Youth Implored to Take Spleen from Twitter to Ballot Box

Youth Implored to Take Spleen from Twitter to Ballot Box

Nigerian youth have been urged to take their views and frustrations about the country, which they regularly vent on twitter and facebook, to the ballot box. “You must translate your huge number to votes in order to determine the outcome of the next election”. This was the summary of the discourse at the grand finale

Nigerian youth have been urged to take their views and frustrations about the country, which they regularly vent on twitter and facebook, to the ballot box. “You must translate your huge number to votes in order to determine the outcome of the next election”.

This was the summary of the discourse at the grand finale of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Youth Outreach programme held at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka on Tuesday with the theme, “Youth Votes Count”. The event was supported by the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES) as part of the European Union Support for Democracy and Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGN) project.

All the speakers were united in their views that the youth can make a difference in the 2019 election if they come out massively to exercise their franchise.

“Young people with their votes have influenced education and other policies. I know you are active on social media but you must take your views from twitter to the ballot box,” says Mr Robert Petri, ambassador of the Netherlands to Nigeria. Also speaking in this vein, Mr Innocent Idibia, the popular musician known as “2Baba” implores the youth that “It’s time to stop twitting, please go and vote. It’s time to take our destiny in our hands”.

“If you are not part of the political process, you cannot be part of the decision of who become governors, senators or councillors. Your tweets do not count; your followers are not counted.  What will be counted are your votes. We need to vote. Plato once said that if you refuse to participate, you’ll end up being ruled by your inferiors,” says award winning music artiste, Mr Olubankole Wellington, popularly known as BankyW.

“The future of this country is at stake, get involved, go and vote. When you get involved, you get informed leaders to lead us. If this generation does not stand and be counted, our children will blame us. If we must be great Nigerian students, we must get involved,” he says, pleading with the youth to stop “selling their votes for a bag of rice”.

“They’ll thrive on your apathy or mindset that elections will not achieve anything. We must disappoint their expectation by actively taking part and voting”.

Also speaking at the event, award winning music artiste, Miss Chidinma Ekile who was more concerned about the participation of women in the political process says, “it is important for women to get involved”.

“Over the years, I’ve realised that women have been relegated to the background in the development of Nigeria. It’s unfortunate that women have not been given enough room to express themselves in the politics of Nigeria or decide the leadership of the country. Why can’t the women come out and vote? You can’t be intimidated. You have to come and express yourselves. You have to be active,” Ekile says, admonishing the women to actively participate in the political process..

“Election day is not a public holiday. It’s not a day to watch African magic or play football. It’s for you to go and vote. You cannot expect to make any change if you don’t vote,” quips Mr Ebuka Obi-Uchendu, lawyer and award winning media personality.

President of the University of Nigeria Students’ Union, Mr Fotunatus Chimezie says, “I can assure you that your votes will count. If votes don’t count, politicians will not be buying votes,” disclosing that his collaboration with the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Enugu State, Dr Emeka Ononamade Joseph led to the creation of a registration centre on the campus resulting subsequently in the registration of many students.

INEC Commissioner, Mr Festus Okoye says, the “Youth of this country have the capacity to make a difference. You have the energy to make a difference. You have the reach to make a difference. Only those who stay and vote will make a difference,” urging the youth to be part of the ownership of the political process as “the world is ruled by only those who stay around”.

“The truth is that you have to own the process. Election is a multi-stake affair. If you want our democracy to grow, you have to take ownership of the electoral process. You can then expect INEC to deliver in the morning, afternoon and evening,” Okoye who represented the INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, says.

While affirming that “Our elections are getting better, he says, INEC is “determined and courageous” to deliver a “free and fair election,” stressing that “only the voters can determine the outcome of the 2019 election”.

“We have put in place the processes and procedures that will deliver credible elections. It is not by accident that political thugs do not fancy stealing and snatching of ballot boxes anymore. Rather than snatch ballot boxes, they are now engaged in vote buying”.

Responding to the charge of conflict between asking voters to own the political process by witnessing the counting of votes and staying off from the voting centres immediately after voting, Okoye says, “Nigeria has a peculiar security challenge. In other countries, you do not see security officials on the streets on Election Day. We are engaging the National Security Adviser and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) on the conduct of security officials. We do not want the security officials to interfere in any way. They should allow the people to vote freely”.

“After voting, voters should step back. We are encouraging the security officials to be friendly. We still want voters to follow the counting but there’s a security condone that voters cannot go beyond so that electoral officials can do their jobs. We have introduced a unique process. Once the votes are counted, the results are displayed for all to see at the polling booths.”

The INEC Commissioner was of the view that the with the 40,000 students population at UNN, the students can determine who becomes the governor of the state. “You are the one refusing to determine who becomes the governor. You can determine the direction of the election if the students vote in unison. And with your votes, you can take ownership of the electoral process,” he says.

Also speaking, the European Union Ambassador to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Mr Ketil Karlsen explains that their intervention is not borne out of “support for any political parties, candidates or ideology. We found that there was the need to do things in a different way”.

Says he: “We want more political access for people living with disabilities (PWDs). We need more women and youth to run for political office. Getting more people to vote is still a challenge. If more politicians were artistes and the artistes politicians, the world would be a better place”

Deputy Vice Chancellor, Prof Charles Igwe who delivered the welcome address on behalf of the Vice Chancellor, express the readiness of the institution to support the electoral process.

“We support all you are doing at INEC. The students here are in support of the election, the students here are some of the most well behaved. This is also one of the most peaceful campuses. We’ve never had any negative incidents here when it comes to election. We’ll also be inviting you to monitor our students’ union election which is one of the best in the country”, he says.

Attended by 2000 students, the event which featured prominent artistes, was moderated by Mr Uti Nwanchukwu, popular actor and television presenter. The Voters Education Volunteer group of the institution was also inaugurated by the INEC Director of Voter Education and Mobilisation, Mr Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi. Also present at the event were RECs for Anambra, Abia, Imo and Ebonyin states and Ms Isabel Candela, head of Section; Democracy, Governance and Migration at the European Union.

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