By Cosmas Omegoh (Lagos), Romanus Ugwu (Abuja), Jeff Amechi Agbodo (Onitsha), Judex Okoro (Calabar), Timothy Olanrewaju (Maiduguri), Okey Sampson (Umuahia), Tony John (Port Harcourt), Chijioke Agwu (Abakaliki), Layi Olarewaju (Ilorin), Paul Osuyi (Asaba), Geoffrey Anyanwu (Enugu), Tony Osauzo and Ighomuaye Lucky (Benin), Stanley Uzoaru (Owerri), Abel Leonard (Lafia), Joe Effiong (Uyo), and Gyang Bere (Jos)
A fresh fire is raging across the country at the moment. It had never happened before. Nigerians – particularly the youths – are streaming into the various Continuous Voters Registration Centres in their unbelievable numbers. Most of them want to be captured to be able to vote in the 2023 general elections. They are desperate in their drive to grab their Permanent Voter’s Cards (PVC) in a wave many see as a strange reawakening.
Since June 21, 2021 when the exercise started, the new registrants never knew that PVC is a potent weapon in their hands to change the course of history, beginning with legitimately taking out tepid, tired and self-centred leaders. Now, they know that their destinies are in their hands though some of them need the voter’s card for other purposes. 
And so across the country, their destination is the CVR centres that as early as 6:00 a.m, registrants had started pouring out to be captured. 
Our reporters, who monitored the ongoing INEC voters’ registration across the country,  say it’s a beehive, a market population sort of exercise, where the enthusiastic registrants  are also talking about the president they would want to see elected in 2023.
Also, the INEC officials are having a handful.  In some places, they are barely  coping with the multitude, while grappling with inadequate capture machines, poor power supply and shortage of manpower. 
The potpourri of challenges underline the truth in the call by the National Assembly to further extend the exercise.  
 
Lagos State: Massive turnout at capture centres
The viral video of registrants at Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS), Lagos on the first day was unbelievably massive.
The residents had decided it was time to be captured, although they left it was a little bit late. But with several capture machines deployed, the numbers are reducing.  
Traders at Alaba International Market had also closed their stores to go for data capture. However, the exercise was allegedly marred by violence as hoodlums threatened to disrupt the proceedings.        
“The Nigerian leadership has for long taken us for a ride,” a young man, John Osahon, told our reporter, adding that “selfish politicians have  continued to hold the country by the jugular, messing up the system for the young and refusing to leave the stage. We need to show them the way out. We need to have a big say about who now rules going forward.”
He maintained that the youths would vote the right person to create jobs, and recreate the economy, and shun those who want positions for their selfish interest.
Another Lagos resident, Yesmisi Abolanle, while expressing her desire to vote with her PVC, said that she would vote for Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu on the election day. 
She described the process of capturing as “hectic,” but said it was well worth the stress.      
     
