Briefly tell us about yourself.
I am Dr Michael Ugwueze. I am a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Political Science, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State.
Is it true that you recently told students taking your course that possession of Permanent Voter Card would be their Continuous Assessment Test score?
It is true.
What informed that decision?
My engagement with my students convinced me that youths are generally apathetic towards politics is Nigeria. In fact, it seems they are simply convinced it is not for them but for the ‘old people’. Sometimes, I ask final year students or postgraduate students, who are well above 18 years of age, if they have ever voted in an election, and their response is always surprising. Most of them do not even have PVCs. When you ask them why, they will tell you they already know who will win the election because their votes won’t count.
But as a Political Science lecturer, I cannot be teaching enlightened people who still reason this way in the 21st century. So, I realised I had to find a way to make my students do the needful and perform their civic responsibility. Getting a PVC and voting during elections is part of one’s civic responsibility. As somebody that teaches politics, I should be able to, one way or the order, force students, somehow, to perform that civic responsibility. And the first step is for them to have PVC. After that, we will deal with whether or not they will vote. So, that was what informed my decision.
How many marks do you intend to allot to students who get their PVC?
Continuous Assessment Test in UNN is 30 marks; the exam is 70 marks. It is left to the lecturer that teaches the course to decide how to allocate the marks. It will be as the spirit leads. If I am directed to use everything as CA, I will gladly do so. It is not a bad idea at all.
How did your students react to this your decision?
I just discovered that my post went viral. My students were sharing it amongst themselves and in their WhatsApp groups for those who may not be my friends on Facebook to see what is brewing because they know I am a man of my words. They know if I say something, I will do it, as long as it is right and lawful. I believe that was why they started sharing my post so that everyone would see it.
Do you think the university authorities will approve of your method?
I found out that some of my colleagues in the Department of Local Government Administration and Public Administration have copied it and they are also directing their students to get their PVCs. So far, I have not received any contrary command from the (university) authorities. I believe I am in the right because my students are all above age 20; it is almost impossible to find anybody below age 18 in final year.
Speaking of youths’ participation in politics; we have noticed a surge in the way Nigerian youth engage in political conversation and in getting their PVCs, particularly on the social media. What exactly can you tie this to, as a political science expert?
I think they see a ray of hope that their votes will count in the coming elections. The signed 2022 Electoral Act has a number of amendments that can encourage one to participate, given that one’s vote will count. But you cannot divorce social media from what is happening. The social media have given the youths a voice. We can see what happened during the #EndSARS protests – how these youths almost shut down the economy. You know there are some old men among the Nigerian elite who feel that Nigerian youths cannot fight for a common purpose. But the protests were an eye-opener. For now, with what we are doing, for instance, one is hopeful that our youths will begin to develop the right interest in politics. As far as the 2023 general elections are concerned, we can see that the tempo is rising. The politicians are trying to measure up on social media, trying to present themselves as a simple persons. This is happening because they are seeing that the youths are not indeed happy with the way things are going in this country. When we continue to aggregate this kind of awareness, more youths will get interested in political affairs.
Taking a look at the just concluded party primaries of the two major parties – the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party – how would you rate the process?
Even the delegates of these parties themselves are not happy with their own actions. I am sure. Talking about how dollars rained is very disturbing. These Nigerian politicians are just very funny people that I don’t know where they were imported from. As I am talking to you, we keep talking about scarcity of dollars and it is these politicians that are responsible. I know politicians who spend dollar as though it is naira.
In fact, it was the aggregate of what happened in the primaries of these two major political parties that is spurring the movement you are seeing on social media. People were simply unhappy. Even politicians themselves were unhappy with the outcome. I know that they would not be able to buy everybody in the general elections. I just wonder why somebody with a conscience will collect money in a secret ballot and still vote against their conscience.
Do you think that Nigerians should look beyond the APC and PDP and search for a credible third force?
People don’t need to be told twice. One should not even reconsider it. We have seen the PDP and the APC. Both of them are colossal failures. In fact, they are just birds of a feather, populated by the same people masquerading as either APC or PDP members. The essence of looking for a third force is to show these two parties that Nigerians can do something. They are already feeling the pressure even if they are pretending not to. Our eyes are now open to see that they are both bad. Nigerians should look another way. After all, there are opportunities everywhere.
What do you think of the clamour for the next President to come from the South-East?
I will agree that the South-East has been short-changed but there is a question I would like to put forward to the delegates under the APC and PDP from the South-East. They had the opportunity to cast their votes for a southeasterner but they refused. Were they not among those that were bought with dollars? Now, they are crying foul that they have been short-changed. What is happening in Nigeria is that there is an elite consensus to shut everybody up, and when it’s convenient for them they play up religious and ethnic sentiments to have their way. But once they get to office they forget about religious and ethnic differences; they simply team up to loot the nation’s commonwealth.
Imagine what the Governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi, said on TV the other day, that his people betrayed him. He then said Ebonyi people would vote APC and vote against Labour Party. This is the same person that was crying that Igbo are being treated unfairly. When you weigh these two things, you find out that there is no sincerity in those arguments and debates, and that is why we are looking beyond them. This time, we are supporting candidates who have track records of what they have done and what they would likely do when they are elected.
Credit: PUNCH Newspapers