The Prof. Pat Utomi-led Big Tent Coalition of political parties and civil society groups for Obi-Datti has appealed to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to extend the Jan. 29 deadline for the collection of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs).
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the group is rooting for the Presidential ambition of the Labour Party Presidential Candidate, Mr. Peter Obi, and his running mate, Dr. Yusuf Datti.
Utomi made this clarion call on Saturday at the Big Tent’s grassroots engagement for the ObiDatti movement with another round of the ‘Clean-Up Nigeria Project’ in Lagos to promote a culture of cleanliness of mind, body, and environment.
In a statement by Mr. Charles Odibo, Director of Media and Communications for the Big Tent, Utomi said that there was no “justification for ending the PVC collection exercise when a lot of people have not collected theirs, despite making good efforts.”
The renowned professor of political economy said: “INEC must rise to the full meaning of its name by ensuring that its staff does not collude with political bandits to disenfranchise millions of Nigerians indirectly.
“We have information that millions of Nigerians are being disenfranchised through deliberate non-release of their PVCs. INEC must ensure that every registered voter is allowed to collect his/her PVC.
“For three days now the INEC staff operating from Falomo Primary School, Ikoyi, Lagos, did not show up on their duty post and this is the recurring story everywhere.”
He, therefore, recommended that private sector-led organizations like chambers of commerce, the economic summit group, and civil society organizations could help INEC with the work distribution of the PVCs.
According to him, this has become necessary “since it appears that INEC staff are stretched”.
Utomi also enjoined the international community to ensure that INEC did not compromise its independence through the pressures coming from political elites “who now know that their time is up.”
The chairman, who noted that Nigeria could not survive another day of bad leadership, said that most Nigerians had “decided to back the more credible, competent, young, energetic and trusted candidate of the Labour Party, Obi.”
Utomi, at the Clean Up Nigeria event which was also held simultaneously across the country, said that it was time to invite everyone to look at where the country was and, to look at how much it needed cleaning.
Utomi said: “That cleaning begins from the physical, we need to clean up our environment because climate change is real.
“We need to clean up our consciences because to serve the people is a central demand of our citizenship, we need to clean up our ways so that our country can prosper.”
He encouraged Nigerians to sustain clean up of the environment.
Utomi said that in cleaning the environment, “we set our minds to clean up corruption, to clean up nepotism, to clean up state capture, to clean up the desire to dominate others because truly it is fascism and it is creeping into our politics.”
Utomi also observed that Africa remained host to significant forest belts that played critical roles in absorbing carbon emissions and thereby putting the country in better stead as part of the planet.
“If our young people commit to this saving of the planet, it can be an outlet for a variety of things, an outlet for truly saving the advance of the dessert into our country which has a direct bearing on poverty.
” Our concern is to stop the desert, to build a green army from which we can receive enormous credit for our country,” Utomi said.
The professor, therefore, said that he expected young people to learn what the late President Kennedy said to the youth of America.
“Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country,” Utomi quoted Kennedy as saying.
He said: “With the youth of Nigeria going around, cleaning up our rural areas as we are cleaning the urban areas, we will be able to generate an economic machine that will move our economy forward.
“But more importantly, we will be able to get young people to bond, to engage the problems of now, and learn how to change their country, take their country over, clean up the environment, they will clean up consciousness and give us a new country that we can all be proud of.”
NAN recalls that INEC had fixed Dec.12, 2022, to Jan. 22 for the collection of PVCs before the commission extended the deadline to January 29.