Recently, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) released the data of registered voters on geo- political basis.
The table showed that as at January, 2018, North West had 18,505,984, North Central 10,586,965 and North East 9,929,015. Furthermore, the South West registered 14,626,800 voters, South South 11,101,093 and South East 8,293,093.
The implications of the figures for the political well being of the South East is obvious even to the uninitiated. While it is true that the South East has the least number of states with five (5) (itself, the product of political manipulation) against seven (7) by the North West and six (6) each by the other zones, the number of states does not completely account for the dismal number of registered voters in the South East.
It is common knowledge that the South Easterners are found in every nook and cranny of the country and beyond. They are among the most travelled and easily turn wherever they find themselves to home. They build beautiful mansions, master the language of their hosts and “feel at home” even in the most far flung of places.
In a country where nation-building is taken seriously, the Igbo world view should be applauded. Not so in Nigeria. Even if you had spent fifty (50) years in a place, with your great grandfather buried there, once there is patronage to be conferred the first question would be your state of origin. Any attempt by the you to interpret it as state of residence would be quickly corrected.
Other ethnic groups have since learnt how to navigate this obnoxious mindset of the Nigerian state. Wherever they reside, they return to their places of origin to register for census, voters card and similar exercises. Not so for the Igbos. Our population is spread across Nigeria and beyond. One often wonders what the population of Lagos, Abuja, Jos, Makurdi, Lokoja, Yola and similar cities will be without the Igbos. In this sense, the gains of these cities become the loss of the South East. Not to mention the brain drain!
So long as Nigeria continues to march backwards on nation-building, it will be necessary for the South Easterners to be more pragmatic and to take steps that would ensure the area’s accurate numbers are captured whenever such exercises are undertaken.
This interventions is as much about the South East as it is about Arochukwu and its neighbours.
During weekends and festive periods, Arochukwu is always a beehive of activities. Standing by a street corner and watching the human traffic during such periods one could easily mistake it for parts of Lagos. But how many of them registered at home? Aros love to travel. They love adventure. They seek for knowledge and the good things of life. Often, they add value wherever they find themselves. The level of education and skills of many Aros make it imperative that there would be migration in search of economic opportunities. While this is not peculiar to Aros, others have realized the importance of such exercises as voter registration or population census and return to their communities of origin to register.
In a country where emphasis is placed on cake sharing and not cake baking, the data captured during these exercise constitute indices for allocation of resources. Communities whose people have mastered the art of navigating the Nigerian political landscape find that their citizens who travel in search of opportunities return at critical moments to ensure their communities retain their numbers. This usually involves a lot of sacrifice and risks on the part of the people.
Unfortunately, in Arochukwu many still see participation in the electoral and political processes as an exercise that benefits only the elected. You will hear such questions as “did the political office holders and candidates provide buses to take us home”.
We lose a lot when we do not make our population count at home. It reduces our ability to determine who gets to represent us while creating the erroneous impression of a minority status.
Allocations to the local government, creation of additional polling units and wards, to mention a few, are largely functions of our population registration.
All over the country, the campaign is for people to obtain their ‘Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs)’. Umu Aro, in heeding this call, it will help to register in Aro or transfer to Aro. It may cost us time, resources or even inconveniences but the sacrifices we make today will determine how pleasant the future of our beloved Arochukwu will be.