Photo: Ibrahim Iliya
Gradually, Nigeria ebbs to the long-awaited 2023 general elections and so many activities, preparations and politicking have seeped across the nation.
The Independent National Electoral Commission on June 28, 2021, announced the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise to enable Nigerians 18 years and above to obtain the Permanent Voters Card (PVC) which will make them eligible to vote, especially in the forthcoming general elections.
The exercise was to end in June 2022 but with pressures and a plea for an extension, the exercise came to an end on July 31, 2022.
The fact that the PVC is not just a mere card but the power of eligible Nigerians to have a say at the polls in a “free and fair” election on who the next president, state governors, and leaders at various levels will be, come 2023 led to throngs of Nigerians at registration points.
INEC then announce on August 1, after a long CVR exercise that 12.29 million newly completed voters were registered bringing a total of eligible voters in Nigeria to 96.2 million for the 2023 general elections.
Data from newly registered voters shows that the majority, over 8.78 million are youths between 18—34 years, middle-aged (35-49 years) are 2.43 million, elderly persons (50—69 years), 956,017 and the older persons 127,541.
This is particularly interesting because the number of youths who availed themselves of the just concluded CVR could be an indication that the youth are taking an interest in Nigerian politics.
From the oil-rich state of Port Harcourt, Confidence Amachree said she did not participate in the last election in 2019.
“I didn’t think my vote would count”. my motivation to vote in the next election is a result of “the deplorable state of the nation”, she said
On the state of the nation, she opined that the economy was worse off, with the education sector neglected as students have been home for months due to the ASUU strike, and security issues in the country which posed a threat daily.
In Kwara State, Zainab Adebayo is one of those set to vote who thinks the youths are ‘woke’.
“We are becoming parents. Every parent wants the best for their children”, she said, suggesting what might be one of the motivation of youths to be interested in the forthcoming election.
Ibrahim Iliya, another youth from Kaduna led a team to champion a non-partisan ‘PVC concert’ across the state explaining that it was his civic duty to influence youths in his capacity to be patriotic enough and be ready to exercise their franchise come 2023.
Ibrahim says he is thrilled that there was a massive awakening across the nation, and that this implies hope for the future.
Erstwhile President of the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN) Comrade Almustapha Abdullahi says, “it is a very good development for Nigeria that the youths are now waking up. Consider what happened during the #EndSARS movement, the voice of the youth made the president of Nigeria abolish SARS. The youth are ready for 2023”.
“What will happen in 2023 I can bet you, it will be a message to every people that we are ready to take over the leadership of Nigeria”, Comrade Almustapha said in high spirit.
No polling units on social media
But before Nigerian youths begin to celebrate their turnout for the PVCs and interests in the next election, turning up to vote on election day is key.
National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Festus Okoye have said the turnout by young persons for the PVC showed that people now have more confidence in the electoral process and that every vote will count in the 2023 election.
Okoye sternly reminds the youths the coming out to the polls is significant…
“we don’t have polling units on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, polling units are in areas designated by INEC, if you stay on social media on election day running commentaries, the implication is that others will determine your fate and circumstance. The youths of this country must realise that the PVC has the capacity to change their circumstance”.Okoye said.
David Olugbenga in Kwara who will be a first-time voter is eager to get his PVC from INEC after completing the voter registration.
“I am obligated to vote and even beyond my obligation to vote, I believe my one vote will make the difference”, he says.
How potent is the youth’s interest in determining the political fate of aspirants?
“If they [youths] agree on a particular candidate or a decision, there’s a guaranteed chance of success”, Chairman, Kajuru Local Government Area, Kaduna, Caino Cafra has said.
Cafra who is also a youth ascribes his success in politics to massive youth participation.
According to Caino Cafra, the youth should not just come out to vote but must be ready to use their PVCs wisely and channel their energy to voting for credible leaders with the capacity, right state of mind and intellect to create a better Nigeria for all and sundry.
As it is often the trend where aspirants negotiate with groups in other to seek their vote, current President, NYCN, Ambassador Sukubo Sara-Igbe Sukubo opined.
He maintained that so far political parties over the years have failed Nigerians, and in a stern voice said, “we will not go for a political party in 2023, we will go for candidates”.
In the thoughts of Odion Omokhodion Kadiri, to get the youths to the polls, “we must set up rigorous mass political education and sensitisation. This is not uncommon but it is presently not efficient”.
“We must teach people of the gravity of our political and economic crises and how their involvement in the elections may make or break any chance we have at solving these crises”.He emphasised, explaining that voters must know the ills of putting party before the common goal of the Nigerian populace
In line with their seemingly ready stance for the polls, it is apparent that the youths of the nation have raised the bar for the new President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who will emerge in 2023.
The youth have also placed certain expectations from INEC in the conduct of the anticipated elections.
“I honestly expect an immediate solution towards the economy first, once the economy has been salvaged then we can talk about investing in education, electricity, healthcare. If we can get these done within the first two years then Nigeria would be on course to becoming the African Giant again”, David Olugbenga has said.
He also pointed out that, for the elections to be successful nationwide, INEC must have sufficient data and functioning equipment to enable them immediately upload results as they come to avoid chances of rigging, as he referred to the recently concluded Osun election.
“I noticed that there was a particular polling unit where the INEC officials almost did not upload the results immediately they said that they did not have data [subscription] to upload. It was the youths that contributed data for INEC”, he alleged.
Zainab Adebayo wants INEC to be on the guard against illegal PVCs and underage voting. She appealed to the commission to give its best to conduct credible elections.
For voter safety during the polls, in Abuja, Victor Lawal decried increasing desperation by political aspirants who would go to any length to achieve their desires.
“the only thing I have is my life”, he says, noting that he will only head to the polls if he is guaranteed of being alive.
The government and relevant Authorities must do all they can to discourage vote buying which is threatening the credibility of elections. Electronic means of voting should be properly checked before the elections commence to ensure the absence of foul play”, Confidence Amachree insists.
The 2023 Nigerian elections will be held, in large part, on February 25 and 11 March 11, 2023. The President and Vice President will be elected on 25 February, with incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari expected to hand over the helm of affairs to the president elected on May 29, next year.
Written by Muzha Kucha, Editing by Anabel Nwachukwu