Anambra State: Onitsha residents recount ordeal; INEC bemoan challenges
In Onitsha, Anambra State, traders and residents of Onitsha decried their inability to obtain their new voter’s cards.
Thousands of people most youths have continued to besiege the Onitsha North and South local government areas daily to register for the new PVC or to transfer to new locations.
A trader, Mr John Obasi, said that he had been coming to the INEC office for over one week to get his new PVC because his old one was defaced. But he found it difficult to get that done due to the number of new registrants and the slow pace of the exercise.
“I will come as early as 6:00a.m to pick a number, but at the end of the day, it will not get to my turn to be captured.
“As it is now, INEC needs extra machines and manpower to attend to numerous people that are coming out to be registered.
“We need a positive change in this country; I believe Peter Obi can bring that,” he stated.
A student of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Uli campus, Chinyere Osondu, alleged extortion by the registration officials, accusing them of collecting money before giving numbers to the crowd.   
Hear her: “Trust Nigerians, some have turned this exercise to business; before they give you a number, you must pay, yet you might not be registered that day.
“We want Peter Obi to be the next president, and that is why you see all these students struggling to get their PVCs because he is the solution to Nigeria’s problem.”
Another resident, Tobias Mokwe, lamented the slow pace of the exercise caused by the surge, expressing fear that the exercise might not be completed as scheduled. 
“I’m seeing another danger if INEC denies these youths trooping out to be registered; that may lead to protest.
“INEC should immediately deploy more machines to quicken the exercise, so as to meet the deadline, if not they should be ready to extend the date.”
An INEC official at Onitsha South LGA said that they had been doing their best to register more people daily, but complained about the challenges of the machines.
“We need more machines and adhoc staff to meet up with the demands. The truth remains that with these few machines, there is no way we will be able to finish registering the number of people coming out even in August.”
Cross River State: Youths turn out en masse
In Cross River, the ongoing INEC voters’ registration exercise has continued to witness massive turn out of youths.
Our correspondent reported that there were long queues as youths mostly students, undergraduates, petty traders and the unemployed aged between 19 and 37, turned out for the exercise.
INEC officials were seen working to register those coming out for the exercise.
One of the officers said: “We register about 300 persons everyday. The turnout has been  massive; it is over-stretching us beyond limit.
“Our major challenge is inadequate image-capturing machines and other materials to quicken the processes.”
Registrants at Calabar South and Municipality INEC offices said that the current economic situation in the country prompted them to come out to get their PVCs so that they would make a change in 2023, declaring that they want Peter Obi as president.
Ms Glory Itoro Williams, 35, who resides in Ikot Ishie Town said: “I have never voted all my life, neither do I have voter’s card. So, I came now to get my PVC because I want to vote out bad government in 2023. I would vote for Peter Obi, but I don’t know his party.”
Paul Moses, 21, said: “I have never voted and don’t have PVC. My father told me to come and get the card so that we vote for Peter Obi in 2023.
Another prospective voter at Calabar South INEC office, Akpan John, 19, said: “I just came out to register for my PVC; I will vote for Peter Obi when the time comes.
“When we vote, we will wait for our votes to be counted before we leave the polling centre. We are tired of this bad government.”
Blessing Akpan, 23, said: “I have not voted before. This is the first time I would be voting, and I am sure my vote will count. I came out now because I read it on Facebook that youths should go and get their voter’s card. So, I want to participate in election.
“I don’t have anybody in mind to vote for, but God would direct me on that day.”
 
Borno State: Displacement, voting age aid exercise 
It was learnt in Borno State that many who were displaced by insurgency, and those who have attained the voting age are the ones mainly coming up to be captured.
“I didn’t register the last time because I was at the IDPs camp after fleeing my town. Now, I want to vote because the situation in Nigeria is bad,” Ali Bukar said.
Two other registrants who craved anonymity said that they could not register in the last exercise due to apathy. 
“I was not interested because I was a displaced person. Now, I am no longer at IDPs camp, and want to vote,” one of them said.
INEC head of ICT, Malam Audu Adamu, told Sunday Sun that the initial apathy almost stopped intending registrants. “Our people don’t come out for such exercise until the last days. That is why we are witnessing this influx of people now,” he added.  
He regretted the challenge of poor Internet service, but assured that the commission was striving to overcome it.
He said that registration would also be done at IDPs camps especially for hard-to-reach communities affected by insecurity.
The Director, National Orientation Agency (NOA) in the state, Jafar Imam, said that the agency was working ahead of time to ensure that the people understood the importance of PVCs.
 
Abia State: Upsurge causes registration challenges
In Abia State, people are overcoming the challenges of apathy to get registered now.
Things might change in 2023 with the voting hunger being exhibited particularly by the youths who are pushing to get their PVCs.
Chris Nwoke, a resident of Umuahia, said:  “I didn’t have PVC and have not cared to vote before because of the way elections in the state were conducted.
“People forfeited whatever they had to do on election day, queued up and voted for a candidate of their choice, but at the end, another person would be announced the winner,” he regretted.
He said the trend usually prevented him from voting, but expressed optimism that things would change.  
Another resident who gave his name as Ijioma said that he would obtain his PVC and vote in 2023, but lamented that “it had in most cases been a waste of time for one to leave his work, vote, yet his ballot never counted.”
Some residents spoken to, vowed that in 2023, they would shun vote-buying and ensure that their votes counted, declaring Mr Peter Obi as their preferred candidate.
Igu Okoh, a resident of Uzuakoli said: “There is no point of asking my preferred presidential candidate; it’s Peter Obi. He is even the reason I’m fighting to obtain my PVC.”
Ebere Ukaegbu equally said her preferred presidential candidate is Peter Obi, adding that she would vote for him not minding whether he would win or not.
A staff of INEC expressed unhappiness that the people who had some issues with their PVC’s, rather than coming to rectify them, always maintained that they had none before now. 
He disclosed that the upsurge was having its effect on the staff and the available machines.
 
