The Role of the Youths Today?
In October 2020, the youths of Nigeria came out to voice out their anguish at a special unit of the Nigerian Police Force; Special Anti-Robbery Squad for the brutality some of the bad eggs amongst them meted out at Nigerians especially the youths. Subsequently, the theme of the protest changed, the youths started demanding for better governance. The protest gained a lot of momentum that has never been seen in the recent history of Nigeria. The point I am drawing from the events of October 2020 is that surprisingly, the youths are starting to recognise their role in the society, and they are also starting to realise that they have a voice. However, little has been done to maintain the momentum of the End SARS Protest. With a focus on Kwara State, I would say the youth involvement in politics is very low, one would think the protest has opened people’s eyes but, most youths are still blinded with the so-called mindset that their votes do not count, or their voices are not being heard. On the contrary, our voices are being heard we just need to be more constructive with our approach. We need to form various pressure groups across the country to voice our opinions and hold the government more accountable. A lot of the youths today do not want to get involved in politics because they believe politics is too dirty, they believe they will not be given the chance, and they also believe the system is set to favour the older generation. What we have failed to understand is that collectively we the youths have a voice, and we can effect change. The older generation would never hand decision making to us just by complaining or crying that they are corrupt, we need to wrest power from them in a healthy way not through violence or chaos.
We have been blessed to be amongst a generation that has thinkers, innovators and great minds who can lead Nigeria to greater heights. The End SARS Protest is an indication that if the Youths collectively participate in politics, we will achieve something incredible. The youths make up more than half the population in Nigeria today, and according to INEC’s data Nigeria has 84,004,084 Registered voters as of March 2019. In the 2019 election, the turnout of voters was only 34.75% which is significantly low compared to 2015. From the statistics, we can see that Nigerians generally are very reluctant to participate in politics especially the voting exercise.
People participate in campaign activities and political rallies because of the token and short-term benefits they are given to take home, but we need to see beyond that and think of the future rather than just focusing on our short-term needs. The reason Nigeria is facing a lot of challenges today is not mainly because of our leaders, but mainly because of the youths and part of the older generation who have failed to use their numbers to effect change. We are being given the chance to register and vote, we can join political parties, but we would rather spend our time complaining on social media and TV screens rather than exercising our political franchise and right to participate in politics. I believe we should not blame the politicians for their mismanagement of the nation, the sole blame is for us to carry because we have the numbers to effect change, yet every four years we fail, and we keep playing the blame game. The solution to our problems lies in our hands, it is either we play an active role in the upcoming election by participating fully in the process and we should come out in our numbers to vote for who we think is the right candidate. It is not just voting for who we think is the right candidate, but we should also evaluate every single political candidate based on their achievements either in a previous political office or based on their contribution to their immediate society. Our politics should not be based on hearsay or ordinary belief that a person can hold the office he or she is running for. That has been the political tradition in Nigeria, people join bandwagons and just follow what others are saying, they fail to do their evaluation of the candidates vying for office.
Our approach to politics should be different this time around, some of the old generation politicians view the youths as pawns in their political cheese. Today, some politicians engage youths in negative vices such as thuggery. This should not be accepted; we should not see politics as a money-making venture but rather see it as an opportunity to impact society in a positive way that would make the generation to come to pray and not curse us. We should not see politics as a do-or-die affair, people always think about the money involved in politics, but it should not all be about money. Initially, you might not get what you ideally expect from a career but then aspirations in the political career are like the ones in media, involving early struggle and patience till you get a decent return.
Youth should make efforts to join political parties, although the thoughts of the political parties being the same and consisting of corrupt politicians who have hijacked the parties remain. However, these political parties in Nigeria of today provide useful structures for youths to organize through. The democracy in Nigeria is still young but so far it has been growing well, we have had elections every 4 years since 1999. If as a youth you join a political party now, you will find yourself being involved in a lot of political activities that would help your personal development. When you are involved, you find yourself canvassing for votes while doing that it will expose you outside what you think, you would meet people with different views and in the end, you will find out that you are learning and at the same time you are part of something great. When you become a member of a political party, you find yourself thinking systematically. We have a lot of online activists now which is not a bad thing but when you look deep into their activism, you will find out that most of them talk about the same issues as if they are the most important. But political parties, by their nature, end up discussing and engaging in policy on the whole range of issues. Political parties bring together like minds.
For us to have a better Nigeria, every lover of Nigeria who is 18 years old and above should register to get their voter’s card before the 2023 elections. Not just the youths, but everybody needs to take this action. The voter’s card should not just be gotten, we all need to come out and vote, we need to be proactive in politics because our lives revolve around politics. We need to squash that low voter turnout during the 2023 elections. For a country that has a population of more than 200 million people, it is very sad and disheartening that people do not take politics seriously. Voting leaders into office is the only weapon a common man has because it is by voting that we dictate the future of the country. When we come out in our numbers during elections, the chances of electoral malpractices will be very low, and we would end up voting for a leader that reflects our wants. When we are actively involved in politics our leaders will not call us “Lazy youths” anymore because they will know that we are fully involved in the process and when they mess things up there will be no second chance. We also need to build a better image for ourselves because today people associate the youths with a lot of iniquities. We need to work collectively to address those inequities, we need to see beyond the urge of making quick money, the billionaires of today did not just achieve that status overnight, they worked hard to achieve the status.
Nigeria would be great, and we will be the giants of Africa as we deserve, but all these can only be achieved if we the youths stand up, ignore all the lines that differentiate us such as tribes and religion differences, and we work collectively to achieve these goals. Nigeria by all descriptions and standards should be a world power, we should unite as one and see that we make this nation great. However, the first step we need to take towards our greatness is for more people to be involved in politics.
Farid Abdulrazzaq Sholagberu
Bachelor of Laws – LLB (Brunel University London)
Master of Laws – LLM (University of Law, Bloomsbury London)