By Adeyemi Adeleye
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu on Saturday, said the commission would soon make its stand known on calls for extension of June 30 deadline for the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR).
Yakubu disclosed this while addressing youths in Lagos State at a Mega Musical Concert on ‘Youth Vote Count’, organised by INEC in collaboration with some partners to awaken youth consciousness toward participating in politics and governance.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the awareness campaign held at Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS) aim to mobilise and get youths registered in the CVR.
The exercise started on Monday with the deployment of 50 INEC Voter Enrolment Devices (IVED) to capture youths in the CVR, culminated in the concert which featured several youth-inspiring musicians, comedians and celebrities.
The campaign was organised by the electoral umpire in collaboration with the EU Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGN), the Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement (YIAGA), International Press Centre (IPC) and other partners.
The INEC chairman noted that he was aware that the youth wanted their votes to count with their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs), and assured them that they would get their PVCs while their votes would also count in the 2023 elections.
“I want to assure you that you will have your PVCs. We have new machines which will be deployed all over Lagos from next week.
“I know you want to hear from INEC if we are ending the registration on June 30. We have heard you loudly and clearly, You want time until all Nigerians register for PVCs: you will hear from INEC very soon on that.
“You want to hear from INEC if you register and vote: will your vote count? Your votes will count,” he said.
NAN reports that at this point, the shout of “no rigging, no rigging” filled the air, chorused by teeming youths at the event, the development which disrupted a bit, the address of the INEC chairman.
Responding to them, Yakubu said: ” We heard you loudly and clearly. I listened to you, I listened to you very clearly. Once you collect you PVCs, please go and vote. Vote and not fight.
“Let me assure and reassure you, your votes will count,” Yakubu reiterated.
Assessing the success of the Youth Vote Count campaign which started on Monday, Mr Olusegun Agbaje, INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner in Lagos state said the commission’s goal of mobilising huge number of youths for the CVR had been achieved.
Agbaje, who said that about 10,000 youths were captured within the five-day exercise, said more voter enrolment machines had been deployed to the 20 local government areas of the state to bring more youths into the voting population.
Decrying that many youths had waited till the 11th hour before presenting themselves for registration, Agbaje urged them to move to their various local government areas to register before the expiration of the CVR on June 30.
“We are going to ensure that we capture as many of them that are eligible before the end of the exercise,” he said.
Speaking, the Head of the European Union (EU) delegation to Nigeria, Ms Samuella Isope described the youth turnout as a sign of hope, trust and confidence of youth in the electoral process.
Isope applauded the nation’s new Electoral Act as well as various technologies and innovations that INEC had introduced to make elections more transparent in Nigeria.
The envoy said that youths needed to be mobilised for electoral processes because they had power to make change happen and make a difference.
“Don’t give up your power. Don’t allow others to be making decisions for you. Come out to register, pick up your PVCs and vote,” Isopi advised.
One of the organisers, Mr Lanre Arogundade, the Executive Director, International Press Centre, said the current generation of Nigerian youths must take their destiny in their hands by getting involved in the process of choosing leaders.
Arogundade urged the youths to join political parties, registering and being active “this is the only way to change things in this nation. Youths have a civic duty to register and vote in 2023”.
Also, Mr Samson Itodo, the Executive Director, YIAGA Africa, described as appalling, a situation where Nigerian youths with demographic majority, were not taking part in electoral processes.
“The young people of Lagos state have a unique opportunity in the next election to make their number count,” Itodo said.
He encouraged the youths to know that there were reforms within the electoral system that would make their votes to count.
NAN reports that musicians, comedians, and social media influencers among others performed at the event to encourage the youths to get registered, collect their PVCs and vote.
Some of them included: Kizz Daniel; M.I, Teni; Falz; Omawumi; Mayorkun; Waje; JeoBoy; 2Baba; Patoranking; Skiibii; Ashake, Small Doctor; Pasuma, and Bella Shmurda.
Others were Ufuoma McDermott; Chioma Akpotha; Uti Nwachukwu; Uche Jombo; Lasisi Elenu; Kie Kie; Mr Macaroni; Real Warri Pikin; Omoni Oboli; Toyin Abraham Ajeyemi and Broda Shaggi among other celebrities.
The only access card to the concert was the PVCs or the Temporary Voter Cards (TVCs). (NAN) (www.nannews.ng)
Edited by Hawa Lawal/Chioma Ugboma