Youth bulge and politics in Nigeria –

It is no longer news that Nigerian democracy is undergoing a youth revolution. The assertion above is evident in the fact that wherever you look in the virtual world, you would behold an increasing number of our youths passionately engaging themselves in dialogues about the future of our country .

Our youths are no longer content with being political party thugs, but they want to play active roles of voting or being voted for as active participants in the governance of our country .

It is as if all of a sudden,it has dawned on Nigerian youths that since they constitute about sixty percent of the population of our country,they can be critical stakeholders and their views should matter in who becomes president of Nigeria, governor and other elective public offices.

Hitherto, majority of our youths were literally sleeping on their rights , as only the uneducated and unenlightened ones offered their services to unscrupulous politicians who only deployed them as thugs during elections. And even then , some ruthless political actors usually dumped the youths/thugs as soon as their objective of grabbing political power is accomplished and return to use them again during the next election circle.

So essentially, our youths have, in the past  been like puns in the hands of some exploitative demagogues who were only intent on extracting their thuggery values while ignoring their intrinsic leadership potentials.

Amazingly, the ugly trend described above that had been afflicting our youths for too long ,is currently on a  reverse gear as reflected by the rush by our youths to obtain their Permanent Voters Cards, PVC with which they intend to ,as it were, use in getting even with the political class that they have identified as being responsible for their detention in the valley of life for much too long, and which is responsible for their inability to be at the mountain top, where they have been longing to be.

Put succinctly, the youths see the old political class as constituting a clog in the wheel of progress of our beloved country and they are calling for a change in the political order.

The metamorphosis of the youths of Nigeria politically is so phenomenal that it has stunned the old grandee politicians that are still plying their trade in analogue mode, while our youths have gone digital by deploying their dexterity effectively in social media mobilization.

The assertion above is evidenced by the fact that while the traditional politicians appear to be caught flat footed, the youths, now aptly tagged NETIZENs because they have flooded the virtual space as gladiators pushing for Peter Obi to become president , are generating all the political buzz ,even before Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC green lights political campaigns.

But in terms of physical presence , the traditional political actors still dominate the space and that is actually where politics is lost and won through real life activities such as horse trading which was on display during the recently concluded political party primaries that took place throughout the month of May and the first week of June.

Of course , political activities in the traditional arena are in contrast with what obtains on the internet, where our youths also known as NETIZENs,are basically flexing their power in the virtual world by engaging in voting via emojis on Instagram, Twitter ,TikTok and other social media platforms. That is in sharp contrast with real live ,real time politicians who picked and choose the candidates for 2023 general elections during the party primaries.

The tagging or classification of our youths who have seized the cyber space as NETIZENs,is in parody of the word- citizens of the world that are anchored on this earth, rather than in cyberspace, and whose activities are facilitated by physical interactions between fellow humans; as opposed to the youths who are existing only virtually as cyborgs-a fictional or hypothetical person whose physical abilities are extended beyond normal human limitations by mechanical elements built into the body.

The political radicalization of our youths via social media interactions, which is a welcome development, if it is converted into real live political actions like voting and being voted for, may not be of the dimension of the Chinese Tiananmen square tragedy. 

As it may be recalled,students/ youths who were intent on pushing for their motherland to adopt some democracy ethos such as free speech and free press, that embarked on a demonstration in Tiananmen Square Beijing in April, 1989, were brutalized and even killed by the authorities.

Although it occurred some 33 years ago, I can still visualize the scene whereby the protesting youths were confronted by a ferocious army detachment despatched by the communist authorities to stop them in their tracks.

That was a dastardly and definitely an unedifying act against youths .And the  horrific incident has remained a mortal shame for the Chinese authorities that in the course of the face-off , condoned the deliberate rolling over of a defiant youth protester by an armored personnel carrier (tank).

The unfolding youth revolution in Nigeria, politically speaking, may also not be of the hue of Hong Kong’s anti-government movement, in 2019 that lasted over six (6) months.

