It was a balmy morning in the city of Kano on the 7th of August 2018; the skies were crystal-blue and puffy with white clouds. But the atmosphere was bubbling with excitement as all roads literally led to Bayero University, where the third instalment of the INEC Campus Outreach #YouthVotesCount was set to take place. Supported by the European Union and also in partnership with ECES, EU-SDGN and YIAGA Africa, the first two outreaches had successfully taken place in the cities of Abuja and Lagos, which technically covered the North Central and Southwest, it was imperative for the Northwest to come next, and Kano ended up being the chosen city. And as the first two, it promised to be anything else but thrilling!

The hall was brimming with students even before the panellists arrive. Students filled the seats, and outside at the registration booth, a crowd stood waiting to be registered for their PVCs. It was indeed, a welcoming scene as it was clear that youths are getting more engaged and interested in the electoral process, eager to be a part of the conversation about elections and governance in Nigeria.  With the 2019 elections evidently close, the need for the re-education and enlightenment of the elections, democracy in Nigeria and how the youths play a very important role in its continuance and development is needed. This is why the INEC Campus Outreach is necessary—to create the conversation, interact with youths, and encourage them to utilize their right and power to vote and make a difference in Nigeria’s governance.

The panellists/ lined up for Kano were the popular award winner artist and songwriter, Korede Bello, Kannywood actress and INEC Ambassador Nafisat Abdullahi and actor Yakub Mohammed El-Yakub. Moderated by Gimba Umar, the award winning Broadcast Journalist of Channels Television, the session began with the welcome addresses from the Vice Chancellor of Bayero University, Kano. This was closely followed by the goodwill messages from the German Ambassador to Nigeria, Ambassador Dr Benard Schlagheck and the Deputy Ambassador of the European Union (EU) Delegation to Nigeria and to ECOWAS etc. Finally, the Keynote Address was given by a representative of the INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu.

But the moment of the day came through—when the panellists took over the stage to interact with the students about the power of the PVC and the electoral process. They began with the reasons why the Permanent Voters Card (PVC) was necessary, and why each youth had to get them to enable them go out and vote in 2019. “Change cannot come to you in your house or while you are on your couches, you must go out and effect that change,” Nafisat Abdullahi said. She went ahead to say that no amount of money is worth anyone’s vote, and encouraged to youths to turn away from vote-selling/buying.

Yakub Mohammed El-Yakub quipped in the imperative need for youths to put all sentiments aside while choosing a candidate to vote for in elections. “Vote for whomever you feel will do the right job, irrespective of his/her political party,” he said to the crowd. He also stressed the need for youths to disengage from all sorts of electoral violence.

Lastly, Korede Bello gave some insightful words about the re-education of youths to know their rights as citizens, and the right they have to vote in a free and fair election for a democratic state. “Even more valid than getting PVCs is the need for young people to know their rights. Young people must be educated on the power of their votes.” He also stated that such right is also a constitutional right. “Getting your PVC goes beyond getting it just to vote. It is a constitutional right; a right to a better life, a better future and a better Nigeria. Next, the student volunteers made the pledge to champion the cause of PVC education in Bayero University, and to get other students involved in the conversations. As the event wound down to its closing remarks, one could glean that indeed, Kano is ready to make #YouthVotesCount!