Feelers from Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the body that supervises the conduct of elections in Nigeria, indicate that the 2011 general elections may start in January, a mere five months away. At present, the INEC boss has revealed the harsh reality on ground and possible solutions if the hype and hope for credible election are feasible. However, there seems to be a consensus on having a free, fair credible and manifestly peaceful election where every single vote will count. Having free, fair and credible elections is a function of many things and a peaceful atmosphere of paramount importance. Attaining this, to a large extent, has to do with the youths who form 60 per cent or more of the populace. In the past, they had been ready tools in the hands of some political gladiators who use them to hijack ballot boxes, thumb print voters cards and perform other electioneering vices.
The Tide On Sunday this week focuses its attention on the roles or the rights and responsibilities of the youths as we prepare to make a change in the political history of this country, and tell the world that we can get it right come 2011. And we came out with a finding that the youths as future leaders must take concrete steps to ensure credible polls in 2011 if they hope to find a future in Nigeria. Excerpts:
Comr. Marvin Yobana – National Vice President of Nigeria Youth Council and Rivers State Cordinator of Rebuild Nigeria Initiative.
The young people of this country account for more than 60 per cent of the population of Nigeria and as such their roles cannot be overlooked. They are the active participants in any electoral process because they are within the age of active lifestyle. They are the ones that are used for electoral thugery, violence and all that. So this chunk of the population of Nigeria should contribute meaningfully to the developmental process of this country; that includes the electoral process. Having said that, the National Youth Council of Nigeria which I happen to represent, is carrying out campaign against electoral violence and thuggery. What this campaign is all about is to dissuade our young people from being used by politicians to perpetrate these acts that are not healthy to our democracy. We engage the leaders of youth organisations at the local government, the ward, state , zonal and the national levels in enlightenment processes and train them through workshops. And they go back to their constituencies and also train them. So that they can understand the roles they are suppose to play in the electoral process. We did this in partnership with INEC though we have not got their support in terms of funding and the kind of materials we need to train this young people. But this has not detard us. Again, government institutions that are responsible for re-orientation and guiding the attitudes of Nigerians should do more than just a talk shop.
They should go into aggressive enlightenment campaigns in the grassroots. This will tell the voters not just the young people the role they are suppose to play. What they are suppose to know; their rights. When a man is armed with knowledge it becomes very difficult for you to sell any dummy to the person. But when he is not informed he can go astray and buy into any propaganda that is brought by any political group. So the young people need to be enlightened on the roles they need to play to ensure that the election is free and fair; enlighten on the roles they need to play so that they can effectively participate in the electorate process to make sure that their votes count and are being counted; enlighten them to participate actively in the electoral process either by contesting or exercising their franchise and enlighten them so that they cannot be used to perpetrate any acts of violence or rigging. The role of the youth is very very key to the success of democracy in this country.
Mr Sheriff B. Ara-Bornu – Public Affairs Analyst:
The history of Nigeria if it is written will bear the symbol of youth struggle at different stages of her development; the struggle and subsequent attainment of independence speaks volumes of youth’s demonstration of passion, desperation and zeal.
The late Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe in his student days using the Pan African platform deplored his potential for the struggle of our independence which culminated into the Zikist group; Chief Anthony Enahoro’s boisterous motion for independence, Late Chief Margerate Ekpo, the indefatigable amazon was apt for women liberation; also the great Student Union leader Maiyegun who stood his ground against military rule to mention but a few happened in their youth days.
This veritable vehicle that drives the social economic/political development of any successful nation has been so condensed to the extend that their presence is no longer felt on any National discourse. Of course their absent or inactiveness has brought us to where we are resulting to unemployment, youths taking to kidnapping, lead sectarian violence and armed robbery. No wonder one of our politician recently said that the youth has nothing to offer or contribute in this present political dispensation.