Rivers State: Wike, Amaechi’s failure triggers apathy
Meanwhile, apathy is trailing the PVC registration exercise in Rivers State, following the loss of Governor Nyesom Wike and Rotimi  Amaechi in the presidential primaries.
At INEC’s office on Aba road, Port Harcourt, a handful of persons only came out to register for their PVCs.
It was, however, observed that some of the individuals present wanted the card for their bank transactions.  
An INEC source confirmed that the turnout at the various registration centres in the 23 LGAs was low.
Chibudom Owhonda from Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of the state attributed the trend to the failure of the two sons of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike and Chibuike Amaechi, both from Ikwerre,  in their respective political parties’ presidential primaries.
Owhonda said that if any of the two had succeeded in the primaries, Rivers, particularly Port Harcourt City (PHALGA), Obio/Akpor and Ikwerre LGAs residents would have rushed to do their registration.
Another resident, Miss Margaret  Echue, told our reporter that she was not particularly moved to go for her PVC. 
Echue admitted that many people in Rivers State would have rushed to register had Wike or Amaechi succeeded in the primaries. 
Ebonyi State: Registrants surge for PVCs
In Ebonyi State, youths are swelling the number of registrants.
Our correspondent reports there is a large number of people waiting to be registered, one of them Mr Ikechukwu Michael, a student.
He told our reporter that he decided to get his PVC because he would like to vote for Mr Peter Obi in 2023.
 “I had no PVC. But now I want to get it because I would like to vote for Peter Obi in 2023.”
Another resident, Miss Nnenna Ibiam, a student of Ebonyi State University disclosed that PVC was made a compulsory in her hostel.
“It is now compulsory to present your PVC before entering our hostel. So I am here to get mine,” she said.
An official of INEC who pleaded for anonymity said that the exercise had been going on smoothly.
 
Kwara State: Positive response trails exercise
Our correspondent in Kwara State reports there was an upsurge due to adequate voter education and enlightenment given to the people who could not register the last time.   
Some are afraid that the government might use failure to participate in the exercise to deny them of certain benefits.
Among the registrants are those who wanted to transfer their polling units to areas closest to them, as well as those who recently turned 18.  
Isiaak Abdullah, a student, disclosed that he was just registering for the first time.
Asked if he was going to participate in the elections, Abdullah said: “I will vote if the security situation allows that. My preferred candidate is Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu. He did so much while he was Lagos State governor.”
Muyideen Aliu, 55, also said that he and his family would vote no matter the threat.
“I will organise people of like minds in my area to wait after voting, and monitor our votes. My family and I, and a group in my area will vote for Asiwaju Tinubu.”
Yetunde Olamide, 36, stated: “I have got my PVC, but I will not vote because the major parties’ (PDP and APC) candidates are the same people who have given this country a lot of problems.
“Have they not traded with Nigerians enough? God alone will choose a leader for this country.”
Gabriel Oni, 60, said: “The two leading aspirants are not suitable for election. But between two evils, I will choose one: Bola Tinubu.”
At the state INEC office in Ilorin, many were seen queuing to be registered.
An official of INEC said that the upsurge had remained the challenge of the agency.
The state Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Mallam Garba Attahiru Madami, assured Nigerians that the 2023 general elections would be the best to be conducted in the country.
 
Delta State: Slow pace of registration annoys registrants
There has been an upsurge in the number of people itching to get their PVCs in Asaba; the designated registration centres are overflowing with people.
Speaking at the Oshimili South centre, one of the prospective registrants, Damian Obialu, bemoaned the snail pace by which the exercise was progressing, revealing that he had been frustrated several times by INEC officials.
“I have been here several times, but the whole system is appalling. Each time you come here, they give you excuses. It is either they are working with one machine or they are doing some other things.
“The other day, I came here, I was number 50 on the list; but they said they were stopping at number 40 on that day, that I should go and come back the following day.”
He insisted that his household must vote, especially in the presidential election next year, explaining that he would never cast his ballot for anyone above 70 years, also assuring that he would never sell his conscience.
Another respondent, Witness Sylvester, also expressed his frustrations, but maintained that nothing was going stop him and his fellow youths from voting next year.
“In previous elections, our parents sold our birthrights for N4,000, N5,000 and N7,000. But that won’t happen again.
“I will be voting for integrity. If I tell you categorically who I will vote for, I will be sentimental about it,” he said.
A female prospective voter, Amaka Helen, told our correspondent that she was at the centre to replace her PVC which she claimed had expired.
“I will definitely come out to vote; I voted in previous elections.
“I am going to vote for the right person. I don’t accept, and I will not advise people to collect bribe to vote.
“I know the right person and I cannot start talking about him because we have all suffered in the past eight years. It is not easy to survive in this Nigeria,” she lamented.
Addressing the shortcomings associated with the exercise, INEC’s spokesperson in the state, Bukola Ojeme, blamed Nigerians for waiting till the 11th hour before showing up for registration.
Ojeme said that the commission has the requisite personnel and logistics to conduct the exercise, saying that there was some range of services that do not require prospective voters going to the registration centre.
“The challenge is not of INEC; it is of Nigerians who wait till the last minute to make themselves available for registration. Recall that this exercise started on June 28, 2021,” he pointed out.
 
