Further to the establishment of the Voter Education Community Development Service (CDS) group in three pilot states of Imo, Osun, and the Federal Capital Territory, Corp members, under the supervision of the INEC Voter Education Desk Officers (VEDOs) and NYSC Local Government Inspectors (LGIs), conducted Voter education and sensitisation in all the local governments of Osun State.
Using the peer-to-peer engagement strategy, Corps members reached-out to fellow youths with relevant and targeted messages designed to correct negative perceptions and attitudes of the target group towards elections. These messages also aimed at ensuring that youth accept responsibility as citizens to participate in the process, as well as build their confidence in the process. This was with the objective of increasing youth and women participation in the 2019 General Elections.
The official assessment of the programme revealed that the activities of INEC Ambassadors contributed immensely to the progress of the electoral process in Osun State.
For example, Osun State witnessed a reduction in incidences of electoral violence. Furthermore, the total voided votes reduced from 48,000 recorded during the Governorship elections in September 2018 to 17,000 recorded during the Presidential elections in February 2019. There was also an increase in voter turnout in 2019 General Elections in Osun State when compared to turnout during the 2018 Governorship election.
The report also identified solutions and opportunities for replicating the peer-to-peer voter education strategy across the remaining states in Nigeria. It was officially presented to the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Mahmood Yakubu in January 2020 and to the Director-General of the National Youth Service Corps, Brigadier General Shuaibu Ibrahim, in February.
While presenting the report to the INEC Chairman, WFD Nigeria Country Representative, Adebowale Olorunmola, noted that WFD working with INEC and NYSC officials has built the capacity of 1,563 Corps members through the INEC Voter Education CDS group, in the three focal States. This figure, which is expected to increase forms a pool of young voter education experts willing to support the work of the Electoral Commission.
The meeting which was also attended by INEC National Commissioner and Chair, Information & Voter Education Committee (IVEC), Barrister Festus Okoye, and the INEC National Commissioner and Chair of the Election Observation & Party Monitoring Committee (EPMC), and Prof. Antonia T. Okoosi-Simbine, among other INEC officials came to the agreement that all segments of the society, including the out-of-school youths, need to be educated about the importance of informed and peaceful participation in elections.
Adebowale further emphasised that there is work to be done in building the confidence of Nigerians on the electoral process and as such WFD’s civic and voter education engagement will run through the electoral cycle to advance inclusive citizen participation.
In the post-2019 election period, WFD has continued to mobilise and train Corps members to reach out to youths, women and PWDs with voter education messages and will continue to work with critical stakeholders to conduct voter education at the grassroots and support the participation of marginalised groups in the electoral process.