Nigeria as the giant of Africa is experiencing lots of political instability and one sided policy making without including the youths. In Nigeria today, youths are expected to play certain roles and it is not just a common fact that youths are the backbone and engine room of societal development in the economic, social and political sphere.
This fact is attributed to the large number of youths in Nigeria thus becoming imperative that this set of people require the best training, mentoring and empowerment so as to achieve the desired goal.
The lack of inclusion of youths in the Nigerian governance process contributes to youth involvement in violent extremism and other vices. Young people are most likely to be manipulated to sacrifice their own long term interests and even their lives for the sake of the older generation in power. Young candidates in Nigeria are bound to compete against veteran politicians which include former senators, governors, vice presidents, etc. These people have been in power for years in Nigeria. Some youths lack ‘godfathers’ to boost their campaign.
According to Jobbins, it is difficult for many to resist resorting to violence when their country’s election aren’t fair, are poorly run and are not transparent. For young people who do not have meaning ways to participate in politics on their own behalf, such as through youth movement and organizations, they may see their role in a process dominated by older generations as agents rallying people up in the streets for a little bit of cash.
Allowing young people to participate in politics is an opportunity for rising young leaders to tae advantage of that and use it as they interact with their governments, because there is a growing international awareness that young people have to have a seat at the table just lie women and just lie people who need to have a state in peace and security.
There are some reasons why youths don’t participate in Nigerian politics. They include poor funding and high cost of nomination forms. Many political parties in Nigeria charge exorbitant prices for nomination forms which many youths cannot afford. Some youths do not also have access to financial support which might enable them fund campaign programs and other political activities. Running for a political seat in Nigeria is very expensive. There are two major political parties, namely, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Running for office with the existence of these political parties is a difficult task because smaller political parties are unable to breakthrough hence the pressure into an alliance which is not quite fruitful.
According to Angela Ajodo Adebanjoo, Nigerian youths are yet to achieve the level of inclusion required to gain representation in politics. She attributed this failure to leadership deficits, money politics, poor internal democracy among the older parties and absence of a strategic political agenda. These factors serve as barriers to young people playing a role in national development. She also added that, after independence, particularly during the military era, young people opposed and fought gallantly against the profligacy and high handedness of the military regimes of Yakubu Gowon, Olusegun Obasanjo and during the brutal regimes of Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha in the 1980s and 1990s where an entire generation of youths and students organisation formed under umbrella organization such as the National Association of Nigerian Students, Campaign for Democracy, Civil Liberties Organization and Committed for the Defense of Human Rights.
When youths are given the opportunity to organize voice out their opinion and play a meaningful role in political decision making, they demonstrate their willingness and ability to foster positive lasting change. They become more liable to demand and defend democracy and gain a greater sense of belonging. Youths are every nation’s strength because their characteristics, energy and capabilities support politics as a body and they also form a sensitive group that harbors dreams for important social change.
Youth groups and organizations in recent times have proven to be an effective tool in demanding accountability and transparency from government officials and they also portray a great ability in political mobilization, information dissemination and image making through the effective use of social media. Nigerian youths often provide the man power requirement for general elections and they also serve as ad-hoc staff of the electoral body.
Despite the track record of older generation youths, Nigerian politics is fast becoming the exclusive preserve of the older politicians. With the signing into law of the “Not Too Young to Run Bill” in 2019, by President Buhari, this trend seems to be changing as youths are striving to participate in governance.
Adebanjo said that as a result of the bill, there is a positive trend in youth participation with youth candidacy increasing from 21% in 2015 to 34.2% in 2019 elections and despite these changes, the number of youths voted into elective positions in Nigeria is less than 1%.
Around 60 percent of Nigeria’s 190 million populations is younger than 25 years old but not one of the country’s serving senators is under 40. Nigeria’s youth have been absent in a political arena largely dominated by powerful older figures who wield massive influence in the politics and economy of Africa’s most populous country, a democracy is about inclusion and participation, everyone should be allowed to participate fully whether you are old or young .Youths have lost hope in electoral process because even when they vote, they now that it will not reflect in the system.
The #EndSARS protest is a clear example that Nigerian youths are ever ready to obtain political positions for the growth and development of the country. It is time the older politicians stop using Nigerian youths as thugs for campaigns thus hindering them from participating in politics and striving for political seats. Political parties in Nigeria must also reduce the cost of nomination forms to enable the zealous and vibrant youths participate in politics.
Acheli Obidah Fwa,
Department of Mass Communication,
University of Maiduguri