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OPINION: Power begins with Voter registration

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by Peterside

It is a cliche to refer to youths as “future leaders of Nigeria”, ignoring the fact that they have a role to play now in the leadership of this country. Some youths are even wired to wait endlessly for a tomorrow that may never come. Little wonder we see an unprecedented level of political apathy amongst the youth. When youths get involved in politics, they sometimes allow themselves to be used as thugs to either truncate the process or create havoc on the electoral system. The political apathy of the youths denies them the front line role of designing, developing, and influencing the future they want. Other youths see politics and governance as dirty, risky, and unimportant. This anomaly must change if we are going to build a great country that will compete among the comity of nation-states in this 21st century. Youths, “your vote is your power” and that power begins with Voter registration .

For Nigerian youths to make a difference in the long term, they must be engaged in formal political processes and have a say in formulating today’s and tomorrow’s politics and policies. Inclusive political participation is a fundamental political and democratic right and is crucial to building stable and peaceful societies and developing policies that respond to the specific needs of younger generations. For young people to be adequately represented in political institutions, processes, and decision- making, and particularly in elections, they must get involved. The first critical step is to get a voter’s card that enables them to become participants, decision-makers, and influencers. Criticising from the side-lines or on social media would not make much difference.

Participation in the electoral process affords the young the power to decide on the quality of life for themselves and future generations.Nothing gives you power to make changes in policies and programmes like having a voter’s card and going out to vote. If young people do not vote, someone else will decide for them, and it may not be about their interest. The real power is in your one vote. The continuous voter registration is the opportunity to get involved, take advantage of the changing demographics and champion a new vision for society. Future generations are depending on your ‘one vote’ to secure the unknown future.

INEC recently commenced the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR). According to the INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, intended registrants created 331 accounts on the CVR online pre-registration portal, launched at 7 a.m. on June 28. He claimed sadly that barely 24 hours after the launch, only 59,331 accounts have been created; 42,211 applications received, out of which 27,759 individuals applied for new voter pre-registration services. We expect a better uptake than this, and we implore every one of voting age, especially the youths, to engage actively in this process.

Nigeria’s population is about 200 million people, and more than half of this number is within the voting age range. The country has, over recent times, been a hotbed for voter apathy. During the last general elections and the presidential election held in 2019,for the first time in history since the return to democracy in 1999, Nigeria recorded the lowest voter turnout rate of 34.75 per cent. This rate is the lowest of all recent elections held on the African continent. Data compiled by International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (I-IDEA), an intergovernmental organisation that supports sustainable democracy worldwide, reveals that the turnout of voters in that election happens to be thesecond lowestin the history of elections held in African countries, only slightly better than the 32.3 per cent recorded in the 1996 Zimbabwean presidential election.

A look at other African countries helps to put the situation in better perspective. The top 10 countries with the highest voter turnout in their most recent polls are Rwanda: 98.2 per cent, Equatorial Guinea — 92.7 per cent, Angola — 90.4 per cent, Seychelles — 90.1 per cent, Guinea Bissau — 89.3 per cent, Zimbabwe — 86.8 per cent, Sierra Leone — 84.2 per cent, Kenya — 79.5 per cent, Liberia — 75.2 per cent, and Burundi —73.4 per cent.

Understandably, several issues induce voter apathy amongst Nigerians. Some of these include pervasive insecurity, violence, incessant postponement of elections, poor planning and clumsy voting process. Many Nigerians see the days of elections as work-free rest days during which they can sleep , play football or engage in household chores.

Another contributory factor to voter apathy is that most citizens have lost faith in the democratic process. Often, some of our political leaders end up disappointing those who stayed for hours in queues, under the rain and sun, to cast votes for them. These disappointed citizens would no longer be keen to go through the rigour for another round of elections. If democracy is delivering development to the people, it will increase voters’ turnout because there is a clear link between democratic development and campaign promises. When people’s lives are not improved, when poverty, misery, injustice, and inequality are institutionalised, people find it difficult to connect to the social contract they entered through voting and the deliverables from democracy.

Another reason is the crisis of confidence in democratic institutions. Some elections held in the country in recent years have dampened citizens’ interest in the electoral process. Due to incessant rigging of elections by politicians, some Nigerians have concluded that their votes would never count. This problem is exacerbated by killings, arson, and the level of violence and ‘militarisation’ of the Nigerian electoral process and the campaign of calumny of which Nigerian political parties are known, which demeans the electoral process.

Be that as it may, everyone, especially the youths, should not be put off voting and other forms of participation in the political process by these numerous electoral challenges . Voting is an inalienable right that every citizen must exercise. If participatory democracy is indeed the best form of government, every citizen must be involved in this process, especially the youths. Your voters card is your power to ensure continuity of excellent government or removal of bad government at the local, state, and federal levels.

Elections have consequences, and the implications of poor voter participation in a democracy are dire. These implications are in terms of the policies, ideologies, and focus of the government. And it is improbable that the policies of the government will reflect popular interests unless the majority participate. It is arguably true that , in an ideal situation, an elected official or somebody running for office will not spend as much time focusing on the needs and interests of people who do not vote.They will most likely focus on the needs and interests of those who do vote because they are accountable to them during the voting process – they can be voted in or out by the voters.

By voting, the voters exercise power to decide on the quality of life for themselves and future generations. Voting is the chance for the citizen to stand up for the issues they care about and affect their lives. It is a time for the citizens to decide what is best for them. The voters who do not vote give up their voice. The voters decide the election. When people do not vote, others will decide for them. The power of the citizen over the politician is the vote. By voting, the citizen chooses what public funds would be used for because they determine the candidate who best aligns with their philosophy, aspiration, and outlook.
Besides, voting offers the citizen the opportunity to change the system. It is an opportunity for the citizen to impact and bring greater good to the community . The citizens have the chance to make their voices heard. Any other peaceful or violent way to change the system apart from elections is unconstitutional and a waste of time. Young people should desist from such wasteful protests demanding for change of government. Their weapon is their votes, starting from getting a voters card.

