Abuja, October 3 – Voice to Represent (“Voice2Rep”) – Nigeria’s flagship campaign to identify, support and connect young talented artists to increase civic awareness through music and advocate for greater accountability, equality and democracy in Nigeria – officially commences its 2019/2020 edition today.

The campaign, currently in its second year, is a project of Accountability Lab Nigeria, sponsored by the Embassy of the Netherlands and Luminate group, with support from Chocolate City Music group and Don’t Drop The Mic Entertainment. The campaign’s second edition is themed “Women’s Rights” and will be geared towards enlisting talented aspiring young musicians to use their voice to promote equality and gender representation in all arms of government and in the broader society.

The campaign’s inaugural edition, themed “Elections, Democracy, and Good Governance” saw 10 talented young finalists employ their voices in advocating for increased citizen participation and transparency in elections and governance. Celeste Ojatula, Joel “Joel Prodigee” Nwabuisi, Boluwatife “Bliizzy” Onabanjo, Gbajumo “MC Lauda” Taiwo, Olajumoke Idris, Chioma “Cill Soul” Ogbonna, Adanna “Afrolucy” Ukwa, Sharon Arowolo, Emeka “Emkay Fael” and Valentine “King Khavali” Uwakwe toured the country promoting their brands of socially conscious music for positive social change.

Corruption remains a critical problem in Nigeria, stifling growth and development. A recent National Bureau of Statistics report found that Nigerians pay bribes totalling $6.4 billion or 39% of the country’s entire education budget every year.

Women in Nigeria especially, face many challenges and discriminatory practices under existing laws and customs. Nigerian society is inherently patriarchal due to the influence of various customs and religions in the nation. Political life in Nigeria is largely based on male norms and values, and men determine the standards for political participation and the rules that govern the electoral process, greatly limiting women’s participation in politics.

According to a 2018 statistical report by the United Nations Development Programme, Nigeria’s HDI value for 2017 is 0.532, which put the country in the low human development category, ranking 157 out of 189 countries and territories. Less than 5% of elected positions in the nation are held by women. Nigeria cannot possibly strive to be a functional state without the full participation of 50% of its population and indeed, this issue is closely related to the challenges to democracy, as women are often unable – or because of societal norms, unwilling – to find their voices and participate fully in decision-making.

At the same time, there is a deep criminal nexus between business and politics, with reported cases of international corporations paying bribes for access to contracts and approval for projects.

There are many talented grassroots artists who are overlooked – they want to record music, but lack song writing skills, access to music producers, record labels, and funding to build their portfolios. Few, particularly female, artists produce positive songs related to democracy, citizen participation or governance. While music is inherently political, it is often negative and full of complaints, rather than solutions or a sense that all Nigerians can play a role in changing these dynamics. Moreover, music is not always considered a lobbying or advocacy tool.

“The conversation around good governance is with limited information, even Fake News to citizens. Nigerians continues to suffer from entrenched challenges around accountability, exclusion and lack of representation. Ordinary citizens have in most cases remained political spectators quietly suffering the agony of poor governance and its ugly consequences,” said Odeh Friday, Country Director of Accountability Lab Nigeria.

Voice2Rep provides a platform for renowned musicians and development governance experts to mentor young musicians on how make songs that address elections, democracy and good governance, as well as women’s rights and business accountability. In this way, the music becomes a gateway to broader changes in behaviour.

The goal is for this music to address key challenges that include the low level of knowledge among Nigerians of their rights and responsibilities; and the importance of women and youth participation in governance. It will also establish a platform through which artists and development experts can build alliances and collaborate to foster accountability in Nigeria. This will give us all a sense that there is a different reality that we can help to build.

We have restarted the process through which young music artists can submit their demo/songs addressing any social issue affecting Nigeria through the project website www.voice2rep.ng. Artists who do not have a recorded demo/song can upload a 60 second freestyle video of them singing or rapping to any of the themes: violence against women, gender discrimination or sexual harassment to Facebook, Instagram and twitter using the hashtag #Voice2Rep and tagging @accountlab, @choccitymusic and @voice2rep. Then, they can go to the website to fill in their application, attaching the link to the videos they uploaded in the section for demo/song link submission. Nominations are open until November 15th.

We have already seen a flurry of activity on social media through the hashtag #Voice2Rep as Nigerian artists have taken to social media to submit their song entries. Follow Voice2Rep on @voice2rep on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.