In a bid to address voter’s apathy as Nigerians look forward to the 2023 general elections, several groups, including civic and faith-based ones, have begun mobilising eligible voters to participate in the ongoing Continuous Voters Registration (CVR) exercise.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) resumed the CVR nationwide on June 28, three years after the last exercise.
The exercise, which targets additional 20 million voters, affords Nigerians who clocked 18 years after the last exercise in 2018 and eligible voters who have never been registered, the opportunity to get their data on INEC’s database and consequently obtain a voter’s card.
The exercise will go on continuously over a period of at least one year. And for the first time in the history of Nigeria’s democracy, the electoral umpire launched an online portal for registration, a shift from the past mode where prospective voters queued for the process.
The portal will enable Nigerians to commence the registration process online by filling forms and other documents, then make an appointment on the web portal for a date and time to visit a state or local government area (LGA) office of INEC to give their fingerprints and complete the registration.
To make mass registration a reality, non-governmental organisations, through several initiatives, have leveraged social media platforms, including the banned microblogging site, Twitter, in targeting the youthful population.
They also have channels through which prompt responses are provided to applicants facing any hitch during voters’ registration.
Oyeyemi Abass, one of the campaigners, said his ‘I sabi vote’ initiative that runs an informative campaign in the street lingo, pidgin, attempts to change the narrative that the Nigerian youth only rant about government’s policies but are absent when it comes to the real work — voting.
“We’re trying to change the narrative by driving conversations that would make them vote and also, by breaking down the technicalities involved in the electoral process to the simplest forms.”
“Pidgin English is the most unifying language In Nigeria, hence, we try to tell stories on the dangers of not registering to vote. We are also ensuring that voters’ education is at the peak of our campaign.”
‘I sabi vote’ also runs a content creation page that enables young Nigerians to make videos of themselves while they answer questions around popular participation,” Mr Abass said.
Another campaign group is My Voice My Future (MYMF) that makes digital posts to increase voter’s knowledge about civics.
“We know that our targeted audience, the youth, use social media. So we make digital posts online heavily. We don’t post only politics but current trending affairs,” said Ife Sarumi, MYMF’s founder.
The initiative, with over 50 volunteers, also relies on support from Nigerians in the diaspora who help in funding and sharing contents to reach a wider audience.
“They (Nigerians in diaspora) fund the campaigns. They have a wider reach online and can circulate the campaigns around the world,” Ms Sarumi told PREMIUM TIMES.
Religious groups are not left out in lending their voices to the campaign on social media networks.
One of the vocal ones is Global Leadership Development Forum (GLDF) that seeks to organise churches and related organisations to promote and encourage active participation in the political and governance value chain in Nigeria.
Another is the Best of Mankind Youths (BMY), a group of Muslim youths.
“To every #Nigerian out there, please take out time to register for the next coming elections, Online registration for eligible voters,” BMY canvassed in a post.
But for Abideen Olasupo’s YvoteNaija, the mobilisation process goes beyond the virtual space, incorporating community-based awareness programmes.
YvoteNaija currently has coordinators in the 36 states in the country and seeks to extend its tentacles to the 774 local government areas of the country.
“We want to use a bottom-top approach by involving the community. It is anchored on the principle of inclusion in which the community takes ownership of the campaign,” said Mr Olasupo, the group’s executive director.
A murky situation, data reflects
A previous PREMIUM TIMES analysis premised on the data from the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), showed a consecutive decline in election turnout from 2003 to 2019.
Since the country’s transition to democracy in 1999, it has only recorded an increase once. That was from 52 per cent to 69 per cent between the 1999 and 2003 elections.
But after the 2003 presidential election, participation in subsequent elections has continued to decline, first to 57 per cent in 2007, then to 54 per cent in 2011, before dropping to 44 per cent in 2015.
This would further dwindle in the 2019 presidential election which saw only 34.75 per cent of the registered voters actually vote.
To put the data in a better perspective, less than four in 10 eligible voters determined who won in 2019
This analytics constitutes a larger amount of the materials that guide YvoteNaija’s advocacy, Mr Olasupo stated.
As the pre-registration exercise progresses, campaigners have expressed hope that their advocacy would change the tide, taking a cue from the feedback received so far.
Mr Oyeyemi said: “With close to two hundred thousand applications in the first week, we believe that our work together with that of our partners and other organisations is productive. ”
For Mr Olasupo, his group had helped 2,903 citizens without the Internet and provided support to 1,801 citizens through social media.
INEC, during its weekly update on the online pre-registration portal on Monday, said it received a fresh 456,909 applications, being the total for the first two weeks of the exercise.
A significant number of the registrants are young people between the ages of 18 and 34.
Experts and participatory governance advocates have also urged the electoral commission to continue its mass voters’ education and awareness.
“INEC should make continuous work at ensuring that the biometric capturing is as seamlessly smooth as the CVR online registration,” Mr Oyeyemi advised.
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