Hundreds of young people chanted joyously Saturday at a concert in Abuja, listening to some of Nigeria’s biggest music stars.
The concert was set up to encourage voter registration among young people. There were at least 50 registration points for attendees to either register or verify already existing voter cards.
The artists one after another took to the stage to serenade the crowd but with clear messages encouraging them to vote in elections early next year.
The initiative was organized by a joint team comprising of the European Union, Nigeria’s Independent Electoral Body or INEC, and civil society organizations to boost voter participation, especially among young people, which authorities say was below 20 percent in 2019.
INEC chairman Mahmood Yakubu says thousands of people signed up to vote at the concert.
“We’re still registering today but in five days, we registered over 14,000 Nigerians in this place alone,” Yakubu said. “We’ll not stop the registration until we’re satisfied that those who wish to register are given the opportunity.”
Young people constitute about 70% of Nigeria’s total population but youth participation in politics has been low.
People who registered at the concerts say successive governments have let the country down – and that’s why they want to make their voices heard at the ballot box.
Hamza Yusuf registered to vote during Saturday’s concert.
“You can see everybody coming out,” Yusuf said. “Basically, with concerts like this, it will help people want to get off their couches from their homes. We are all tired of how our governance is.”
Francis Atama also registered to vote at the concert.
“In the past there’s been high level of bad governance, and then the youths need inclusiveness in the government,” Atama said.
Samson Itodo, the executive director of the Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement (YIAGA Africa), predicts young people will assume a greater role in Nigerian politics.
“Nigerian youths have made a bold statement that they have not lost hope in Nigeria,” Itodo said. “The crowd that you see here in their thousands is a demonstration of the fact that a lot of young people are very determined to cast their votes. There are over 10,000 people here today who have come to register.”
Presidential and National Assembly elections are slated for February 25 of next year, while governor and state assembly elections will take place in March.