But the Uk Guardian newspaper’s characterization of the Hong Kong youths insurrection is hardly different from the current mood and action of the youths in Nigeria.

“Filled with a passion to “save Hong Kong”, many say they are willing to give up their lives to fight for democracy and freedoms in the Chinese-ruled city, where Beijing has been increasingly asserting its political and economic influence.”

What l am trying to underscore by referencing the outlined youths activism in both China and Hong Kong is that in recent times,youths all over the world have been at the forefront of the struggle for sociopolitical change in their countries. Since it is even so in Asia, culturally not given to democracy as their system is driven by Confucius theory,an ideology which they are more predisposed to; then you can imagine how much more energetic youth movements would be in the Western world, where the concept of democracy was first birthed in Athens, Ancient Greece in the fifth century, by Cleisthenes , considered the father of democracy.

That is why it is indeed a sign of huge progress that in our clime, and in this present time, our youths have also become more politically conscious.

Before the current development,our youths involvement in politics had been stoked by the Not-Too-Young-To-Run law passed by Nigerian parliament in 2017.

It is that Act of parliament that reduced the constitutional age requirement for running for an elective office in Nigeria and promoted increased youth participation in the political process.

Before then ,only a couple of youths, here and there,notably,the movie actor , Desmond Elliot had gotten elected into Lagos state House of Assembly in 2015.

Apart from the scions of politicians being groomed to take over the trade from their parents,(which by the way is not untoward)since the introduction of the not-too-long-to-run act, the likes of the musician and movie actor , Banky W , and Kanayo O Kanayo amongst other celebrity youths that have been struggling to get enlisted into the class of youths now strutting the corridors of political power in our beloved country. And Banky W just partially succeeded in scaling the first huddle by winning the recently concluded PDP primaries in Eti-Osa local government, in Lekki axis of lagos. And he is now poised to contest the general elections next year.

At this juncture, it must be clear to all that l have no issues with our youths going into the political arena to actively participate in the game .

In fact,it has been long anticipated and therefore not perfidious,but a very welcome development.

However,my concern is with the youths interpretation and execution of what seems to me like the Replacement Theory as evidenced by the way and manner that they are going about their self injection into the political equation of Nigeria.

In the world of Replacement Theorists,the following assumptions are essentially required for replacement decisions: (i) The quality of the output remains constant. (ii) Replacement and maintenance costs remain constant. (iii) The operational efficiency of the equipment remains constant.

The challenges identified above are obviously the issues currently afflicting Nigeria’s political system and which our youths have correctly identified and therefore their raison detre, mission and justification for the burning desire for replacement of the old players.

Furthermore, the proponents of Replacement Theory have categorized it into various models which are concerned with the problem of replacement of machines, individuals, capital assets, etc. due to their deteriorating efficiency, failure, or breakdown.

Again it is fair to say that the above factors appear to apply to some of our present political leaders who have been bestriding the political space and recirculating themselves since Nigeria’s independence in 1960.

Those factors have even become more poignant since the return of multi party democracy in 1999.

As their reasons for seeking change appear to be cogent,l applaud the youths.

But what is ridiculous,in my view,is how they are pursuing the agenda with the  irrational and fantastic assumption that the change that they are yearning for or craving can happen overnight.

That is my point of departure with our youths .

Yes, the electoral reforms embedded in the electoral act 2022 that was passed into law last January have emboldened youths and in fact the electorate , as the changes have closed a lot of loopholes hitherto exploited to make the votes of the electorate not count and a disincentive for men and women of goodwill to participate in the electioneering process.

In the course of my research into what could be the trigger for the unprecedented and terrific voters interest that has sort of overwhelmed INEC, which is likely to extend its voters registration exercise to accommodate the rush to obtain PVC by our youths ,I came across an elegant compilation of the factors believed to be responsible for the awakening of Nigerians and thus driving their new consciousness in politics and manifesting in the flurry of  activities that are positively engaging the attention of our youths as they March towards 2023 general elections.

