So I didn’t register to vote.
Come February 2019, the elections will be here again, and for the third time since I became eligible, I’ll be on the sidelines.
Considering how much noise was made about registration in the months before the deadline, I feel like trash. I know there are a lot of us out there.
The good old question remains; how do you get young people to vote? Everybody wants to be 18 so they can cross many things off their bucket lists – but voting is hardly ever one of them.
Young people have an attitude to voting that sits somewhere between ‘Wetin concern me’ and ‘Call me when they start sharing dollars’.
Keep in mind ‘young’ here means persons between the ages of 18 – 25 –definitely not Dalung.
It’s not hard to see why the actor dies in this movie.
Voter turnout in Nigeria has consistently dropped over the last three elections.
It’s almost the same case with SUG elections. Good luck remembering the days when student unions could shake the country.
Now the average student is like my colleague Eniola, who described her feelings for campus politics with this short expose –”I didn’t give a shit. It didn’t matter.”
None of this makes me happy. So in an effort to nip the problem at the bud, I’ve looked back at my attitude to elections over the years.
I don’t like what I found.
Election season usually starts like this:
Segun to the world: “Guy. Dem don dey ring bell for this guy. INEC says election na February next year.”
World to Segun: *crickets x 3*
In Nigeria, elections start when posters go up. It’s in the Bible. Unfortunately, my brain becomes shy when it’s time to remember this.
Because rules are made to be broken.
INEC’s electoral calendar says campaigns are not allowed until roughly three months to the elections. But I can swear nobody follows these rules.
Imagine coming home nearly a year to the election and having to confirm your house address because posters have turned the entire street into a collage. That’s how I feel every four years.
Between that and the Atiku trends on Twitter, there’s no other way to know elections are here.
“GET YOUR PVC yen yen yen”
I really wanted to register to vote ahead of 2019. I talked to people and planned my weeks around it.
Except something always came up. A football match, a new album, food, sleep. Over the years, I’ve found that my scepticism has gotten the better of me.
If you say it’s a case of wondering if my vote would really count, you’ll be right.
“But me I go talk, me I go speak my mind” – Eldee the Don
Not having a voter’s card has never stopped me from talking about governance around election time though.
What I’ve noticed is that people like me have these conversations for different reasons–to compare opinions, to hide mouth odour, or to just appear smart.
Not everyone’s really interested at this point and it shows.
“Can you people shift for me? I want to tweet.”
You know when they offer you rice at a friend’s house and your self-respect says no, then you smell it and your priorities somersault?
Few months to the elections, after Olamide makes the first election jingle, the buzz builds to the point where FOMO sets in and everyone becomes a pundit.
Maybe it comes from worrying that people are doing something way more fun than you are. Or that they’re selling us at dozen price in one Whatsapp group. Either way, the noise gets louder with each election year.
But will you vote?
Unfortunately, all the hot takes never really convince us to do the deed-voting.
To be fair, there are reasons – like the fear factor.
No one wants a situation where one moment you’re exercising your civic duty, the next minute you’re channelling Usain Bolt and wondering if you’ll ever see your slippers again.
Fun fact: I’m one of these people.
So we stay at home–but when results are announced, the country sings the same old song.
“Dem don rig am”
Soldier go. Soldier come. Barracks still dey.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that elections go as fast as they come.
And because nearly 1 in every 2 Nigerians lives in abject poverty, earning a living or working towards one matters more than anything else.
It’s all good to care about your country’s politics but in the end, survival is the most abundant Nigerian instinct.
In the immortal words of the urban philosopher, Victor AD, “if we no get money, wetin we gain.”
“Nigeria, Jaga Jaga, everything scatter, scatter,” – Eedris Abdulkareem
If Eedris made this song today, few people could argue with him.
It’s hard not to see elections in Nigeria as a contest of power and influence, and votes as an inevitable distraction.
But accepting this reality as our fate is the reason even Fela’s songs still sound like prophecies.
Losing faith in the process has limited our belief in our ability to change things.
All hope is not lost though.
2015 was a very interesting year – depending on what side of the fence you sat on, young people played a big part in deciding who became Nigeria’s president.
We talked, tweeted, wrote on Facebook, created memes and sent BCs on WhatsApp – all the things we’ve been made to believe don’t matter. And they made a difference.
That’s why we need to sit up and do things differently. Don’t overthink it.
Someone once said the best way to get young people to vote is to throw them a literal party.
It could be that easy or even less expensive, like hosting group conversations on WhatsApp.
The basic thing is this – just get involved.
That way, we can start talking about the right candidates and holding office holders accountable.
Will we change everything at once? No.
But I’ve found that talking to the people around me has gotten them more interested in changing things; some of them want to help their favourite candidates with their campaigns, others just can’t wait for election day.
It’s a long way from getting all young people to change their voting habits, but it’s definitely a good place to start.