We need to lift the spirits of voters to go out and vote. The 2019 elections had a 33% voter turnout, and the results would have been different if the youth turnout had been higher.
All things being equal, the Nigerian youths will play a significant role in the 2023 elections based on the Nigerian population figures. The UN’s World Population Prospects interpolation estimate shows the Nigerian population will have about 214 million people in 2022. Those aged between 18-29 years are estimated to be around 42.7 million, and those aged between 30-39 years will have a population of 22.3 million. These numbers alone are enough to win an election in Nigeria if we discount voter apathy. But, it will be wrong not to consider voter apathy. We need to lift the spirits of voters to go out and vote. The 2019 elections had a 33% voter turnout, and the results would have been different if the youth turnout had been higher.
One of the leading discussions with broad interest is when Nigerian youths will have their chance. The youths have always been involved in politics and leadership. But there is little information about those in leadership positions. It will also be good if these youths showcase their tangible contributions to the country. Nonetheless, the 2023 elections have made the topic relevant because the potential winners understand that getting the youths’ votes is necessary. To ensure victory for the youths, they must vote, be united, and demand a vibrant economy from the next government.
Therefore, reducing voter apathy is one of the first things we improve for the youths to decide who will lead the country in the next general elections. Don’t close the barn door when the horses have taken off—there will be no campaign after the election.
Secondly, solidarity amongst the youths should be encouraged to ensure a sustainable united front. For instance, we have a youth National Assembly member, Hon. Shamsudeen Bello, from Kano State, challenged and won his seat at the supreme court after his party wrongfully gave the nomination ticket to another person. It is a feat that youths should celebrate as he won injustice against the establishment. Another example of a lack of youth solidarity is the impeachment of Mahdi Aliyu Gusau, a Deputy Governor of Zamfara State. He was impeached and replaced by a 61-year old serving Senator on the same day. The Deputy Governor of a State is one of the top-six positions in Nigerian politics and the second-most-important position at the State level. It is common knowledge that he was impeached because he refused to change decamp to the ruling party like his Governor. There wouldn’t have been any trumped-up charges had he done swapped parties. But he remained principled. Such character demonstrates ethical professionalism and integrity. A collaboration between these two youths could motivate a point of action. In essence, how we respond to issues like these will shape future discussions.
Thirdly, the youth should focus on supporting the person who has the clear idea of getting this country out of this ugly mess, as mentioned by Comrade Deji Adeyanju. We can get Nigeria out of this ugly mess by creating a vibrant economy. The Nigerian macroeconomy is not in good shape, which has led to a lack of investments across all sectors. Of course, one cannot discount the insecurity challenges. Nonetheless, the incoherent policies by the Buhari administration have led to harmful socioeconomic consequences, like increased poverty, unemployment, and worsening income distribution.
Therefore, the youth should demand a government that would benefit all communities in the country. The next government should consider some key policies to target higher financial growth and economic return within each region in the country. Youths should ask specific questions about how the next government will provide equal opportunity for prosperity in every community. In 2019, a study showed that 39% of Nigerian working age groups engage in several forms of entrepreneurial activities. However, these activities are more for survival than wealth creation. The need to improve physical and digital infrastructure is important. For example, electricity generation will also facilitate a vibrant economy as the skills of the youth are mostly around services, like information technology. Asking specific questions about these issues can also help the next government reflect on its priorities.
We also need a government that works with the private sector to create a system that produces wealth and creates jobs. A government that understands the usefulness of the available skillsets of the youths can support entrepreneurship and innovation to drive future growth. There must be a will to have inclusion and equality where everyone benefits from economic growth. The government must discuss narrowing the gap between the richest and poorest. They should also have a plan for how regional disparities will be reduced and create opportunities for all. The youths must challenge the next government to understand that these issues are important for everyone in the country.
Information about poverty, education, and unemployment across regions are available. And it shows that the temperature of the country is very high as people are unhappy with the current situation, as these contribute to the issues of insecurity. A government that will engage in community activities and trust the integrity of businesses and institutions will change the country’s future. A vibrant economy will give Nigerian communities a joyful and creative cultural life. We will have people who feel safe and have clear identities to be proud of. Understanding how the government plans to deliver these benefits matters, so asking the right questions is critical.
In my opinion, age, ethnicity, or religion cannot guarantee these changes. Another point of note is for the youths to not focus on completely kicking out the non-youths or asking for a turn-by-turn. As humans, we should work together. The goal is to find disciplined and experienced people—pragmatic people who respect the law and have zero tolerance for sleazy tendencies. These are some characteristics of people who can potentially deliver good governance in Nigeria for everyone.