Factors driving upsurge in youth voter registration
...Youths account for 46% completed registrations
As the surging crowd of Nigerians are struggling to beat the June 30 deadline for the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), BusinessDay has learnt that there are many factors responsible for the development.
It was also gathered that close to 11 million new registrants have been registered in the last few months since INEC announced the deadline.
Some private sector players in a meeting on Monday were in agreement that some of the reasons for the new wave of interest in registration for Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) may include a referendum on the current administration, the entrance of Peter Obi into the race, the decision by Nigerians to have a break with the two major political parties, and the quest by young Nigerians to be more involved in the nation’s political process.
“They are not registering for the status quo; they are registering against the status quo. It is definitely a damaging verdict on the ruling party. There is no indication that the increase in the new registration will be or is in favour of the ruling party. It is some kind of referendum against the government of the day. There must be something happening,” they said.
According to them, there are some party members that are not happy with the turn of events in the ruling All Progressives Congress and perhaps, they decided to get or update their PVCs to seek an alternative.
The private sector players, who dismissed the army of social media campaigners, said the majority of them would not even vote on the election day.
They, however, acknowledged that there seemed to be some level of political awareness going on never seen before in the nation’s history.
A political analyst believes it is happening because of the “Peter Obi momentum” and mantra of “taking the country” back for the people.
“With many young people disillusioned and the prospect of fleeing their country seen as their only path to a secure future, many have adopted Obi’s presidential bid as their last hope to rescue their country from its inexorable march towards a failed state,” the analyst, who spoke with BusinessDay on condition of anonymity, said.
“This grim prospect, feared over the next eight years in the hands of the ruling APC and the opposition PDP, is galvanising young people better than any financial inducement. Many say those who emerge victorious in the presidential primaries of the major political parties have given them little cause for cheer. It is now helping to spur the biggest political movement since the June 12, 1993 elections,” he said.
According to him, the #EndSARS protest may have been crushed by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government, but the lessons from that movement are being transferred into the new movement to elect, for the first time in a long time, a candidate who left office without the taint of corruption and crass opulence that characterise Nigeria’s rapacious political class.
Obi seems to believe that the awakening in relation to CVR was set off by him.
While responding to issue of lack of structure to win a national election, he said: “Whenever I hear of no structure, my answer to it is simple, the 100 million Nigerians that live under poverty will be the structure, the millions of Nigerian youths who don’t know where the next meal will come from will be the structure, our mothers and fathers, the old ones that are dying and being owed their gratuities and pensions will be the structure, the lecturers that are being owed, the students who are not in school will be the structure. Structure is about human beings.”
Some important personalities across the country and groups, including the young people, are urging and mobilising Nigerians to register for their PVCs.
Some groups go as far as providing free transportation as part of the mobilisation efforts.
Others are offering their buildings, including residences, religious houses and business premises to INEC for use as registration centres.
Many Nigerian youths last Saturday defied rain as they trooped out for the Youth Vote Count Mega Concert 2.0 at the Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos.
Speaking at the event, Mahmood Yakubu, chairman of INEC, said, “In the last one week, we have registered over 5,000 people. When I saw the crowd that trooped here to register, we had to change our strategy. We decided that instead of everyone coming here (TBS) to register, we would register prospective voters in 20 centres spread across 20 local government areas in Lagos. Also, more machines will be deployed all over Lagos from next week.”
Olusegun Obasanjo, a former president, had on Sunday told Nigerian youths that their tomorrow would never come if they continued to leave the affairs of the country in the hands of those ruining it.
Obasanjo, who spoke at ‘OBJ @85 Free Keke Programme’ held at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, Abeokuta, challenged the younger generation to take their rightful place in the affairs of the country as leaders of tomorrow.
“If the youths leave things to those who are messing it up, and who are saying they (youths) are the leaders of tomorrow, they will never have that tomorrow,” he said.
Enough Is Enough, a non-governmental organisation campaigning for good governance, has urged Nigerians to “shine their eyes” this time around.
It said: “In Nigeria, the elections are here; plans and midnight alliances are to grab power, deepen individual pockets, in some cases with foreign coins. The outcome, who knows?
“Will Nigeria and Nigerians be the Caesar?
With only one important tool, Nigerians have their PVCs. How do you, a Nigerian, plan on using your PVC?”
Last Thursday, the electoral body issued a release, saying it would provide an additional 270 registration machines as reports of large turnouts in the South-East, Lagos, Rivers and other northern states overwhelmed their staff.
Now, there are calls to extend the deadline for registration as the electoral body clearly lacks the capacity to register willing voters within the timeframe. Meanwhile INEC thinks the surge has something to do with confidence in its ability.
“The sudden surge is an affirmation of the increasing confidence Nigerians have in our electoral process,” said Festus Okoye, chairman, information and voter education committee of INEC.