• Thursday, April 18, 2024
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First-time voters find voice in contest for Lagos

First-time voters find voice in contest for Lagos

Tunde Adeboye is one of the 10 million new registered voters, gearing up to vote for the first time in a governorship election.

Two years ago, he was among thousands of young people at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, demanding an end to police brutality.

This year, the 23-year-old Adeboye says he has transitioned from a peaceful protester to a peaceful voter.

“Everyone was shocked we turned out during the last presidential election; there will be more shocks of voter turnout this Saturday,” Adeboye tweeted.

The government and House of Assembly elections, which were initially slated for March 11, will be held this Saturday.

Rinu Oduala, a Lagos-based activist who was vocal during the EndSARS protest in October 2020, said young voters carry with them the scars of the violence that they faced in 2020.

“The protests were both a critical moment and the culmination of years of anger and disillusionment with the system, which has failed to address the needs and aspirations of Nigeria’s youth,” Oduala said.

“But despite the trauma and tragedy of those days, young voters remain determined to make their voices heard. These young Nigerians are driven by a sense of justice, a determination to hold those in power accountable for their actions and a belief in the power of collective action to bring about change,” she added.

Paul Olakunle, a tech startup founder, said despite security challenges at polling units, young Nigerians are resilient about a powerful force for change.

“As shown in the recent election, Nigerian youths are not motivated by any particular political party or candidate; they are motivated by a desire to build a more equitable and democratic Nigeria,” said Olakunle, who plans to vote for the first time.

Data obtained from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) showed that registered voters who are classified as students are among the top groups that will sway the 2023 general election.

According to INEC, students lead the newly registered voters with 2.33 million, while people in business follow with 1.21 million.

“A critical element of the 2023 general election is the intensity and electricity of the Nigerian youths’ participation in the electoral process. Statistics may not fully capture or contextualise youth involvement in the 2023 national electoral process,” said Dakuku Peterside, former director-general of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency.

Political watchers say the upsurge in youths’ participation in politics and the upshot of the last presidential election set the stage for what is expected to be a fiercely contested governorship election in Lagos State.

Unlike the 2015 and 2019 governorship elections in Lagos, experts say the emergence of the Labour Party (LP), which is now pulling its weight in the state owing to a surprise victory in the 2023 presidential election, has added a new dimension to the Lagos governorship race.

In 2019, Babajide Sanwo-Olu emerged as the governor of Lagos State in what could be described as an easy ride after polling 79.66 percent of the total votes cast.

Analysts doubt there is a rare chance of history repeating itself after what played out in the state in the February 25 presidential and National Assembly elections.

The All Progressive Congress (APC) was defeated in a presidential election in Lagos State. The party polled a total of 572,606 votes, while LP, a third force, got 582,454 votes to win the state in the 2023 presidential election. The PDP scored only 75,750 votes.

The APC also won in only 10 LGAs in Lagos State while LP grabbed the other 10 local government areas. The PDP did not win any.

“The Saturday election will be keenly contested, especially after what played out at the presidential election; whoever wins will win by a slim margin,” Bimbo Awoyele, a Lagos-based political analyst, said on Channels TV.

Although there are 18 candidates vying to replace the incumbent governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu of the APC, the election is seen by many as a four-house race.

Other key candidates are Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour of LP; Abdul-Azeez Adediran, popularly known as ‘Jandor’, of the PDP; and Funsho Doherty, the candidate of the Action Democratic Party.

Read also: Lagos election: Political dethronement or not?

What is at stake?

Lagos State’s output in 2017 was $136 billion, according to official estimates, more than a third of Nigeria’s gross domestic product.

The city is the centre of most of the country’s manufacturing and home to a pan-African banking industry as well as a thriving music, fashion and film scene that reverberates around the continent.

It also leads in virtually all measures of economic activity in the country, ranging from local and international aviation traffic to maritime cargo freight and energy consumption to manufacturing activity and bank deposits.

The population, just 1.4 million in 1970, has nearly doubled from 11 million a decade ago as thousands of people come in each day to seek a better life.