The Role of Nigerian Youths in the Build Up to the 2019 General Elections

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In a democratic political setting, the supreme and sovereign political power
resides in the hands of the individuals. They decide who to govern them at any
particular point in time. Section 14(1) of the 1999 constitution (as amended) states
that “The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a state based on the principles of
democracy and social justice” and also section 14(2) (a) equally states that
“Sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through the
constitution derives all its power and authority. Also, section 13(1) of the African
Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights states clearly that “Every Citizen shall have
the right to participate freely in the government of his country, either directly or
through freely chosen representatives in accordance with the provisions of the law.
Also Article 20(1) of same charter states that “All peoples have the right to
existence. They shall have the questionable and inalienable right to self-
determination. They shall freely determine their political status and shall pursue
their economic and social development according to the policy they have chosen”.

Election process starts from the registration of candidates down to the day
of voting itself, it involves the lengthy period of campaigning and canvassing for
votes. It is believed that voting should be seen as not only a right but also as a
responsibility of every well-meaning Nigerian youths. Therefore, voting is a very
important duty of the Nigerian citizenry as a whole, and the idea of undermining
the importance of a single vote should be eliminated, as just a single vote might
determine the winner of an election (a typical example is a 1982 state house
election in Maine, United States of America, in which the victor won 1,387 votes to
the loser’s 1,386 votes).
Although election means different things to different people, it should be
seen as a time to eliminate ineffectiveness and inefficiency in governance and
bring in a government with a clear-cut agenda to develop the state. The strength of
any nation depends on the development of the youths, the youths are active
machinery in driving the wheel of socio-economic development of nations, but in
Nigeria that is not the case, the youth have been relegated downward when it
comes to decision making.
Who are the Youths? The youths are adults between the ages bracket of 18-
45 years. It can be deduced that the majority of the Nigerian electorates are youths.
How? This is shown in the table below;

How? This is shown in the table below;

YEAR   POPULATION    YOUTH        REGISTERED VOTERS
1999    115,114,302          36,491,820   57,938,945
2003   128,962,737        40,881,843   60,823,022
2007   141,363,890        45,764,086   61,567,036
2011   161,224,487          51,108,984    73,528,040
2014   175,150,084         55,523,469   85,186,873
(an independent analysis done by Wale Micaiah, retrieved from
https://www.slideshare.net/mobile/statisense/nigeriapopulationandpoliticalparticipation .)
It can be deduced from the table that the youth population is ;
1.) Approximately 32% of the Nation’s population
2.) On the average, over 67% of registered voters.
This therefore clearly shows that if the youths actively participate in the
electioneering process, whosoever they choose to support is as sure as winning
the contest.

From the foregoing, it can authoritatively be deduced that the roles of the
Nigerian youths cannot be underestimated.

NOW, WHAT ARE THE ROLES OF THE NIGERIAN YOUTH IN THE 2019
ELECTIONS?
In the road that leads to the 2019 elections, the youth is needed to play a lot
of important roles. The first and the most important is that every youth should be
registered to vote and likewise help others too. Due to Public outcry from civil
society organizations and the general public, the Independent Electoral
Commission has extended the continuous voters registration exercise till the 31 st of
August 2018 so as to allow more people register and get their Voters card.
It is a known fact that no one can vote unless he/she is registered to do so.
So, it is important for every youth to get registered when the registration process is
going on, collect his/her permanent voters card as at when due and keep it safe, as
eventually voting in an election qualifies for more than 70% of the entire election
process, it should be made clear that “with your Voters card, you hold the sword to
fight an important war, you partake in choosing who eventually governs you”.
Also it is a popular saying in this part of the world that “the youths are the
leaders of tomorrow”, but it clearly seems that the tomorrow is going to take
forever, the Youngest elected president in the history of Nigeria (since it adopted
democracy in 1999) is President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan who was 54years old as
at the time of his election in 2011. It is a common thing for politicians to use the

youth actively during the campaign process and eventually dump them when they
get into power and give major appointments to the older generation.
And one of the factors causing this is has always been the age restrictions
on political offices across the country, but thanks to the signing of the NOT TOO
YOUNG TO RUN BILL by President Muhammadu Buhari on the 31 st of May
2018, the youths can now actively contest for political offices and make important
decisions that affects the country thanks to the lawmaker representing
OSHODI/ISOLO Federal constituency of Lagos state at the house of
representatives, TONY NWULU who sponsored the bill seeking the reduction in
age for Nigerians contesting for elective positions. Excerpts from the bill read thus;
“the bill seeks to alter the section 65, 106, 131 and 177 of the federal constitution
of the federal republic of Nigeria (as amended) to reduce the age qualification for
the office of the President from 40 to 30 years; Governor 35 to 30, Senate 35 to 30,
House of Representatives 30 to 25. The bill also seeks to mainstream independent
candidacy into Nigeria’s electoral process”. The passage and signing of the Bill
represents a change in the status quo, as Nigeria youths will be constitutionally fit
to vie for any position of their choice, which will change them from on-lookers to
contestants. The signing of the Bill has put Nigerian youths in the driving seat to
govern directly from the center. While there are agitations that the average

