A Senior Lecturer in the Department of Political Science, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State, Dr. Michael Ugwueze, tells GODFREY GEORGE he decided that obtaining the PVC would be the test of continuous evaluation of his students by possibly 30 points
Tell us briefly 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 having a permanent voter’s card would be their result on the continuous assessment test?
What motivated this decision?
My engagement with my students has convinced me that young people are generally apathetic towards politics in Nigeria. In fact, it seems that they are simply convinced that it is not for them but for the “old people”. Sometimes I ask seniors or graduate students, who are well over 18, if they’ve ever voted in an election, and their answer is always surprising. Most of them don’t even have PVC. When you ask them why, they’ll tell you that they already know who will win the election because their votes won’t count.
But as a professor of political science, I can’t teach enlightened people who still think that way in the 21st century. So, I realized that I had to find a way for my students to do what was necessary and assume their civic responsibility. Getting a PVC and voting in elections is part of his civic responsibility. As someone who teaches politics, I should be able to somehow force students, somehow, to take on this civic responsibility. And the first step is for them to have PVC. After that, we will decide whether they will vote or not. So that’s what informed my decision.
How many points do you intend to award to students who obtain their PVC?
The continuous assessment test in UNN is 30 points; the exam is 70 points. It is up to the teacher who teaches the course to decide on the allocation of marks. It will be as the spirit leads. If I am asked to use everything as a CA, I will gladly do so. It’s not a bad idea at all.
How did your students react to this decision?
I just found out that my post went viral. My students shared it among themselves and in their WhatsApp groups so that those who may not be my friends on Facebook can see what is coming because they know that I am a man of my word. They know if I say something, I’ll do it, as long as it’s fair and legal. I believe that’s why they started sharing my post for everyone to see.
Do you think the university authorities will approve of your method?
I found out that some of my colleagues from the Department of Local Government and Public Administration have copied it and they also ask their students to get their PVCs. To date, I have not received any orders to the contrary from the (academic) authorities. I think I’m right because my students are all over 20; it is almost impossible to find someone under the age of 18 in their final year.
Speaking of youth participation in politics; we have noticed an increase in how young Nigerians are engaging in political conversation and getting their PVCs, especially on social media. What exactly can you relate this to, as a political scientist?
I think they see a glimmer of hope that their votes will count in the next election. The signed Elections Act 2022 has a number of amendments that may encourage a person to participate, given that their vote will count. But you can’t separate social media from what’s going on. Social media has given young people a voice. We can see what happened during the #EndSARS protests – how these young people almost shut down the economy. You know there are old men among the Nigerian elite who think that young Nigerians cannot fight for a common goal. But the protests were a revelation. For the moment, with what we are doing, for example, we hope that our young people will begin to take an interest in politics. With regard to the general elections of 2023, we can see that the tempo is accelerating. Politicians try to measure themselves on social networks, trying to present themselves as simple people. It happens because they see that young people are really not happy with the way things are going in this country. When we continue to aggregate this kind of awareness, more young people will become interested in political affairs.
Looking at the primaries of the two main parties that have just ended – the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party – how would you assess the process?
Even the delegates of these parties themselves are not satisfied with their own actions. I am on. Talking about how the dollars have rained is very disturbing. These Nigerian politicians are just very funny people that I don’t know where they were imported from. As I speak to you, we are constantly talking about a shortage of dollars and it is these politicians who are responsible for it. I know politicians who spend the dollar as if it were naira.
In fact, it’s all of what happened in the primaries of these two major political parties that is driving the movement you see on social media. People were just upset. Even the politicians themselves were unhappy with the result. I know they couldn’t buy everyone in the general election. I just wonder why someone with a conscience would raise money in a secret ballot and still vote against their conscience.
Do you think Nigerians should look beyond the APC and PDP and look for a credible third force?
People don’t need to be told twice. You don’t even have to go back there. We have seen the PDP and the APC. Both are colossal failures. In fact, they are just birds of a feather, populated by the same people posing as APC or PDP members. The essence of finding a third force is to show these two parties that Nigerians can do something. They already feel the pressure even though they pretend not to. Our eyes are now open to see that they are both evil. Nigerians should look differently. After all, there are opportunities everywhere.
What do you think of the clamor for the next president to come from the Southeast?
I agree that the Southeast has been wronged, but there is one question I would like to ask the delegates of the APC and the Southeast PDP. They were given the opportunity to vote for a southeast, but they declined. Were they not among those who were bought with dollars? Now they are crying foul of having been wronged. What is happening in Nigeria is that there is an elite consensus to silence everyone, and when it suits them, they play on religious and ethnic sentiments to have their way. But once in power, they forget religious and ethnic differences; they simply team up to plunder the nation’s commonwealth.
Imagine what Ebonyi State Governor Dave Umahi said on TV the other day that his people betrayed him. He then said that the Ebonyi would vote APC and vote against the Labor Party. This is the same person who was crying that the Igbo were being treated unfairly. When you weigh these two things, you find that there is no sincerity in these arguments and debates, and that is why we look beyond them. This time we support candidates who have a track record of what they have done and are likely to do when elected.