Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has predicted that Nigerian youths, with their population, could determine the outcome of the 2019 general elections.
Yakubu also revealed that the Osun State governorship election slated for September 22, would feature the highest number of contestants in the history of governorship elections in Nigeria so far.
Speaking during a courtesy visit to the management of Bayero University, Kano (BUK), which is hosting the INEC Youth Votes Count Campus Outreach Initiative on August 6, Prof. Yakubu revealed that judging from the figures emanating from the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise, coupled the voting pattern noticed in the 2015 general elections, Nigerian youths currently constitute a sizeable percentage of the total population of registered voters that could be a game changer in the 2019 polls.
He averred that since the commencement of the CVR exercise in April 2017, the commission has registered close to 11 million Nigerians.
“By the time we suspend the CVR exercise on August 17, the number of registered voters will be well over 11 million. If we add this to the existing Voter Register of 70 million, and by the time, we go into the 2019 general elections, we would have had over 80 million voters.
He continued, “From what we are seeing so far (in the ongoing CVR), 2019 is going to be the year of the youth. Quite a large number of those that have registered to vote are the youths, meaning the young boys and girls between the ages of 18 and 35. When we did the analysis of the 2015 presidential election results, the youths also played a very important role.
“So, we are here (Bayero University) to continue to encourage them. We have already announced the date for the suspension of the CVR, which is August 17. We have been registering eligible Nigerians for the last 16 months (since April 27, 2017).
On the Osun State Governorship Election, Prof. Yakubu said that 48 political parties were fielding a record number of 48 candidates for one position, the highest so far in any governorship election conducted by INEC in the country.
He said, “We had 37 candidates for Anambra and 35 for Ekiti governorship elections, but Osun has beaten them all.”
He said that while the commission had already registered 68 political parties, it is currently processing over 130 applications from associations seeking registration as political parties.
He said, “Our projection is that we might end up with 80 to 85 political parties. If half of them nominate candidates, we may end up with 46,000 candidates for the 2019 general elections.”
He gave the breakdown. “In 2019, we are going to conduct elections into 1,558 constituencies thus: One Presidential Constituency, 29 Governorship Constituencies, because in seven states, the governorship elections are conducted off-season. We have done six, and next month, we are conducting the Osun governorship election. Then, we have 109 Senators, 360 Members of the House of Representatives, 991 Members of State Assemblies, and 69 Chairmen and Councillors in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).”
The INEC Chairman also revealed that since the 2015 general elections, the Commission had conducted elections into 182 constituencies. “These elections have helped us to improve our processes and sharpen our skills.”
He thanked the management of the university for producing the kind of workforce the commission needs for election duties, adding that INEC had been benefitting from BUK’s pool of staff members who had served as Returning and Collation officers.
Responding, Prof. Mohammed Bello, the Vice Chancellor of the institution, said,“We want to thank you for choosing our university for the zonal engagement event. It shows the confidence you have in us and I assure you that we will do whatever we can to give you support on this.
“The task before you is a herculean one. But in addition to the foundation laid by Prof. Attahiru Jega, anyone that knows you and has seen the difference you have been making where you are would know that you are up to the task.
“Where you served at TETFUND (Tertiary Education Trust Fund) or ETF (Education Trust Fund) as it used to be before coming to INEC, you also revolutionised the place completely.
“TEFUND used to be an appendix, maybe when one or two institutions receive some interventions. But when you became the Executive Secretary of the then ETF, you undertook a task that I would have thought was impossible – changing not only the name but also the focus, from ETF to TETFUND, and making a significant impact on the university system.
“We shall do our best to help you. Let me use this opportunity to express our appreciation to you for what you did for this university (BUK) during your earlier calling.”
The European Union (EU) was sponsoring the INEC Youth Votes Count Campus initiative, which took place on August 7 at the BUK. It was the third in the series, having been held at Abuja and Lagos universities.
It was designed to encourage the youths, particularly university students to register, collect their Permanent Voter’s Card, vote in the 2019 general elections and continue to participate in the electoral process.
The INEC Ambassadors who appeared at the programme include Yakubu Mohammed El Yakub, Nafisat Abdullahi (both actors), Korede Bello (musician) and Gimba Umar (a journalist with Channels Television).
On hand to receive the INEC Team were Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council; Prof. Sagir Abbas, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academics); Prof. Adamu Tanko, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Admin); Mrs. Fatima Mohammed, Registrar; Dr. Musa Auyo, Librarian, and Mr. Ahmad Shehu, Director of Public Affairs.
Those in the INEC Chairman’s team include Prof. Bolade Eyinla, Chief Technical Adviser; Prof. Mohammad Kuna, Special Adviser, and Mr. Rotimi L. Oyekanmi, Chief Press Secretary.