Religious centres, artistes lead electoral awareness campaign, citizens rush for PVCs

voters registration

Recently, some Catholic priests, as seen in viral videos that surfaced online, prevented worshippers without the PVCs from joining church services. According to one of them, the move is to ensure that they get their PVCs before the deadline set by the Federal Government.

“If you have your PVC, go in. But if you don’t have yours, find your way back home; you will not attend mass with us today,” said the priest who has yet to be identified. He also said that students without PVC in Catholic schools would end up with carryovers.

Also, worshippers at a Catholic church in Cross River State were told by their priest that they would not be entitled to Holy Communion without presenting their PVCs.

While delivering a sermon, the Pastor in charge of Rhema Baptist Church, Sabo Tasha Kaduna, Chatwason Nathan, warned that members who had yet to get their PVCs would not be allowed to join the congregation.

To encourage people to get their PVCs, the Retired Archbishop of Owerri, Archbishop Anthony Obinna, during the Golden Jubilee celebration of his priestly ordination and retirement, was seen in a video displaying his PVC before the congregation.

Many of such videos and also photos are currently trending on social media as Nigerians prepare for the 2023 general elections. The trend has been welcomed by many who see it as a way of boosting the participation of Christians in the coming elections. However, some quarters are of the opinion that Christians should not be prevented from worshipping with the Body of Christ for not having PVC.

According to them, registering for PVCs should be a personal decision and not a thing they have to do in order not to be deprived of fellowship with other Christians.

When contacted to speak on the ‘No PVC, no service’ stance of some priests,  spokesman for the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Bayo Oladeji, said the association doesn’t speak for the actions of individual churches.

He, however, stated that the association would like for all Christians to get their PVCs as INEC doesn’t regard prayers but votes.

Oladeji said, “The churches decided that, it was never said by CAN. We don’t speak for any church; we speak for the entire body of Christ. If a church is Pentecostal, you ask their president or whoever is in charge if that’s their directive. If the church is unorthodox, they have the CCN. We don’t speak for them. If we condemn it, those who are doing it will say we are condemning it. If we hail it, those who don’t like it will say we’re endorsing what has been condemned. We don’t speak on what a church is practicing. We don’t speak on what any pastor is practicing. Those churches have what directs them. They all have their rules and regulations.”

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 We appeal to all Christians to get their PVCs. If a church knows its rules and regulations and works with them, you can’t stop them or hail them. The position of CAN is that we want all Christians to get their voter card because we have been hearing that INEC does not count prayer points, they count the ballot papers and if you don’t have PVC you cannot vote.  CAN has resolved not to vote for any party that is bringing a Muslim-Muslim ticket or a Christian-Christian ticket. Those are our decisions and we have made it known but whether or not people come to church is not for us to handle.”

Since political parties concluded their primary elections, celebrities have been putting up efforts towards ensuring that Nigerians, especially youths, get their PVC. One of such efforts is a series of concerts tagged ‘Youth Vote Count’ to be held in the country’s six geopolitical zones. Top musicians like M.I Abaga, Teni, Omawumi, Mayorkun, Joeboy, Falz and Tubaba will be performing during the concerts.

To gain entrance into the venues of the concerts, fans will have to present their PVCs or the temporary voter card. Recently, singer Peter Okoye, popularly known as Mr P, tweeted that anyone with intentions of visiting his house would have to present their PVCs.

“I have just instructed my security and my management that no one is allowed to visit my house or my office without showing their PVC! This also includes my management team and entourage! No PVC, no visits and travels,” he tweeted. According to him, Nigerians must get it right this time and vote out bad leaders.

Speaking to The PUNCH, the National Treasure of the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria, Asha Gangali, said, “PMAN is in total support of such initiatives that synthesise the youth to get their PVC and exercise their voting rights in the coming elections.”  He advised musicians to use their influence rightly and to be wary of the antics of politicians.

Nollywood actors and also reality TV stars have not been left out in the campaign to get youths to register so as to be able to exercise their franchise.

Nollywood actor, Williams Uchemba, in a post on social media, urged Nigerians to get their PVCs. He wrote, “I’ll rather wait eight hours for my PVC to be ready than another eight years of misery. The process might not be easy but remember how important your vote will be. Eight hours’ wait is better than eight years of pain.”

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Former Big Brother Naija Reality TV star, Tacha, was recently seen under the rain campaigning for youths to get their PVC. More such efforts by celebrities are expected as the country approaches the date set by INEC for the end of registration for PVC.

Traders at Alaba International Market, Lagos, on Thursday, June 9, 2022, closed their shops to go register for PVC. This was following a directive issued by the market association. This was despite knowing full well that the decision to close their shops would be inconvenient to their customers, many of whom might have travelled from other parts of the country.

Employees who don’t have PVC would not get their salary until they do so, a law firm, Antonio Lex Firma, recently announced in a memo received by newsmen. The firm, however, declared work-free days to enable its employees to register for the PVC. It said it was unpatriotic and irresponsible of those who had yet to get their PVC.

Also, employees of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria have been told to get their PVC or forfeit their salary. In a statement by the chairman of the Kano State chapter, Alhaji Bashir Dan-Mallam, IPMAN said it found it necessary to take the measure to ensure that all its eligible members obtained the PVC to enable them to exercise their civic responsibility at the 2023 general elections.

The effort to get the position of the Nigeria Labour Congress on the issue was not successful.  Also, efforts to reach the INEC for its positions on the campaigns going on in society were unsuccessful.

Dr Michael Ugwueze, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Political Science, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State, has told his students to see getting their PVC as their continuous assessment test.

According to him, he was surprised to see that the students didn’t have their PVC, He said that when he asked to know why they told him that it was of no use as the winners of the elections were already decided before people approached the ballot boxes. He said he had to find a way to change their mindset and ensure they were eligible to exercise their franchise. When asked by The PUNCH to state how his students reacted, Ugwueze said they passed the information among themselves because they knew he was the kind of man to mean whatever he said.

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Effort to get the reaction of INEC to the trend were unsuccessful as calls put across to their phones were not responded to as of the time of filing this report.

Those contacted were the press secretary to the INEC Chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi; INEC commissioners, Mike Igini and Festus Okoye.

Reacting, two political analysts from the Department of Political Science, Federal University Lokoja, Dr Timothy Onimisi and Dr Abraham Musa Peter, said there was the need for serious awareness ahead of the coming elections. They, however, cautioned against infringing on the rights of citizens in the bid to ensure that they registered for PVCs.

“Nobody has the right to impose his or her desire on the citizens. But the citizens must be encouraged to go and register for their PVCs. I think instead of imposing restrictions or preventing the citizens from worshipping, the pastors should rather encourage their citizens to register. I do support encouraging the citizens to go and register. There is a need for serious awareness and reorientation of the citizens but the citizens should not be compelled against their will,” Onimisi said.

On his part, Abraham said, “I think the whole idea is to ensure that people participate in the choice of who governs them even though it’s an infringement on their fundamental right of worship. It is part of political education to make people know that their PVC is the only ticket they have to change or elect leaders of their choice. As for markets being closed, many businessmen and women don’t really have time to go and register for PVCs. So, I think it is a good idea because any sacrifice made to ensure that the right leaders are elected is a good development. I support it because it is not a permanent closure but for a period of time. As for companies insisting on PVC before employees can get their salary, I think it is a threat to ensure people register for PVC because people who have worked for a month cannot be denied their salary for whatever reason. Even if you enrol for the PVC, you won’t get it immediately as it will take some time before it is delivered to you.”

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