Youths exercising their right to vote would never mean much if they do not weigh their options against their values and demands of leadership to elect representatives who can employ those values and leadership skills in their work for the common good. Therefore, before casting votes, youths should find out the strengths they want to see in a candidate and the weaknesses they hope to avoid. Simple research can help them find every candidate’s position on issues that affect their lives or are essential to them.

Our youths should realise that the best way to impact government and governance is to be an integral part of the democratic process. They must be active participants in this process. Youths should spend more time and show more interest in the political process. Our youths’ political participation will exponentially increase if the attention they pay to social media sleaze and TV entertainment programmes (Big Brother Naija, Naija Got Talent, and the English Premier League) is shown to the political process. They will take back their future from the hands of the older generation, who unfortunately are making policy decisions that they will not be alive to see the consequences. Then, our youths will genuinely become “leaders of tomorrow.”

In conclusion, youths should translate their anger (against “political jobbers” and “political contractors” masquerading as leaders and seeking the political office) into participation in the electoral process. They should always vote or be voted for. They should eschew all forms of violence and never allow anybody to convince and use them to subvert the electoral system. They should become politically literate and never fall prey to the pernicious propaganda of ethnic bigotry and religious fanaticism. No matter where young people come from in Nigeria, their problems, pains, and aspirations are the same. A better Nigeria now and for posterity is the dream of all. I, therefore, implore all, but especially our youths, to engage actively with the INEC registration process and, in due time, use their votes to decide the destiny of this great nation.

Governance

NDDC Boss, a Promise Keeper, says UNIUYO VC

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The Vice Chancellor of the University of Uyo, Professor Nyakudo Ndaeyo, has described the Interim Administrator/CEO of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Mr. Efiong Okon Akwa, as a promise keeper for ensuring that the long-abandoned 1000-bed NDDC hostel would soon be completed.

Professor Ndaeyo made this declaration when Mr. Akwa paid him a courtesy visit at UNIUYO Senate Chambers, as part of an inspection of the hostel project in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State capital.

The Vice Chancellor disclosed that he had extracted the promise from the NDDC boss to complete the project shortly after his appointment as Head of the interventionist agency.

Professor Ndaeyo thanked the NDDC for assisting the university to ease the pressure of accommodation, stressing the need to provide the university’s undergraduates with a conducive learning and living environment in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr. Akwa, who was accompanied by the state director of the Commission, Mr. Obot Udoette, and directors of the Commission, stated that the hostel, sited at the permanent site of the University, will be completed and commissioned next month.

He said that the NDDC’s commitment to the completion of the students’ hostel project was a result of a directive from President Muhammadu Buhari to the Commission to ensure the completion of all its projects in the Niger Delta region.

He said: “The 1,000 bed students’ hostel being built will be a first of its kind in the region. It will have 500 bed spaces for male undergraduates and 500 bed spaces for female undergraduates and will include recreational spaces as well.”

He stated that the university was playing a very important role in the economy and lives of the people of Akwa Ibom State and the South-South region.

The NDDC boss observed that in an era of Covid-19 pandemic, it was necessary to assist universities to properly accommodate students in order to ensure adequate provision for social distancing in the hostels.

Speaking after inspecting the hostel project, the NDDC boss assured that the Commission would assist universities in the region to ensure that their students undertake their studies in comfortable and safe environment.

Akwa expressed delight that the project had reached 95 per cent completion, with only external works and landscaping still being worked on.

He added: “We need to pull out our students from the surrounding villages where they currently reside and host them in a conducive environment fit for learning.”

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Fara Dagogo’s bill seeking 13% derivation to be paid directly to host communities bill first reading

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A bill seeking to alter the Constitution of the country to pay the 13% derivation fund directly to oil producing host communities has passed first reading on the floor of the House of Representatives.

If passed into law, the 13% derivation fund will be paid directly to the host communities of each benefiting states through the Host Communities Development Commissions.

Sponsor of the bill, Hon. Doctor Farah, Member representing Degema/ Bonny Federal Constituency from Rivers State, said the bill ‘Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (Amendment) Bill, 2021 (HB. 1570)’, is intended to address and correct the injustices the oil producing communities have been experiencing.

In demonstrating its seriousness, a section of the bill recommended that ‘ failure of any state to establish the Host Communities Development Commission shall be deemed as an offence and such a state shall forfeit 30% of her monthly benefit from the 13% derivation fund till such a time that the Commission is established’

Before the presentation of the bill, the Federal Lawmaker had accused the Governors of the Niger Delta states, of wasting N10 trillion from the derivation fund over the years

“This is a very sad commentary as it relates to the oil-producing communities of the Niger Delta. The 13 per cent Derivation is the fund set aside to assist oil-producing communities to tackle infrastructural decay and degradation, emphasis on the oil-producing communities. What it means basically is that in sharing the federation account revenue, 13 per cent should be set aside to assist the development of these oil-producing communities.

” About two decades down the line what is there to show for the humongous monies that have come in? The Governors, past and present, view it as free monies”, he said.

“Between 2000 and 2018, over N10trillion from the 13 per cent derivation principle, have been shared to the Niger Delta Governors, on behalf of the oil-producing communities, yet the deplorable living conditions of the people from these oil-producing communities have remained nauseating and deplorable with the people battling and still reeking with the worst and highest form of poverty, “he noted.

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