Enugu State: Youths swell numbers at registration centres
In Enugu State, the registration centres are witnessing unprecedented upsurge of participants, especially the youths.
At Okpara Square centre which is the biggest, there were thousands of people waiting patiently to be attended to by officials using not more than five machines.
About 10 persons who spoke to our reporters were in agreement that Nigeria needs real change. They want “old and vanquished” politicians out of the way; they stand with Peter Obi.
Thirty four-year-old unemployed graduate, Chinemerem Onyekwere, said: “I came to register and now have my PVC.
“Before now, I wasn’t interested in getting any PVC; but as things are, every young person up to 18 years who does not have PVC is living in a fool’s paradise.
“I will vote for Peter Obi; I have no other person other than him.”
Mrs Gloria Nnenne Okpaja who just transferred her PVC from Kaduna to Enugu stated: “I will definitely vote on the election day.
“Take it to the bank, I will vote for Peter Obi. I have no second choice when it comes to presidential election. We have suffered enough, and now, I have come to realise that our destiny lies in our hands. I think Nigerians are wiser now.”
Another young man, Chibuzor Ugwu said: “I came here to transfer my PVC from Awgu local government to Enugu North local government. Although I voted in the last election, my interest this time around is serious and special.
“My choice for president is Peter Obi of Labour Party; he is my candidate,” he said.
Edo State: New registrants give reasons for participating
Registrants in Edo State have been giving reasons for crusading to have their PVCs.
One of the crusaders, Imasuen Osahon Roland, disclosed that he was tired of criticising the government, adding that he now wants to fully participate in the electoral process.  
“Before now, I was only criticising the government – this one is good, this one is bad. I was not even voting in elections. 
“But this year, I have decided I must vote for the candidate of my choice – Peter Obi. I will be the first person to go out to vote on that very day. “
Razaq Idowu Siberu, 19, said that he is going to vote for the first time.
“I will vote for Bola Tinubu on that day; I will not allow money to determine my choice,” he said.
 
Imo State: Registrants want better leadership
Registrants in Imo State said that they were eager to vote out bad leaders and enthrone people who will work for the greater good.
Mr Emma Ahaneku told our reporter that he would like to get his PVC mainly to vote for the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr Peter Obi. “I have only one reason for going to this length. I’m going now to register for the PVC; I believe our votes will count.”
Another registrant, Alloy Okeke urged the government to make the election free and fair, vowing to stake his life to guard his vote.
“Since Peter Obi has promised to change the narratives, why can’t I sacrifice myself to make him win?”
Our correspondent reports that sadly, some INEC staff have refused to return to some of the troubled areas in the state, especially Orlu.
An INEC staff who spoke to Sunday Sun said: “Nobody wants to go to Orlu, and some other troubled areas; we are afraid after seeing what happened during the registration exercise at Orsu where people were killed.”
Nasarrawa State: More registrants surge for exercise
In Nasarrawa State, more people are trooping out to be captured.
At the INEC secretariat on Kurikio Road, Lafia, a number of young people queued up.
One of the participants, Chibuzor Uche, a businessman, disclosed that he had never participated in any electoral process before.
“As a child my experience in the electoral system was not worth it. 
“But since INEC has promised that our votes will count, that’s why I’m here,” he explained. 
Also speaking, Dominic Sunday, a corps member, stressed that he was at the INEC secretariat to register for PVC because of the eagerness in him.
“I have been coming here for some time now to register, but the population of people I saw each time was high. It is still outrageous.”
He said that he would vote Abubakar Atiku because he voted him the last time, while expressing happiness that God had brought  him out again for election.  
But another Lafia resident, Charles Ohaka, an engineer, said that he felt “it is just normal to get my PVC to allow me vote a leader that would change the narratives,” insisting that he would vote for Peter Obi. 
 
