On April 29, 2022, the Run To Win Youth Festival which was supported by Voice and in partnership with youth rehabilitation lab Street Project Foundation and civic engagement organisation WeVote Nigeria featured entertainment performances across music, dance, and spoken word as well as conversations on the importance of young people being active in Nigeria’s democracy in order to shape governance outcomes.
In her opening remarks, Yiaga Africa’s Director of Programmes, Cynthia Mbamalu enjoined the young population of the country not to see loss of hope as a reason for voter apathy, but rather as a motivation to strive harder to vote for leaders the nation deserves. She reaffirmed the organisation’s commitment and that of its stakeholders to making elections more participatory, free and fair.
“Any initiative that is aimed at increasing citizen participation is a welcome one. We need to keep spreading the message of citizen participation, especially as elections approach,” she said.
In the first chat session at the Festival, the Convener, WeVote Nigeria, Obinna Osisiogu made the point that when young people and citizens refuse to participate in elections as voters, it actually makes elections worse. He added that statistics from the 2019 elections show that the abysmally low percentage of citizens who vote and determine the leadership of the country means that those in governance do not feel the pressure to prove their worth as leaders anymore.
He encouraged young people to go beyond complaints to action, noting that even in developed countries, citizens rarely have favourable things to say about their leaders, yet the leaders work harder and struggle to do better knowing that they will be held accountable by the citizens and would not stand a chance for reelection if they do not fulfil their roles.
“Our elections are not perfect and there is still a lot of work to do to improve them. But the more you stay away from voting, the worse it will get. The more you get involved, the better it will get” He reiterated.
In response to a question about the quality of candidates that the “ruling” parties produce for citizens to vote, he alluded that more young people need to also join political parties en masse in order to improve the quality of candidates that parties produce.
“We should not always have to choose the lesser of evils to govern us”, he said.
The Head of Publicity and Voter Education, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Mrs Agnes Sam Akpe in a chat session, said the Commission is committed to making the registration process much smoother and easier to encourage young people to register and vote during the upcoming 2023 elections. She also enjoined citizens to go to any INEC office or Ward centre close to them and easily transfer their Permanent Voters’ Cards to their new locations for those who are already registered but have changed their locations.
Many creative performances facilitated by the Street Project Foundation brought artistes such as Gidzeey, Remeh Barz, Crosswordz, Andrea Torhee amongst others flavoured the event as well as conveyed the urgency of Nigeria’s situation and why young people desperately need to join the voting class in order to set in motion the change they hope to see in the country.