These are:

1. The Accreditation is going to be purely, wholly, and totally Electronic. (Section 18 and 19)

2. If the BVAS Technology fails to complete the accreditation of a voter, the voter cannot participate in the Election. (Section 20)

3. If there happen to be a wilful obstruction or resistance to the use of the BVAS Device in some of the polling units, such polling units shall be credited with zero votes during collation. (Section 100-ii)

4. What should now be determining the inconclusiveness of elections is no more the total number of registered voters in the affected polling units, but the total number of PVCs that were collected in the affected polling units.

5. If the number of recorded votes is greater than the number of the Accredited Voters (that is, as recorded inside the BVAS Device), then the Elections in such affected Polling-Units is regarded as voided Elections. (Section 40)

6. If the BVAS Device Continues to malfunction, it should be replaced. And if it wouldn’t be replaced within the day of the Election, then the Election in the affected Polling-Unit should be postponed to continue the following day. (Section 23).

7. Even though there is going to be Electronic Collations and Electronic Transmissions (Section 38), there should also be Manual Collations and Manual Transmissions (Section 48).The Electronically Collated Results would be used to check and verify the manually collated results before they are announced. (Section 51)

Thus, the Electronically Collated Results and the Electronically Transmitted Results from each levels of the electoral process, both voting and collation, as well as all the data that are contained inside the BVAS Device, are all going to be playing very important roles in the final results that are declared by the INEC, from now going forward.

Although, the author is anonymous, the factors enumerated above actually reflect the reality.

Apart from electronic accreditation and transfer of results from polling units to INEC database that would reduce, if not eliminate,the perennial falsification of results, and ballot box snatching and stuffing, section 84 and its clauses (1-14) that have given our electoral system a new lease of life is another elixir.

But, as lofty as all these positive developments are ,on their own, they are not enough to achieve the sort of sea change that our youths seem to be envisaging and which is the underlying reasons for their fanaticism about the emergence of Peter Obi,the candidate of Labor Party, LP ,as the next president of Nigeria,in 2023.

So,I get the sense that our youths tend to be assuming that their plan to unseat the grand old politicians in 2023 via their grandstanding in the social media would not be resisted.

Clearly,our youths tend to be failing to be cognizant of the fact that their attempt to cancel out the old political leadership would be vehemently pushed back by members of the old establishment who possess all it takes to organize the system for self perpetuation.That is why our youths should be guided by the wise crack:old soldier never dies,which rings true in this instance and should aid them in preparing for a long haul in their effort to ease out the old folks through a soft landing approach.

In any case,converting the youth bulge in Nigeria,(that had hitherto generated negative energy as reflected by the ugly aftermath of #Ensars riots of October 2020) into youth force for positive politics,via our youths concerted efforts towards positioning themselves for voting and being voted for; instead of just serving as thugs which had hitherto been their lot,is open for the benefit of all politicians from any of the existing political parties,be it APC,PDP, APGA , LP, YPP etc.

So,any of the presidential candidates interested in converting the potentials and opportunities inherent in the burgeoning youth population of our country to gain political advantage ,can catch the wave by keying into the interests of the youth movement .

For instance, Omoyele Sowore of African Action Congress, AAC and Dumebi Kachikwu of African Democratic Congress,ADC , both of whom are also youths and presidential candidates of their respective parties, also have significant number of youths following them. That is because they are also speaking to the needs of the youths.

At the risk of appearing to be playing down the fact that more of our youths are apparently enamored by mr Peter Obi of the Labor Party,who is mesmerizing them with his exaltations such as being on a mission to change  Nigeria from consumption to a production country,a mantra which is sounding like music to ears of our youths that are easily given to rhetorics.

From my optics , Nigerian youths are open to any,and all politicians that would hit the right notes with them.Therefore ,mr Obi and Labor Party do not have a monopoly of our youths.

What has happened is that Obi has been enjoying a first mover’s  advantage because while other candidates have been investing a lot of energy in Politicking within their parties, Obi has been optimizing the power of new media to trigger a chain reaction amongst our easily excitable youths.