This awaiting call has sounded and 2011 is pregnant. No more lukewarm attitude towards National issues. It is appalling to note that the current debate on whether president Goodluck Jonathan is qualify to contest 2011 election could not attract the attention of our youth body knowing full well that it is not constitutional. This detribalised and unsectarian segment of the Nation has been so quiet such that a very few usurpers calling themselves politicians has over heated the polity to its foundation. So is the case of Jos Massacre that has continued unabated despite efforts by some organizations, because no clear umpire like the youth body has pointed at those perpetrating this heinous task to stop it.
It is time the youth should wake up from their slumber and blaze the trail. The youth leaders should wake up to their responsibilities to serve and not be served or stop the noise and join the tribalist called politicians whose days and times are running out. Remember, should the youth sit and watch without taking position what is happening in Rwanda, Sudan, Somalia even Uganda and Zimbabwe awaits all and when the chips are down history will record them positively or negatively as it has done to our dear MADIBO of South Africa.
Nwiabu, Legborsi-Nuka Esq – Executive Director, Centre for Human Rights, Information and Leadership Development (CHILD)
We cannot be talking about credible election when we have a faulty electoral process. What Nigerians are looking forward to, is for the electoral reform to be perfected. Talking about the role of the youth, the constitute is clear on this. There is legal age for every nation. For Nigeria, it is a eighteen years and above. And so young people who were not up to eighteen years last time we had election should be twenty something now. They should be given the franchise to vote for whoever they want. And that will be obtainable under the same electoral process where we have voter’s registration and review of old register. And civil education must also be very critical in the process. So if we talk about elections without civil education that is going to be a problem. Unfortunately and a serious one, less than one year to election there is no civic education going on any where; people don’t know what their rights, they don’t know what ward they may fall into and where their names fall. It is a whole lot of challenge that we have to deal with. For instance, right now you hear PDP calling for party registration. To me, the role the youth should play is possibly to become active voice in the whole process. Let young people add their voice to demand for credible election come 2011. If the voice of the youth must be heard loud enough then the youth themselves must be patriotic by staying away from being lured or bought over by politicians to vote for who they don’t want. One of the ways we can get out of any electoral malpractice is to put the structure as envisaged by Justice Uwais commission to come to bear.
Godson E. J. Etokakpan – Director of Mobilisation, Integrity Leadership Club (ILC)
The Youths are Hungry for a change. This hunger is evident in the number of civil disturbances and violent protests in the form of kidnapping, robbery and other social vices being witnessed all over the nation.
The youths cannot wait endlessly for change. We should be able to rise and speak out. Other wise our future generations would be perpetually relegated to a life of abject poverty by wicked and uncaring leaders who are always weeping up ethnic and religious sentiments to keep the masses under servitude.
The youths have realized that talking about issues does not yield results. The language of violence has become their preferred medium of communication because it yields result. This is a dangerous trend. And unless the political class, who have made themselves lord and masters over the entire citizenry make a conscious effort to bring about a change come 2011, this nation will witness greater unrest than what has already been seen. This must not be allowed to happen.
The expectation of the youths from the next dispensation is high. Nigeria must return from the path of annihilation that the offspring of their founding fathers have forced her to walk on.
The action of such men has shown that they cannot be entrusted with the political leadership of this nation anymore. Clearly this change cannot wait endlessly. It has to commence immediately.
However, should the change be allowed to take place suddenly as it did in Ghana, the consequence will be disastrous. Knowing our affinity to ethnicity, another war will ensure and that mark the end of this nation. The youths cannot accept this type of irresponsibility.
Their expectation is to be integrated into the socio economic cum political decision making of this nation. They want to be given a chance to right the wrongs that have been done. It is an aberration for the child to call his father to order but our fathers have let us down. This country cannot be ruled any more as if it is someone’s private property. Our country must have a leader with integrity and unquestionable character. He must be a true patriot and a statesman with a positive attitude and a corresponding track record for excellence. Youths are expectant that all of these shall take place in the next four years.
They are desirous to vote and make their vote count. They are tired of unemployment, lack of social amenities, infrastructural backwardness, and a corresponding degradation of values. They are tired of political assassination, insecurity, and social injustice.