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Youth Voices in the Country's Most Recent Elections


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Daily Champion (Lagos)

Nigeria: Youth Voices in the Country's Most Recent Elections

Ezekiel Nworie Chinedu

17 June 2011


 

The journey to democracy in Nigeria has been a tortuous one. Nigeria and Nigerians have passed through difficult times in this quest for democracy. This journey has claimed the lives of many Nigerians, both young and old alike. Most recent and prominent among them was the killing of 10 National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members in some states in Northern Nigeria in the post presidential election violence.

In every democratic setting, free and fair elections are seen as an integral part of democracy, but in Nigeria, elections could be described as mere formalities. The general elections of 1999, 2003 and 2007 were nothing to write home about and local and international agencies described them as not free, fair and credible.

For many years, Nigerians have been waiting for a political messiah to come and extricate them from electoral deformity, political blindness and imposition of candidates. The past administration of late President Umaru Yar'Adua promised to take the bull by the horns, but unknown to citizens, the long arms of death were already at his throat.

The emergence of Dr. Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan as the President of Nigeria after the death of President Yar'Adua, brought a new hope for Nigerians. His agenda included electoral reform, improved power and security of lives and property of all Nigerians. When he promised Nigerians free and fair elections, many thought it was political propaganda, which is the benchmark of many politicians in Nigeria. This is the first election conducted in Nigeria that was adjudged to be free, fair and credible, both locally and internationally, ever in history.

Conducting free and fair election is not the responsibility of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) alone, but rather the collective responsibility of every Nigerian. For this reason, the roles of civil society organizations, non-governmental organizations and faith-based organizations can never be undermined. Nigerians are said to have attained political maturity and literacy, and this is as a result of the many efforts of these organizations. It is an incontrovertible fact that an NGO like Youth for Technology Foundation (YTF), through its Yes, Youth Can Program! educated citizens (especially youths) on the importance of voting and of playing a positive role in the process.

Diverse interventions such as awareness and anti-violence campaigns, market rallies, radio jingles and mock elections, gave people first hand information on their civic responsibilities, and the need to avoid any form of electoral malpractice and selling of their votes. By encouraging eligible voters to get registered during the registration exercise led to higher levels of voter turnout during the actual election period.

Yes, Youth Can! promoted technology as a two-way channel to reach out to new voters and government officials alike encouraging both parties to open up new communication channels through dialogue. The efforts of YTF's' Yes, Youth Can! team cannot be overemphasized, particularly in the Niger-Delta region of Imo State. Youth beneficiaries played the role of election observers covering 27 local government areas and 305 electoral wards in the state. They commented and shared their thoughts and hopes for change on the Yes, Youth Can! Facebook page at www.facebook.com/yesyouthcan.

 

Youths were instrumental to the success of 2011 general election and they accounted for over 60 per cent of the total votes cast during the elections. The youths have taken their own destiny into their own hands by electing their preferred candidates. They are now calling on the elected leaders not to disappoint them but to give a listening ear to the matters concerning the youths. They want improved education, training and skill-building opportunities that prepare them for active participation in decision-making processes, jobs, security and infrastructure.

Now that the elections are a thing of the past and the elected leaders have been sworn into office, it is very important for the elected leaders to go beyond tokenism and demonstrate that youth opinions are taken into account; failure to do so can further disengage young people from the political process. There also must be transparency and accountability in how suggestions from young people are implemented, allowing young people to monitor and evaluate the process.

Yes, Youth Can!

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Updated 6 Years ago
 

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