Having set the ball rolling in the mobilization of our youths for the game of politics, other candidates for political offices are bound to get on the bandwagon by literally speaking the language of the youths and addressing their concerns truly , and not by merely paying lip service. And that  would be a gain for the youths hitherto ignored in the scheme of things.

So, all that the other political parties or politicians need to do is secure the services of social media influencers and digital marketers who will coin equally catchy slogans like changing Nigeria from a consumption to a production country which is the battle cry of Peter Obi’s campaign. It may be recalled that “Yes,We Can” , made famous by Barack Obama when he was seeking the presidency of the USA in 2009 and “Make America Great Again” deployed by Donald Trump, when he was seeking the mandate of his compatriots to become the president of the USA in 2016, were very instrumental to their victory because the mantras captured or reflected the mood of the electorates at those respective points in time.

To bring the activities of our youths now operating in the virtual world down to earth , a concert featuring a bevy of performing artists-musicians and comedians ,with their PVC as their access pass into the venue of the concert , would be a master stroke,that would make INEC registration portal crash due to the rush to register and obtain PVC by youths and the young at heart.

Make no mistake about it, there is nothing so novel about the initiative.

Some states in the USA offered citizens beer and even cannabis (hemp ) as incentive for them to accept to get vaccinated against Covid-19?

According to available records,after being incentivized,the turnover of those who took the jabs in their arms increased dramatically,affirming that there is obviously reward in thinking out of the box to achieve defined objectives. 

To be fair, without Obi stoking the latent power of youths for his political ambition ,the ongoing voter registration revolution might not have happened.And we,as a nation would have continued in our lamentation about voter apathy or poor voter turnout .If l am not mistaken,Anambra state election that ushered Chukwuma Soludo into office as governor had a voter turnover of only 12, 269 votes in a state with a population of at least three (3) million people.

Before then,according to INEC records,in 2019,of the 84,0004 registered voters only 28,614,190 votes were recorded during the election that saw president Mohammadu Buhari being re-elected into office.

And he garnered 15,101, 847 to win the contest. The balance which is in excess of 13million votes was majorly cast for Turaki Atiku Abubakar of PDP, adjudged to be the second highest scorer. A wealth of votes that the PDP candidate who is back on the ballot for 2023 race is counting on to propel him into Aso Rock Villa, next year.

Given the current rush for PVC by our youths , l am willing to wager a bet that the number of votes in February 2023 would double the number in 2019. And all of this progress in citizens involvement in politics would be achieved without INEC help.

Meanwhile, the Electoral Process Regulatory Agency has a huge budget for voter enlightenment and mobilization appropriated from Nigeria tax payers . Yet INEC has been lethargic.

The last time l invited both Festus Okoye, Commissioner in charge of voter education and enlightenment,as well as INEC chairman,Mamoud Yakubu to the launch of my new book: Becoming President of Nigeria. A Citizens Guide, which is basically focused on advocacy for democracy through the message that any bonafide Nigerian that is patriotic can become president of Nigeria,irrespective of the damage being done by the evolving money politics that seem to make political office look unattainable by ordinary Nigerians ,they did not bother to respond to the invitation.

Several whatsapp and sms messages to them did not also stir them up into action.And I am delighted that it has taken the effort of Peter Obi to awaken INEC from its deep slumber to realize that owing to its lethargy a lot of value is left on the table in terms of voter awareness and mobilization as they have been neglecting the role youths in politics .

It is only in Nigeria that an estimated sixty (60) percent of voters can be dormant, over all these years, and no body bordered or was perceptive enough to interrogate the cause of the obvious malaise. In light of current political consciousness of the youths ,it is obvious that before now, no one reached out to our youths in any impactful ways.

All said and done , no matter how alluring it may appear, I would like to advise that the political parties and presidential candidates that may be interested in toeing the line of massive social media engagements that Peter Obi has embarked on ,should not engage in the sexing up of figures and twisting of facts and events as the Labor Party presidential candidate’s team is wont to do.