Plateau State: INEC sees rising numbers
In Plateau State, the rising number of registrants can be attributed to the fever generated by the recent APC and PDP presidential primaries.
Those scrambling for registration expressed reservations about the age and competence   of the two candidates of the APC and PDP in giving Nigeria the right leadership now that the country lies divided, with the economy sliding.
Praise Olufemi, one of the hundreds of youths, who are eager to register said: “I haven’t done my registration because I have been busy. But now, I have suspended everything I was doing in order to get registered.
“When the time comes, I will vote –   definitely not for Tinubu and not for Atiku – but probably for Peter Obi.”
Kalel Benard re-echoed Praise’s sentiment that getting the PVC and voting in the elections are tasks he must accomplish in 2023. 
“I am yet to do my registration; I just came in and everywhere is filled with people.
“I will be patient to get my voter’s card. I am going for Peter Obi because the two other candidates have been in power for a very long time, yet they have not been able to effect positive change.
“I believe in Peter Obi; he will not disappoint Nigerians.”
Bedima Nentawe believes his vote will count on the election day, saying that was why he wanted to go through the pains of getting his PVC.
“I will vote in the next election, but I am not certain about who to vote for.”
An INEC official, who had over 500 persons on the queue to attain to, said that the number of people coming to the centre daily was overwhelming.
“We are battling with outdated computers, lack of power supply and an overwhelming number of people.
“We are doing our best, but I think we cannot capture the number we are seeing here before the deadline.” 
 
Akwa Ibom State: Registrants too many for INEC staff
Also in Akwa Ibom State, prospective voters have continued to besiege the state and local government offices of INEC.
A large number of people were seen queuing up at the registration centre gates as early as 8:00a.m on Thursday even when the staff of the commission were yet to report to work.
Those who spoke to Sunday Sun said that they were trying to register for the first time so that they would either vote or possess their PVCs.
Honour Akpan said that he would vote because “we need a leader who will change things for the better.”
A young woman, Precious Dominic, however, said that she wanted the PVC to open a bank account.
“I want it so that I can register my NIN. It is not for election. I cannot go out to vote.”
Aniekan Okon in Ikot Obio Odongo,  Ibesikpo Asutan LGA, said that he needed to get a new card because he lost his former one. 
He, however, expressed frustration at not being attended to since Monday by INEC workers because of the teeming crowd.
“This election is complicated, but I have different interests. 
“I know that in Akwa Ibom, PDP will win, but Peter Obi has my sympathy in the presidential election. But will he win?”
An INEC official in Uyo lamented that they had only two machines to capture hundreds of people besieging their facility.
“I believe they would extend this exercise for us to meet the target. But the problem is this: immediately the extension is given, Nigerians will relax again.”
 
INEC’s response to current registration challenges
 Meanwhile, INEC has assured that it is working hard to ensure that every Nigerian eligible for registration is captured.  
INEC’s voter education boss, Festus Okoye offered explanations that would help to make the ongoing Continuous Voter’s Registration exercise seamless.  
“It is meant for those that attained the age of 18 years from the last registration exercise and those that have never registered as voters. 
“Any registered voter with defaced PVC does not need to register afresh. Those that have lost their PVCs do not need to register again. Those interested in transferring their voting locations do not need to register afresh. 
“Those with challenges in terms of the spelling of their names or mistakes with their dates of birth or other information are not supposed to register again. The Commission has recorded millions of invalid registration on account of multiple and double registration.
“The Commission has seven services on its online platform. Only the pre-registration for new voters has been suspended. The other services are still ongoing and valid. Those with challenges with their PVCs can access these services online rather than going to the registration centers.”
He regretted that “the present 11th hour surge by eligible and ineligible registrants is a peculiar Nigerian challenge.
“However, the Commission sees it as an affirmation of the confidence of the Nigerian people in the electoral process. It is an affirmation that the votes of the people will count in the 2023 general election. The Commission will do whatever is necessary to ensure that all legally-qualified Nigerians register.”
He assured that “all those that registered during the 3third and fourth quarters of registration will definitely get their PVCs well ahead of the voter’s registration process,” while pleading that “Nigerians must help the Commission by doing the right things at the right time.”

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