Multiple award-winning singers, Tuface Idibia and Banky W, on Friday joined dozens of civil society activists in Lagos to march for voter education of Nigerians.
The activists converged on the National Stadium in Surulere and marched for about four kilometres to the Lagos office of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
EnoughisEnough, EiE Nigeria, the organisers of the rally, said the mass voter mobilisation drive, which is taking place simultaneously in 18 other states across Nigeria, is to encourage citizens to protest at all tiers of government with their votes.
“We are here to mobilise as many new voters as possible,” Banky W told PREMIUM TIMES.
“We feel like Nigeria has remained facing some of the same issues Fela sang about 40 years ago and the only way to cause real change is to get involved, we want every person that is eligible to vote to go out and register to vote.”
Banky W said he had issued a challenge for 100,000 people to pledge to get at least 10 people each to vote.
“Now the first 100 people that actually get a 100 people, like a 100 new registered voters, we’ll give then N10,000. We are not telling you who to vote for, we don’t even care who is running at this time, we just want a new voting bloc. We want millions of new voters to be registered so that now they have to pay attention to what the people want.
“Nigeria is the same way because of failed leadership, but also because of citizen apathy, citizens just don’t care, we are used to it, we are used to the same problems but insanity is doing the same thing all the time and expecting a different result.
“So if we continue to sit around and complain and tweet and talk, and that’s all we do, there’s never going to be any change. 40 years from now our children are going to be facing the same problems.”
Last year, a similar rally to protest the worsening living condition of Nigerians held across Nigeria.
Tuface Idibia (or 2Baba as he is fondly called), who was one of the organisers, backed out at the last minute “due to security concerns and public safety consideration.”
On Friday, the singer did not show up at the beginning of the rally but later joined the march – accompanied by his wife, Annie Idibia – at Sabo Yaba to conclude the 900 metres remaining distance to INEC’s office.
Tuface said the reason last year’s protest held in the first instance was because people did not go out to cast their votes.
“We are just here to encourage Nigerians to encourage Nigerians to go and get their voter’s cards, make sure that they vote during the election,” the singer said in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES.
“Many people sit at home, at the end of the day they complain, somebody that doesn’t vote, you don’t have any voice to speak about who was elected or what they are doing but when you vote, if the person ‘dey’ misbehave, you fit talk, so let us be involved.”
At the INEC office in Lagos, an official of the commission said the state’s Resident Electoral Commissioner and other principal officers were “unavoidably absent.”
“But we commend your efforts at ensuring that INEC does its best at the forthcoming election,” said Adegboyega Oyewale, Head of Department, Election and Party Management at INEC Lagos.
Another official, Muyiwa Yusuf, said the commission had approved 30 additional machines for Lagos State to ensure that the ongoing voter registration exercise is faster.
“These machines are not like the old one that you have to place each of your fingers. This one does four fingers, four fingers, then two index fingers, so in one minute you are done,” said Mr. Yusuf, Head of Department, ICT.
“The CVR (Continuous Voters Registration) exercise gives opportunities for a lot of things, it is not only meant for registration.
“For example, if you lost your card, there is no need to do a fresh registration, just go to your local government and you’ll be given an incidence form. Also for the issue of correction, maybe wrong date of birth of name wrongly spelt, there is space for correction.”
Yemi Adamolekun, Executive Director, EnoughisEnough, said the decision to stage the rally on February 16 is symbolic.
“Last year, February 6th, we held a protest just on the state of the nation, insecurity, people being killed everywhere… so this year, instead of protesting to government again, let’s do something that is more about citizens and their own responsibilities. So we said instead of February 6th, which was last year, let’s do February 16th which is exactly one year to the general election,” Ms. Adamolekun said.
“Today, 18 states and the FCT basically did the same thing, mobilisation, walk through town talking to people, encouraging them to register to vote, telling them that it’s their voice, and also challenging INEC that people are frustrated and what are they doing to help.
“We understand some of INEC’s challenges and we are willing to help. For example, it’s only in FCT, in Edo and Lagos that information about this rotation is public. In other states, they are moving the machines around and nobody knows.”
On the claim by an INEC official that they met with “stakeholders” before the CVR exercise, Adamolekun said the meeting had been unable to achieve its purpose since citizens are still unaware of the process.
“If they’ve met with stakeholders and citizens don’t know, what use is that? That’s our challenge to them, that they need to do better with communication and CSOs (civil society organisations) are here to help. Places they can’t go, we can go. You heard when Tuface’s manager just challenged them. Tuface is an ambassador, nobody has ever called him and said how can we use your platform?
“We need to make them to be aware that, yes, if you have met with stakeholders and the rest but if the citizens you have done it for are not aware, then you need to check what you are missing.”