It is rather obnoxious and absurd that the intersection between reality and joke has been completely obliterated by team Peter Obi in its messaging.The hype about its presidential candidate’s messianic attributes is so ridiculous due to the excessive hyperbolic contents of the messages,that they are now coming off as mark of sheer desperation and hypocrisy, therefore a turn-off to right thinking and serious minded Nigerians.

How would it not be so when for instance , the wool is being pulled over the eyes of the public  by team Obi that the APC presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu is campaigning for Peter Obi by superimposing the image of Tinubu’s face on the body of a cart pusher who is portrayed as pushing his cart with Obi’s pictures emblazoned on it and captained , even Tinubu is campaigning for Obi.

Not done , there is also a collage of pictures depicting PDP presidential candidate , Atiku Abubakar partaking in the eating of a meal with some vulnerable and indigent members of our society and Obi is seen in the same photo collage gifting laptop computers to school children.That is sheer obfuscation of the truth , no matter how cleverly it is presented. And it is diminishing Obi’s campaign as opposed to elevating it.

As if the aforementioned political campaign voyeurism by the hype men in Team Obi camp is not bad enough , Musa KWAKWANSO, NNPP presidential candidate, a two term governor of Kano state, ex-minister of defense and senator was touted as having accepted to be Obi’s running mate in the 2023 presidential conquest,which is patently false.

Of course KWAKWANSO’s team has refuted the claim in a friendly rebuttal, which is commendable because ordinarily, the twisting of such delicate information which could rub off roughly on the ego of the candidates, could have been bad enough to truncate the process of partnership being built between both parties.

How about the one about Peter Obi jetting off to Egypt to learn the secret behind their stable electricity power supply and educational system of that country without an engineer and teacher in his entourage? Until Sahara reporters busted him by revealing that mr Obi was actually attending the African Export -Import bank meeting holding in Egypt, the dud narrative might have been spun and sold to our youths who might have been gullible enough to swallow the half truth, hook-line-and-sinker.

Rather than being clever by half, how about stating the fact which is that on the sidelines of the Afri-Exim meeting, the Labor Party presidential candidate, Peter Obi would be consulting with Egyptian experts in a variety of areas that they have exhibited strength and exceptional capacity?

The very valuable lesson that team Peter Obi must ingest and digest is an admonition that l recently came across in the course of my research on the matter of integrity in selling products or personalities to an audience .

And it is that while appearing superior to others is dangerous,to appear faultless and without weakness is even more perilous.

In conclusion, allow me end with the counsel contained in Lisa Halliday’s essay Hurrying Slowly, dedicated to arts and culture which can also pass for politics, because it is also both a science and an art.

She writes: “Art is a journey,a distance travelled by the consciousness.This is true for both artist and viewer, performer and audience, writer and reader. The power that propels such a journey is nothing without control because control is what harnesses artistic potential and directs”

The intrinsic value contained in the wise counsel above to Peter Obi and any other presidential candidates or indeed all political office seekers that intend to tap into the positive values embedded in the much vaunted youth bulge in our country, is that there is a limit to which fantasy, deceit, and double speak can be profitably applied in selling a product as serious as a candidate for any public office,most especially,the office of the president of Nigeria,of which integrity,honesty, transparency and forthrightness should be the bedrock.

Off course,Peter Obi can claim that the falsity,convoluted propositions and hypes are not from him.But he has not disclaimed them .

Even if he does,why waste the precious time that could have been deployed to promoting candidate Peter Obi,on cleaning up a mess made and can be characterized as own goal in a football match ?

The truth is that Peter Obi has stoked the hitherto latent political power of the youths that had been laying fallow for too long.

My concern is that it might scotch him (any other political actor that decides to capitalize on the youth bulge ) if care is not taken because energizing the youths without controlling them can be likened to lighting fire in a bush with dry leaves during harmattan without putting demarcating lines in separation of the part that should not be charred by the fire.

Bereft of such precautionary measures,no one can tell how far the fire would spread.

The bottomline is, playing with fire can be risky and dangerous, so is tangoing in the social media dominated by youths without control .

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