Nigerian Youth and Political Participation: Are we truly ready? ~Ajasa-Info

“Freedom isn’t free. It shouldn’t be a bragging point that “Oh, I don’t get involved in politics,” as if that makes you somehow cleaner. No, that makes you derelict of duty in a republic. Liars and panderers in government would have a much harder time of it if so many people didn’t insist on their right to remain ignorant and blindly agreeable.”
― Bill Maher.

My dear colleagues and fellow Nigerian youths home and in Diaspora, globally this is not a good time for mankind in the annals of history. The Covid-19 pandemic is ravaging the entire world system, not only shutting down economies, making life unbearable, but also killing the people who ought to enjoy their existence as humans in their abode.

The cause of many household deaths now are ascribed to covid-19. The discovery of vaccines in this regard are considered not just necessarily a means to an end, but more also an end in itself. Yet, there are persons who have made commitments towards rejecting vaccination. However, I believe allowing oneself to be vaccinated is less of a risk compared to rejecting it. Having taken the first dose of Oxford Astra Zeneca, I can confirm that it is safer and has no strings attached as acclaimed by many conspiracy theorists and propagandists.

No doubt, there is a huge concern across the world now around settling down in this changing world of the new normal, my one penny advice would still be that we all choose to adhere strictly to all medically prescribed preventive measures to curtail the widespread of the virus which has already gotten to community stage.

Dr Kadiri Maymmah has coined an acronym from the word ‘PANDEMIC’ thus – P-Panic A-Anxiety D-Depression E-Excessive suicide M-Mental health I-Infodemic (fake solutions to the virus) and C-Confusion. She thereby noted that necessity is the mother of all invention.

As much as we know that the spread of any virus brings devastating effect on the people, for me the greater harm is lack of good governance and a weak citizens’ participation in politics, especially among young people who constitute an average 45% of the world’s countries’ population. This in itself is a form of pandemic.

There has been an obvious consistent decline in Youth participation in politics in Nigeria’s Fourth Republic. While I would like to salute the courage of Nigerian Youths for staging the EndSars protest, I can say however, that it has not fully achieved its aim, as many took advantage of it to perpetrate other agenda. I feel so sorry for those who never made good use of that singular opportunity for us to speak in unison.

During the period, many of us advocated for young people to take the bull by the horn for us to be in control of the system. In the words of Benjamin Disraeli “Almost everything that is great has been done by the youth.” I am yet to this manifest in the attitude of the Nigerian Youth of today. Perhaps this may serve as an inspiration to lift our spirit and guide us in the right path to liberation.

Today in Nigeria, every blame of the past and present has always been put on the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and on the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). It has also been ascribed to individuals like Olusegun Obasanjo, Yakubu Gowon, Shehu Shagari, Umar YarAdua, Goodluck Jonathan, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari. I am yet to see an open blame on the Nigerian Youth who have failed to participate in the political process by even joining parties duly registered by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to not only recruit but also train future leaders, even though we only see many of these parties on the eve of every general elections.

Moving forward, one could rarely say there is stability of economic activities nor that of politics; the country is also so divided along ethnic and religious lines, and the the interest game for 2023 is already leading to all kinds of negative politicking in the system. I hope we will come to our senses, as no divided nation can reach its promise land in oneness. Even though this is of great concern, it is not the direct focus of this article.

My focus here is on youth and political participation. The world being a global village is becoming further knitted despite the pandemic by the opening of frontiers through the use of advanced technologies to connect. But this advancement in technology and interconnectedness has not translated into electoral votes for a country like ours, since our Electoral Act has not created a polling station on any social media platform, where many literally live today, and where many others just run businesses.

2023 is just months away from us; many politicians across APC and PDP have been scrambling through negotiations, permutations and playing their politics by other means like in the book of Benjamin Ginsberg. Politics has been proven to be local, which presupposes that it must emanate from whether the ward or zonal level from within the grassroot. This is why Buhari, for instance, will always go to Daura from the seat of power to either register or cast his vote during elections. My simple question to the Nigerian youth is “where is our ward on facebook, whatsapp, telegram or instagram?” Have we created one? Has our National Assembly included such in the Electoral Act? Do we even understand the word Political Participation? Before we cast aspersion on the governing or ruling elites who take their time to scramble for votes from within the grasroot, we need to answer these questions amongst many others begging for answer or we forget 2023.

It is no more news that we only have three political parties in Nigeria which are PDP, APC and others who will come up at election periods to solicit for the masses vote after the big parties would have taken over our voting beliefs and interests.

Without any iota of doubt, the PDP continues to recruit members, the APC has opened and called for registration of interested members of the public, while the New Nigeria Youth Party formed during the EndSars protest still battles for registration with INEC; our own Sowore is still talking about RevolutionNow on the social media and the street of Abuja, Uncle Bob D is busy granting interviews, Mazi and Aisha just joined the Nollywood with their counterpart ably led by Don Jazzy of the stingy men. Others are busy on twitter abusing Buhari and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu who could wake up to get millions of vote overnight. We the youth are still far from the truth, if we fail to participate actively.

Going forward, according to the French philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau in his Social Contract theory, “as soon as any man says of the affairs of the state, what does it matter to me, the state may be given up for lost.” In contrast to this, emphatically I want to say the Nigerian Youths have shown concern about how we have been governed over the years in view of our active comments on the social media, but this is not enough as many of us still do not have that pre-requisite to evolve in the system, because we only belong to the social media parties that do not require voters cards, only a smart phone and internet to promote unfounded figures on election day.

Now is the golden opportunity we have to invade the political system through active participation. Of course, political parties are supposed to be built on ideologies which we are yet to have in place, but in the absence of this, we are left with no other option. The statusquo represented by the 1999 Constitution (as amended) leaves us with no solution than to join the existing system to make our voice heard in the political space.

Let us begin to visit our zones and wards to learn more about active political participation, join Community Development Associations in our local areas, ask questions, interact with experienced politicians so you can add value to your knowledge.

Also, those who do not possess a Permanent Voters Card should endeavour to do everything possible to get it when INEC is ready. We can also use our strength (the media) to push INEC to start this process rather than waste it on posting trivialities. You can, for instance, start posting a challenge to Professor Mahmud Yakubu led INEC to begin the Continuous Voters Registration.

Let us ruminate on the words of Francios Mitterand who says “If young people are not always right, the society which ignores and knock them is always wrong.”

God bless the Youth of Nigeria as we pray He leads us to know the truth.

Written by Rilwan Ayodeji Tinubu
rilwandeji@gmail.com

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