- The President/CEO of the National Endowment for Democracy, Damon Wilson is currently in Nigeria
- Wilson was hosted to a fireside chat with civil society leaders and community organisers on his maiden visit to Nigeria
- The fireside chat gave him an opportunity to engage with pro-democracy activists and partners in Abuja
FCT, Abuja – Damon Wilson, President/CEO of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), says Nigeria’s huge number of registered young voters ahead of the forthcoming general elections is remarkable.
Wilson made the comment while chatting with a calabargistblog.com.ng reporter and other journalists on the sidelines of a meeting he held with pro-democracy activists, civil society leaders and other partners in Abuja on Wednesday, January 18.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had earlier announced that 48 million out of 93.5 million eligible voters in the forthcoming polls are youths.
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An excited Wilson who is visiting Nigeria for the first time said:
“Just by the conversations we are having, we do see a heightened level of engagement, heightened level interest, the fact that we’re less than 40 days out, and most Nigerians don’t know who’s going to win and they don’t know whether there’ll be a runoff.
“We have seen a surge of young voters being registered. I think in the last six months INEC said 70 per cent of those being registered were under the youth category. It’s pretty dramatic, remarkable.
“So what I have learned over and over again is even when democracies are imperfect, elections become an opportunity for people to organise and express themselves, and I have seen over and over again surprises and so I don’t know what is going to happen.
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“That is kind of a beautiful thing for Nigeria, the largest democracy in Africa, to be going into an election, and you don’t know what’s going to happen. That is democracy and action. It is exciting and we are going to watch this.”
He, however, expressed concerns over the protracted insecurity situation across Nigeria, especially as the elections draws close.
“There are two things happening; one is the overall security situation which has been difficult in the country, whether it is been insurgency or terrorism or just banditry, kidnapping, other sources of instability that you know very well.
“The truth is that 10,000 Nigerians have died over the past years from security incidents, that is extraordinarily high, and it does create a difficult environment where people will feel have got the security to be able to vote?
“What I was briefed on election-related violence, which is much less is INEC offices attacked, so what was really interesting from the briefings we saw was that Nigerians are organising to be able to track this to document it, to report it.
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“I also see a lot of Nigerians focused on this issue of how they can actually provide a greater sense of security, how they can be better prepared, how they can anticipate where there are problems.
“And so ultimately, this is going to be an issue for this election, but I am hopeful that it won’t be an issue that will be so disruptive, that said, anybody needs to feel secure to express their vote.
“That is a sacrosanct act in any democracy and so clearly an area that we’re hearing Nigerians want their government to work more at.”
Speaking earlier, Samson Itodo, Executive Director of Yiaga Africa, noted that NED has been really supportive of most of the projects that the organisation carryout in the country.
He said the meeting was organised for Wilson to have enriching conversations with civil society leaders concerning the 2023 elections, political inclusion, and the progress that Nigeria has made since its return to democracy in 1999.
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2023: UN, ECOWAS caution Nigeria against election violence
In a related development, the United Nations and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Tuesday, January 17, warned Nigeria against violence in this year’s general elections.
They gave the warning in Jos, Plateau state, at a mediation training and interactive engagement with some stakeholders.
The international organisations also stated that Nigeria can’t afford any crisis because it would also affect the West African region.
INEC says 2023 general elections will hold as scheduled
On its part, INEC has assured Nigerians that the 2023 general elections will be conducted as scheduled, no matter the level of security threats.
INEC commissioner and chairman information and voter education committee, Festus Okoye made this known recently.
Okoye was reacting to the continuous attacks on INEC facilities in different locations across the country.
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