One night, about two months ago, I was driving to my then Akoka home through the University of Lagos compound when I stopped to give an old woman a lift from the back gate into the main campus.
Ordinarily, I don’t stop on Lagos roads to give lifts to total strangers, but the woman had a long trek ahead of her and I didn’t want to be uncool. This was around 9pm and it was quite unlikely that she would get a campus shuttle on that road.
After a few minutes of polite conversation with her after she got in the car, I became convinced that the madam wasn’t quite clear about her purpose in the school premises. I had thought she was a trader returning to her home within the campus, but she told me that, on the contrary, she was visiting the INEC registration centre in the school to pick up her Permanent Voter’s Card.
Considering the late hour and the deserted campus, this was, to me, a very absurd mission.
“But you can’t get a PVC at this time, ma. Who told you to come here now?” I said with some feeling.
The woman responded, stubbornly, that she had heard the information on radio; and she had to get her PVC that night, or at least, check that her name was on the list of people whose PVCs were available.
After a few minutes of trying to convince her of the futility of her errand, I finally dropped her at the deserted INEC registration point and wished her good luck with her determination.
As I drove away, I marveled at that kind of passion that motivated an old woman to wander around a university campus late at night, looking for her voter’s card. I’m all for political consciousness, but what that woman was up to was some far higher level of passion.
Much later afterwards, it occurred to me that, maybe no, it wasn’t passion that led her to that point. Instead, her travail that night was a result of INEC’s cock-up. Thinking of it, I became certain that the woman had left her home hours earlier, hoping to get to her registration point early enough—but traffic and the general dickishness of Lagos commuting must have delayed her until she arrived in Unilag late at night. And she must have been determined to get her PVC to avoid repeating the journey again. Particularly when there was no guarantee that the PVC would be waiting for her on a second trip.
Why all this trouble? Most likely because, four years ago, she registered to vote at Unilag before time and tide moved her away from the area.
It is baffling in the most retarded sort of way that INEC doesn’t understand this kind of social dynamics—and would rather constrain citizens who have changed locations to go looking for PVCs in the middle of the night than come up with a more universal voters’ registration system.
As for me, I registered to vote in a Surulere suburb four years ago, and since then I have moved around, living first in Akoka and then Magodo. I have since worked in Lagos Island, in Victoria Island, and in Port Harcourt. I’m still waiting for INEC to catch up with me via technology—but if they are unable to formulate a way for me to vote from any location, then they may as well keep the voter’s card permanently.
Because, you see, I’m not politically passionate enough to get knackered in Lagos traffic looking for a permanent voters’ craze.