Nigerian Youth cannot stomach the financial burden of contesting for an elective

position yet, I believe that the Bill is a sign that if Nigerian youths can come
together, there’s nothing that they cannot achieve.
Also, the youths should not be an agent of violence , over the years the
Nigerian youths have been used to perpetuate evil during the course of elections
including stuffing and hijacking ballot boxes, attacking electoral officers and
creating mayhem in the process, the youths should realize that a Politician would
keep safe his own children at home, but would employ youths who put their lives
at risk for a man who values the lives of his own wards but does not care about that
of those he/she employs to cause mayhem. Instances where youth corp members
employed by the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) as ad-hoc staff are
attacked, maimed and harmed in broad day light. A very clear instance is the corp
member killed in the re-run election held in Rivers state earlier this year. His
offence? He refused to compromise. And he was killed by fellow Nigerian youths
employed by politicians to cause havoc. It is imperative to note that the youths
must accept to be responsible and act accordingly to the provisions of the law,
safeguard, protect the concept of individual supremacy, they should not vote based
on financial incentives but rather on value-oriented policies and programs being
introduced by candidates.
Ethnicity, nepotism and religious bias has always been a problem affecting
us as a country, a Muslim preacher will announce to his members that it is a sin to

vote for a person of different faith, likewise some pastors will announce to his
congregation that there is a special hell for those who vote for non-Christian
candidates. The youths being the bulk of this followers believe in the doctrines laid
down by the spiritual mentors. The youths should eliminate this form of social
distortions as it directly affects their decision making abilities. This idea should be
completely eliminated as what is important for this nation are candidates with well-
meaning programs that will fast-track socio-economic development of Nigeria
irrespective of their ethnic background or their religious beliefs. Two years ago
London elected its first non-Christian Mayor, considering the fact that this is a city
dominated by people of the Christian faith. The point here is that advanced nations
have realized that religious bias makes them go backward, so they concentrate on
the policies and programs being brought forward by the various contestants.
Lastly, the average Nigerian youth should properly analyze the ideas,
programs and policies of the different candidates representing different politically
parties, this should be done holistically and comprehensively. Gone are the days
where politicians with no clear vision or idea are elected into political offices, their
performance in media talk shows, debate and other interactive sessions should be
assessed. Hence, it is important for the Nigerian youth to properly use his
intellectually capabilities to reflect on the end-result of his decision, he/she should
be ensure that his/her eventual decision will translate to the greater good either in

the senatorial district level (which will be in form of adequate representation), at
the state level (which will lead to change and transformation of the state) or at the
national level (which will directly lead to the development of the nation at large).
This is an important role of every decision maker, because this ultimately
determines who he/she votes for, as critical as registering to vote is, what is now
the essence of the voting process when you vote for candidates without a proper
knowledge of governance?. So , it is necessary for every voter(most especially the
youths) to evaluate and judge every candidate based on their level of competence
(this can clearly be determined during the campaign process). It should however be
noted that there are certain irresponsible political associations that tacitly confuse
the electorates with their well-concocted lies and propagandas. They do this by
spreading falsehood on media outlets and through their well-pained agents on the
social media outlets. Hence, the youths needs to be very conscious of this kind of
individuals and associations. The youths should make the best use of the internet
and social media platforms to show their ideas and thoughts about the entire
election process and should welcome counter-arguments and ideas that helps fine-
tune their beliefs.
The united efforts of the Nigerian youths is important in ensuring the
realization of the dreams and aspirations of the founding fathers of this country.
The power to emancipate Nigeria from abject poverty, to fast-track socio-economic

development and put governance in the hands of those worthy in 2019 depends
largely on the participation of the youths. It should be noted that not getting it right
by 2019 portrays another four years of misrule, unguided political atmosphere and
puts the entire nation in fear of disintegration. There are a lot of ethnic tensions in
the country presently, mostly caused by fellow countrymen with hidden agendas,
the Nigerian youths should refuse being a tool in the hands of this evil perpetrators.
Come 2019, the average Nigerian youth should stand up for his belief, he/she
should vote and make sure their votes count, they should not allow themselves to
be used by politicians who seek to create violence before, during or after the
elections. We cannot afford to lose the chance of making things right in the 2019
because any mistake we make will haunt us for the next four years. The 2019
elections gives the Nigerian youths the opportunity to make a mark in the history
of this nation. The opportunity to actually take decisions by ourselves, and most
importantly for the overall good of this nation. Will that happen? Time will tell!

 

Written By FAROUK ALABI.