With 65% young population, which means over 100 million person’s, Nigeria must take the issue of youth participation in the upcoming election seriously. No argument therefore that youths play a critical role in the life of our nation. This makes Nigeria potentially one of the richest nations in terms of energetic human capital resource bank.
However, perennial unemployment or underemployment leaves our youth at the periphery of economic activities. The huge youth population should have brought about a work driven economy and productive nation, alas, it is on record that the youths remain one of Nigeria’s permanent problems due to not just pervasive unemployment, but youth restiveness, drug abuse, cultism and other forms of crime in the society.
Shamefully, instead of asking questions about what has been done, the same deprived youths are the willing recruits for they, according to our political trajectory, most often become tools in the hands of promoters of election violence who sponsor them to violate the electoral process in their desperate bid to grab power. Electoral violence occurs before, during and after elections. Pre-election violence usually begins with mudslinging with the use of hate speech and other abusive language during campaigns. More often than not, this is more visible on social media as supporters of various parties and candidates seek to outdo one another in throwing barbs at each other.
During the election proper, young people become tools for ballot snatching, vote selling and buying, voter intimidation and thuggery. Post-election violence results from supporters opposing results announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. At this point, supporters of losing candidates often become violent, claiming their candidates had been cheated of victory. In 2011, the Human Rights Watch reported that deadly election-related and communal violence in northern Nigeria, following the April 2011 presidential vote, left more than 800 persons dead and over 65,000 people displaced.
Youths are also mobilised to tribunals to heckle opponents, lawyers and judges, if the pay is good. Not withstanding, 2015 election was one also where tension remained high as fear of possible electoral violence pervaded the country, over the possible rejection of the outcome of the presidential election. However, that was nipped in the bud as the then president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, took a rare step in African politics by congratulating his main challenger, Muhammadu Buhari, while the votes were still being counted. We reckon that it is pertinent to remind the youths that they have a very important responsibility towards the successful conduct of this year’s general elections. They need to understand that in every electoral contest, there must be a winner and a loser; that democracy is not an autocratic system of government where leaders are foisted on the citizens by few persons, rather they emerge by testing their popularity and acceptability through electrons.
Otherwise the older generation and politicians will not keep their own children out of harm’s way in foreign schools or big private schools whereas they use other people’s children as political thugs and make them do things that put their lives and careers in danger. Another general election is just weeks away and the hint of election violence is thick in the air as supporters of various candidates have continued to use indecent language to discredit opponents of their desired candidates on social media especially.
Problems are there to be solved. We have thankfully done many election cycles not to know what to do to mitigate the pending problems. Consequently, we are of the opinion that the media, civil society organisations, CSOs, political parties and indeed various religious bodies and organisations must be involved in voter education. Also, parents, traditional rulers and religious leaders should play an active role in enlightening their children/wards, subjects, faithful and all those under their control and influence on the correct and acceptable voter behaviour. Parents, especially, should monitor their children and wards closely this election cycle to keep them away from being recruited by desperate politicians.
Perhaps more important is the impartiality of INEC, police and other governmental organisations primed for the election. Where candidates or their youthful supporters see that all stakeholders are fair, the motivation for violence will be greatly reduced. Youths should start by saying no to being used to derail the smooth conduct of next month’s general election. They should ask their superiors for elevated campaign rhetoric.