Someone once opined, “it is as if Nigeria only exists for elections”, could that be true? Just immediately after the conclusion of the February 2019 general elections which ushered the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari, the political space began to rally clouds in build-up for the 2023 presidential election. The “2023 Agenda” has since then become an aphorism in the political space. Politicians have started bolting regional affinities and lining political formations.
However, public affairs analysts differed that it was insensitive and premature to start holding the 2023 discussion in spite of security and economic challenges, whereas some opined it can never be too early to prepare for the future. Whichever end of the stick they preferred, you will agree that the troubles that waylay the present day Nigeria are enormous.
We live in a time where over 600 people displaced by bandits live on the football field in Katsina. A time when bandits and herdsmen spill blood of citizens on regular basis, Kidnapping and rape is thronging, government is bloated and too expensive to maintain. People are not getting promised dividends of democracy. Police extort money from the poor on a massive revenue scale. That economy is millions of naira daily. There are regional militia and cries of marginalization. It is difficult to do business in Nigeria. What a myriad of challenges!
In the reality of these challenges, one would logically assume that the fixation of our policy makers at this period would be to stand up to the challenges and find solutions to some of these problems. But sadly, the government has been notoriously lethargic in taking decisive actions on events that so much threaten our welfare and coexistence as a people.
Harping on the responsibility of government as propounded in the social contract theory, the primary essence of government is the provision of social goods . In the event that the government rescinds its part of the social contract, citizens can withdraw their obligation and this is done through elections and other lawful means.
34.75% of registered voters participated in the 2019 general elections, the lowest of all recent elections held on the African continent, according to the data from the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (I-IDEA). Meanwhile, 18% of that vote came from the youth density. This is a fact on record that puts one to marvel at the level of political apathy in the world’s most populous black nation. There are about 61.3million Nigerians between the ages of 19 and 35. Appropriate to say that 33% of the population is made up of millennials. Who are these millennials? Millennials are age cohorts of 19-38, regarded as digital natives, vibrant population, analytical , ambitious, and achievement-oriented. Unfortunately, the peculiarities of these cohorts are yet to reflect in the electoral process. Perhaps the reason it is often said that the “worst of us is leading us”.
Social media has become a significant platform for economic, social and political development. Young people are talking to one another across ethnic and regional divides – though not always politely! But at least they are talking. Twitter and Facebook have become major political platforms.
You will also agree that social media has proven to be a platform where momentum can be built, awareness can be raised and people can be stimulated towards a particular campaign. The Infectious disease Bill, Social media Bill, Hate speech Bill and Electoral Amendment Bill are some of the Government’s policies that have been influenced by social media blitz.
In 2018, Big Brother Nigeria recorded about 170 million votes cumulatively. Imagine if we could have a similarity of this participation in our elections. But our electoral process is often marked with violence and malpractice, you say. Yes you are right! It has remained so because we have tolerated it thus far. In August 2021, thousands of Malians took to the streets of Bamako, calling for the resignation of their president following election violence and large scale corruption in the country. That was a massive step in the right direction!
Vision is the purview of youths not of old men. In other words, we need to harness the strength of our youths in the quest for true democracy and qualitative leadership. A democracy where the voice of the majority is heard. A democracy where leaders apply intellect, adopt best practices and adequately proffer solutions.
If we must move forward, we must put an end to political disinterestedness and civic apathy. The 2023 General elections are about a few months away from now, another opportunity for us as a people to determine the kind of leadership we so desire for our dear country.
Once bitten twice shy, a mistake that must never be repeated. We have for long remained on the world’s most deprived people chart. As potent as our feelings of frustration may be, we cannot, must not allow them to immobilize us and render us comatose as a generation.
We are all involved in politics whether we like it or not. If you refuse to vote, you have still voted. You voted for whatever outcome emerges from the election.
We can and we will create a Nigeria of tomorrow, the Nigeria of our silent dreams. A place you and I can fulfill destiny and maximize potential. Tomorrow is possible, but it is up to you, it is up to me.
Adeyeye Eyitayo is a Lawyer and a policy enthusiast.