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”.
According to Section 12(1) (a) (b) of the Nigerian Electoral Act which clearly states that “A person shall be qualified to be registered as a voter if such a person (a)is a citizen of Nigeria, (b) has attained the age of 18 years,. 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;
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 youth actively participate in the electioneering process, whosoever they choose to support is as sure as winning the contest.
Based on this interpretation it is evident that if truly the youths actively participate in elections in Nigeria, they hold the sway in electing whoever it is they want to govern them. 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. 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 54 years 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 the age restrictions on political offices across the country, but this is bound to change very soon, as the youths can now actively contest for political offices and make important decisions that affects the country thanks to lawmaker representing OSHODI/ISOLO Federal constituency of Lagos state at the house of representatives, TONY NWULU who sponsored before the house a bill seeking the reduction in age for Nigerians seeking elective positions. The bill has already passed the second reading and is at the committee stage, what is left is for the bill to pass through third reading, moved to the senate for concurrence and finally for the president’s assent. 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 t0 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”. If this bill scales through it will be a change of 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. It has to be said that this is still in the cooking, but events of the next few months will adequately put Nigerian youths in the driving seat to govern directly from the center.
Thirdly, 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 a pastor 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. Just some months 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 propaganda. 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!