President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday told the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to ensure that every registered Nigerian voter gets his permanent voter card before the February polls.
He also cautioned the electoral umpire to be neutral and ensure that the 2015 general election is credible, drawing the attention of the commission’s chairman, Attahiru Jega, to the fact that the global community was watching the electoral body with keen interest.
Speaking while swearing in Prof Akinola Murtala Salau as the new INEC commissioner representing Oyo State, Jonathan expressed his belief that Jega would even double the number of workers if the resources were available to make sure that the commission copes with the magnitude of work that will attend the general poll.
Noting that Nigerians were getting worried over INEC’s ability, or otherwise, to conduct the elections in February, the president expressed worry that some governors were yet to get their PVCs.
“If governors are yet to get their voter cards; of course, that means that so many Nigerians are yet to get and people are a bit worried,” he stated, just as he directed commission to ensure that all eligible voters in the country get their PVCs before the February polls.
President Jonathan further urged the commission to be neutral in the discharge of the work.
“INEC is supposed to be absolutely neutral in their work to conduct credible elections because the whole world is watching INEC and you are coming into INEC at a very critical time with 40 days to election,” he told the incoming INEC commissioner, Prof Salau.
“So, you are coming at a critical time that I believe the chairman who is here himself also needs your services. I believe Prof Jega will even want to double the number of staff if he has the resources, to make sure that they can cope because Nigerians are getting worried whether INEC can actually conduct the elections.”
Still on the voter card, the president said he was pleased at the awareness among Nigerians to yearn to obtain their voter cards.
“Before 2011, how many Nigerians complained about not having voter cards – because elections were not conducted with voter cards. Nobody cared. We are all adults in Nigeria and we knew what was happening. But some people came on board and sanitised electoral process, but others want to take the glory.”
He urged the electorate to take their destiny into their hands by choosing their leaders at all levels, starting from the grass roots.
“People must decide who rules them at all levels, not just about presidential elections, at the lowest level of elections conducted by INEC – the state assembly elections, House of Representatives, Senate and Presidency; all Nigerians must vote and INEC must do everything possible to make sure that all Nigerians have their voter card because we cannot afford a situation where some Nigerians will not vote that day,” Jonathan insisted.
In his response, Prof Jega assured Jonathan that “every registered Nigerian will get his PVC before February 14, God’s willing.”