A voter is the citizen eligible to vote in elections. However, the citizen must obtain a voter’s card from the statutory electoral body to qualify to vote.
In Nigeria, the Independent National Electoral Commission,INEC has the statutory responsibility of ensuring the registration and issuance of voters cards to all eligible voters. To be eligible, the prospective voter must be a citizen of Nigeria, attain the age of eighteen years and above.
In addition, the prospective voter must present himself or herself to the registration officers of the commission for registration as a voter and is not subject to any incapacity to vote in Nigeria.
It is important to stress that the issuance of the voter’s card is guided by law. The unlawful possession, selling or buying of the voter’s card for instance attracts a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand naira or imprisonment for one year or both.
There are also stiff penalties for giving false information in any application for registration as a voter, hindering another person from registering as voter and impersonation.
These measures are designed to enhance the sanctity of the voter’s card as it enables the citizens to exercise their democratic right to vote. The possession of the voter’s card is the requirement in any democracy for the citizens to be allowed to vote in elections.
It is said that elections are the heart of democracy. Only free, fair and inclusive electoral system and associated processes can contribute to the meaningful institutionalization of democracy. This is only possible if every eligible Nigerian citizen obtains his or her voter’s card and participates in elections.
The voter’s card provides citizens with an opportunity to exercise their democratic rights and duties, like choosing a leader of their choice and safeguarding their rights and freedoms as provided in the constitution.
Nigeria is the largest democratic country in Sub-Sahara Africa, which constitutes millions of people. Giving our diversity, there are many political parties that have come into existence. Elections in Nigeria are held every four years and as responsible citizens it is our duty to vote for parties of our choice.
It therefore goes without saying, the difference between autocratic and democratic rule the world over, is the power to vote. This is because voting plays a critical role in enforcing and entrenching democracy.
Voting represents an individual’s power as a constituent, therefore, to participate in the voting process makes one’s voice to be heard and to make a difference.
Research reveals that voting is not just a right, but a sacred responsibility because many struggled, suffered, fought and died to establish democracy.
According to a write up on ‘the power of the vote’ by Jamell N. A. Hederson, an American Advocate for youth and young adults,
“There are many prospective individuals who are ready and yearning for an opportunity to serve and we, the people vote in individuals who we are comfortable with, without doing our research and holding them accountable for their responsibilities as our elected representatives.
To vote is to make your voice be heard, and make a difference which will put a lot of pressure on the elected officials to step their game up to the maximum.
… one minute action can affect the future of your city, state and nation. The choice is yours!… we will either cheer successful campaigns we supported or feel sorrow for losses… but when all the words are said, charges levelled and millions spent, it’s we, the voters who hold the power to decide who will lead our nation, our states and communities into the future.”
But unfortunately, many Nigerians do not exercise their voting franchise. Like the proverbial saying, “When the purpose of a thing is not known, abuse is inevitable”.
Many Nigerians accede to defeat from the onset by arguing that their vote would not make a difference, therefore, they would not vote. Invariably by that singular action, they have sealed their faith and mortgaged their future and that of their children.
Some have said “we cannot celebrate in a nation where there is outright hunger and starvation, an economy where eventually everything is rising up in the market day by day, a country where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
It is no use crying over spilt milk when we blatantly refuse to exercise our voting franchise.
As the Muhammadu Buhari led administration celebrates two years in office, it behoves on everyone to count the gains and losses of democracy and leave a good legacy to future generation of Nigerians by exercising the right to vote as a symbol of our faith in democracy.
By exercising our voting franchise, we send a signal of the importance of the choices we as adults make to secure a better future.
When we fail to exercise our franchise, we lose the right to criticise the leadership and by extension hold them accountable.
This Commentary On The Importance OF The Voter’s Card In The Sustenance Of Democracy was written by PAULINA ALABI OF NEWS SUB DIRECTORATE, FRCN, ABUJA OPERATIONS.