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In tackling this problem of voters’ apathy, Emeka Mba, a venture builder and social entrepreneur, founded Vote023, to drive up voter turnout and drive down voters’ apathy. Connect Nigeria interviews Emeka Mba as he discusses voters’ apathy, the importance of the 2023 election and his project, Vote023.
Q1. Can you introduce yourself, the convener of the initiative, Vote023?R: Emeka is a venture builder with a passion for creating technology-driven solutions that solve real-life challenges. He is the visionary behind Vote023, which aims to course-correct voter apathy in Nigeria. He is a graduate of Covenant University and University College London where he received his Masters’s degree in Management Science & Innovation. With the Vote023 project, I want to nudge over 23m+ Nigerians to become more politically involved. The project team has already taken the first step, which is creating an app/voice call campaign that inspires, and motivates people to get their PVC and vote. I have assembled a team of brilliant and passionate Nigerians – tech entrepreneurs, media consultants (Angela Ochu-Baiye and Tomiwa Olajide) and volunteers to work together as a team, to realise this vision.
Q2. What is Vote023 all about?R: Problem we observed: Voter apathy undermines our democracy. Leaders who attain political power via minority votes rule over the majority, albeit with far-reaching consequences. Although Nigerians turn out en-masse for voter registration (93.5m voters as of 2022), turnout on election day has been in steady decline. For example, in the recent governorship election conducted in Osun State, only a little over 800,000 turned out from a total of 1,955,657 registered voters. Also, in 2019, Governor Sanwo-Olu of Lagos had a total of 739,445 votes in a state with 6,570,291 registered voters at the time. The build-up to the 2023 general elections has seen an addition of 9m+ newly registered voters. Our goal is to ensure that they turn out, this time, to exercise their power to determine the direction of our dear nation. Nigerians who do not participate in the electoral process have legitimate reasons for not participating. While most believe rightly or wrongly that results are pre-determined and their votes do not count, some others pull back because of personal safety and security reasons. Our objective is to influence behaviour and drive action by providing compelling reasons to participate, and show Nigerians that the future of this nation lies primarily in their decision to become active contributors in the electoral process. This is why we are launching VOTE023 – a non-partisan incentive-driven voice call campaign to drive the consciousness of our collective civic responsibility as Nigerians.
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Q3. What inspired or informed your decision to start this initiative?R: Having not voted all these years, I had no right to complain about a system to which I wasn’t actively contributing. This time, I am taking 2023 and beyond personally and seriously, playing a role to encourage myself and others to participate in all elections (presidential, gubernatorial and local ). I also got inspired from a place of personal devotion to what to do with the IVR-SMS-VTU broadcast tech that we had built at emergent labs.
Q4. What are the foreseeable results Vote023 hopes to achieve?R: We hope to see a course correction however little in Election Day turnout starting with the 2023 presidential elections. An increase from 35% and above.
Q5. What do you think are the challenges that confront the initiative in attaining its goal?R: The initiative has been funded by me, friends and recently the US Embassy in Nigeria. I’d like to use this opportunity to express the team’s gratitude to the US government for supporting our mission. It’s very encouraging.
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The more access we get to funds, and large platform support, the more people we can reach. So funding plays a major role to reach people because we incentivize people to spread the word (our public IVR line, 01-7006212) after they listen to our non-partisan message. Link to sponsor calls: https://vote023.org/#Sponsorship
Q6. Any final words?R: I encourage all Nigerians to take the 2023 elections seriously. Drop the narrative that their votes don’t count. If it didn’t count, people wouldn’t buy it. Contribute to the electorate process with the simple act of getting your PVC to vote. I’ll also want to invite institutions who believe this is a worthy mission to influence behaviour to join us. Nigeria can and will be better. Thank you very much. Visit vote023.org for more details https://vote023.org/listen
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