain areas are deliberately denied of the registration machines, and when they send the machines to such areas they will be faulty ones that will not register not up to five persons in a day, when it is only a day that was assigned to such a community or communities.
It has also been alleged that there has been a situation in the recent past that in a particular community in the northern senatorial district of the state, the community used all legal resources available to mobilise the people including declaring one week or more for the people to stay away from farm and market to ensure that majority of the eligible voters’ were registered and at the end over 1,807 voters’ were captured.
Sadly enough, when the permanent voter’s cards were released, only about 170 came and the excuse was that members of NYSC that were assigned to do the job did not capture the people properly, and since then all efforts to even achieve the original figures proved abortive not minding the fact that many have turned 18 years and above from the last registration as compared to those that passed away.
At the end when such manipulated figures whether of national census or voter’s registration were released, no efforts from any quarters to publicly denounce such figures or carry out massive protests across the state to register the people’s disapproval of such wicked scheme, and this has continue till the ushering in of the administration of Senator Professor Ben Ayade as the Governor of Cross River.
It is based on this reality that this writer sees the recent deployment of political appointees especially of Special Assistants cadre known as Special Assistants Network (SAN) to all the nooks and crannies of Cross River state to carry out massive enlightenment on voter’s registration and PVC’s collection by the people of the state is not only commendable and a step in the right direction but also a positive political will to address years of injustice and to register in the mind of the powers that be that it will not be business as usual, where Cross River will always be among the back benchers in those aforementioned areas and other national issues.
In fact, the proactive effort and political will exerted by the Senator Ben Ayade-led administration in this direction must be commended and viewed as altruistic and patriotic by all and sundry across political and party lines bearing in mind the recent funding and mobilisation of appointees to go back to all the 18 local government areas of the state to carry out campaign for voter’s registration and PVC collection, as well as the massive mobilisation of women in a rally held in Calabar last week for the same purpose.
Frankly speaking, this type of humongous mobilisation of human capital and resources to carry out enlightenment campaigns of this nature is unprecedented in recent history of the state, hence, an effort that should be appreciated by all Cross Riverians and those who love the progress and development of the state.
The outcry of Governor Ayade and other persons contributed in no small measure to the extension of registration and collection of PVC by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to August 31, 2018. The achievement recorded within this period of extension of time by INEC was well utilised by the government of Senator Ayade, and there is hope that the result would be manifold during the 2019 general elections in the few months ahead.
Ayade’s massive mobilisation for voter’s registration and PVC’s collection was and is devoid of political coloration as all citizens whether of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), All Progressives Congress (APC) or other parties were reached and enlightened to go and register for their voter’s cards and also collect their PVC’s.
After all, political parties whether, PDP, APC and others are formed normally for the purpose of gaining political power to serve interests of the people and not otherwise, and tomorrow, these parties may disappear as others before them have done but the people like, the barracks’, remain.
It is however true that in as much as the efforts of the government of Ayade were highly proactive, altruistic and patriotic, the few numbers of registration machines and at times faulty nature of those machines available, posed serious challenges, and impede the efforts from achieving what it ought to have achieved.
This writer is of the candid opinion that at the resumption of fresh voter’s registration after the 2019 general elections, the Cross River Government and the heads of the various local government councils in the state should be more interested in knowing what happens in INEC national headquarters, state headquarters and local government areas offices in the state, by fighting and standing firmly to ensure that not just sufficient machines are distributed to all the local government areas and assigned to all the villages but that all the machines are functional and persons sent by INEC to do the registration are adequately trained to avoid the type of case earlier mentioned above.
I also want to suggest that the government and people of Cross River should begin to make preparations in terms of resources, mobilisation and enlightenment of the people towards national census to come out massively to register any time the federal government is set for the exercise.
The experience that we have been shortchanged in the past as far as these two exercises are concerned should be a motivating factor to wake us from slumber as well as take us away from selfish interest that will shortchange all of us to an overall interest that will ultimately benefit the entire state.
After all, the more voting strength we have the more voice we will have in influencing and choosing those who leads us at the local, state and national levels in elective positions as well as the more polling units and political wards we will garner to ourselves for stronger political voice at the state and national levels.
Similarly, the more population that fairly represents our actual state’s population spread across all the communities in the state, the more chances we have to attract more national development projects to the various parts of the state; be in an advantage position to have more local governments created for the state and even another state out of Cross River when such opportunity knocks again.
Finally, it is also the humble opinion of this writer that for more effective and efficient mass mobilisation campaigns of this nature in the future, person or persons from all the villages in the state should be properly and painstakingly identified, properly mobilised and given specific targets or mandate to deliver whether or not such an individual or individuals are in government, whether or not they hold certain positions or appointments.
Man’s egocentric nature cannot be completely obliterated most especially when political issues are concerned. This succinctly justifies the above suggestion and make it cogent as Mr. Abel or Adam would not be more interested or completely concerned in Mr. Peter’s village or Senator Ayade’s community than he would be in his/her own village.
But for now, the efforts of governor Ayade in the recent massive deployment of persons to carry out campaign for voter’s registrations and PVC’s collection across the 18 local government areas of the state should be commended by all to encourage him to do more in the days ahead and in the future occasion like national census that would warrant such massive efforts.
Solomon Asha is an aide to Governor Ayade of Cross River on media and publicity.
NOTE:Opinions expressed in this article are strictly attributable to the author, Solomon Asha, and do not represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organization the author works for/with.
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