Register to Vote – A misplaced advocacy

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Register to Vote – A misplaced advocacy – – In build up to every election year, civil society and some media organizations often lead campaign to encourage young people to register to vote.


Some donor agencies even give grant to support such advocacies, as part of their pro-democracy engagement.


As part of our general pre, during and post election observation, we embark on these register to vote campaigns to create awareness on voters registration, hoping that young people will see reason why they should take part in deciding who leads them.

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However, despite these huge campaigns, some of which had foreign funding, the results are not often so impressive. As a matter of fact, year in year out, the turn out for elections keep declining and it is difficult to understand why this is so.


We saw how young people jump on each other to vote during entertainment shows, even with little or no benefits to them.


We saw how people embark on street rally to support their preferred entertainer during these shows. I mean, individuals who may not even know them, nor have the capacity to give them anything.

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But when it comes to voting in the election that will either make or mar their future, they find it un-interesting and many have often wonder why. However, I later found what may seems to be responsible for this abnormal situation, while engaging some young people on the subject.


In my small research about why young people don’t register to vote or turn up for vote during election, it was realized that, while civil society come up with campaign to ask people to register and vote, the same civil society demonize partisan politics and politician all year round.


“If you encourage us to register and vote in the same politics you demonize all along, how interested do you think that would get us”, one young person told me.

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It is understood that media and civil society often jump on each other to demonize partisan politics.


We painted politics as evil on one hand, discouraging young people from being interested and we are asking the same young people to register to vote on the other.


How can we not see that we are part of the problem here?

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Communication is everything. In an attempt to condemn bad behavior of some politicians, media and civil society have over generalized, therefore miscommunicating the message.


And our consistent miscommunication have shaped public perception over the years, thereby making it difficult to reshape public perception towards positive engagement.



See, no matter how much we advocate for young people to register to vote, most of them will never turn up, because it is not reasonable to register to participate in what we painted as evil all along.


“If not for the fact that you want to be seen as doing something, expecting some recognition or benefiting some financial insentive, you will not be campaigning for us to register and vote in the same politics you told us is evil, another person said.


If we want a change in public reaction to our advocacies, especially on citizens participation in elections, we must re-communicate our previous messages on politics and put them in the proper context.


Young people know what they see. They will not listen to anyone over what or what not to do during electioneering.


They will only be influenced by what they see. And if what they see is largely the demonization of politics, no matter how much we campaign for them to register and vote afterwards, most of them will not take us serious.


This may sound harsh, or probably debatable, but this is what some, if not most are thinking.


However, don’t you think it would be better, if the media and civil society change approach?


What if we stop demozing our politics and focus on the positive correction of perceived wrong doing?



What if we start encouraging young people, through action and practice, to be interested in politics, showing them the advantage, positive and beauty, with the aim of empowering them with right approach and information, instead of just asking them to register to vote.


Don’t you think that if we succeed in painting politics as a positive engagement and a tool for emancipation, they will naturally be interested in voting without anyone asking them to?


I am of the view that, changing public perception about politics is the only way to drive and stimulate public interest voting and positive campaign about politics will naturally drive voters registration and participation more than anything else.


As we approach the 2023 election, I therefore urge the media and civil society to prioritize changing the narrative of politics, if indeed we care about young people participating in the electoral process.


Abdulrazaq Hamzat

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