Therefore, there is no longer a hiding place for the young. The excuse for not turning out to vote in the past was always the fear that majority votes wouldn’t count because some godfathers had hijacked the system and the results were simply ghostwritten. Not anymore. The recently introduced Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) is designed to read Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) and authenticate voters to prove they are eligible to vote in a particular voting unit.

There is always enough light for those who want to see”. – Hazrat Imam Ali (WHAT)

The next presidential election will be determined, to a large extent, by the votes of the youth. Much has been made about how each successive generation over the last 62 years has betrayed the Nigerian project and bequeathed a glorified shit hole to subsequent generations. In many social media forums, young people often take their elders to the dry cleaners, telling them to shut up because the old school, which has ruined their children’s future, has nothing worthwhile to offer.

Now, demographics have come to the rescue. Young people outnumber the rest of us by such a significant margin that whoever they decide to vote for will successfully run for president. The latest figures published by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) confirm this.

According to INEC President Professor Mahmood Yakubu, there are 37,060,399 registered voters between the ages of 18 and 34, which is 39.65% of the total registered voters. This means that approximately four out of ten voters in Nigeria will be represented by that group.

There is no universally agreed definition of youth. While the UN describes youth as “those persons between the ages of 15 and 24”, the Nigerian Youth Policy states that, “Youth in Nigeria includes citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria aged 18 to 29 years old”, while the African youth charter recognizes young people as people between 15 and 35 years old.

I tend to agree more with Victor Hugo, the French romantic writer and politician who said: “Forty is the old age of youth; fifty the youth of old age.” That is why I classify forty-year-olds among the young. And that’s why INEC’s revelation that there are 33,413,591 registered voters between the ages of 35 and 49 (constituting 35.75% of registered voters), should interest us all.

As I have said in this column before, the next election will be like no other in our experience. Politicians can deny the bitter reality staring them in the face. Many of those in the fray have continued to do what they do best: put on circus shows and send their converts into a frenzy. In many of the rallies that I have seen, there is nothing new in the traditional messages that they offer. “I will give you roads and employ your children”—anything to rouse the gaily-attired crowd. Those rallies are the perfect setting to avoid the thoughtful details of the HOWS.

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One looks back with nostalgia to the Second Republic when the contending parties made ideological pitches at rallies. The Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) was in favor of free education, among other pillars of the campaign; the Nigerian National Party (NPN) was in favor of qualitative education and the green revolution; the People’s Redemption Party (PRP) was in favor of pro-popular policies to lift as many people out of poverty; while the Nigerian People’s Party (NPP) campaigned on issues of social justice and industrialization etc.

With the exception of two, or possibly three, of the current political parties on election campaigns, the vast majority are simply engaged in a visual show of force. The reasoning seems to be that if you overwhelm viewers with huge crowds of supporters and the racket of acrobats, costumes, dancers, and musicians, the show is evidence enough of your popularity and eligibility.

In calling on young Nigerians to seize the moment and rise to the next generational challenge, I am not romanticizing youth. As someone who paid their humble dues in the trenches of activism, I’m just saying the ball is in their court now because the older generations need to step aside and allow the young to navigate our march forward.

The next elections will be different simply because we have left those analogical forms of yesteryear. There is no other time in Nigeria’s electoral history when voters under the age of 50 have made up around 75.4% of the voter registration, and students only make up 26,027,481 (27.8%) of all voters. .

But will they seize the moment and install a government they can be proud of? Do you have the balls to walk your talk?


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In calling on young Nigerians to seize the moment and rise to the next generational challenge, I am not romanticizing youth. As someone who paid their humble dues in the trenches of activism, I’m just saying the ball is in their court now because the older generations need to step aside and allow the young to navigate our march forward.

I completely agree with the perspective of Kailash Satyarthi, the Indian child rights activist who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Malala Yousafzai in 2014. In his opinion, “The power of youth is the common wealth for the whole world. The faces of young people are the faces of our past, our present and our future. No segment of society can match the power, idealism, enthusiasm and bravery of the young.”

By registering to vote in the 2023 election, our young people have signaled their intention to have a say in how their country is governed. What remains to be seen is whether they can match their social media swagger with a commitment to show up to cast their vote for the kind of leader they’ve always railed about.

Young Nigerians will do well to remember that those who have reached old age today were not born old (apologies to Chief COD). As a young man, Nelson Mandela fought headlong against the grim odds facing his generation. He remembers his memorable words: “I will not leave South Africa or give up. Only through hardship, sacrifice, and militant action can freedom be won. The fight is my life. I will continue fighting for freedom until the end of my days.”

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When victory came, he was an old man but he saw the promised land of democracy during his lifetime. Without fighting the fight in his younger years, there would not have been a victory day.

In 2021, at a youth conference titled “Energizing Youth for Development: Inclusion, Governance, Security and Employment”, President Muhammadu Buhari recognized the incredible potential, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit of Nigerian youth, which has led to making waves in entertainment, music, sports, technology and other sectors. He called them to rise up and participate in the reinvention of their country.

If the elections are free and fair, as promised, the young will have to live with their choice. If you vote for a bag of chips for president, you should be honest enough to sing, “Long live the bag of chips!” With all the efforts made by the government, civil society groups, INEC, the formal media and others to sensitize young people to their responsibilities, they can no longer complain about having to lie on a messy bed. Just as you make your bed, so you will lie in it.

“Everything that is good and great about us as a people is inherent in our youth,” Buhari said. “I don’t know of another group of people as obsessed with constant self-improvement as Nigerian youth. At home and abroad, this drive to not just be better, but to be the best they can be, inspires achievements that make us all proud.”

With the introduction of electoral management technology in the country, the upcoming elections, all other things being equal, have the potential to be the most credible in history. Judging by Nigerian comments on social media, there is implicit trust in the Independent National Electoral Commission to conduct a free and fair electoral exercise without fear or favouritism. The promise of a level playing field having been fulfilled in the mid-term elections in Anambra and Osun states, one should justly acknowledge INEC’s successes and encourage the organization to stay the course.

Therefore, there is no longer a hiding place for the young. The excuse for not turning out to vote in the past was always the fear that majority votes wouldn’t count because some godfathers had hijacked the system and the results were simply ghostwritten. Not anymore. The recently introduced Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) is designed to read Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) and authenticate voters to prove they are eligible to vote in a particular voting unit.

Any youngster who doesn’t cast their vote for whoever tickles them has only themselves to blame, going forward. When young people speak with one voice, no bag of money can stand in their way.

If the elections are free and fair, as promised, the young will have to live with their choice. If you vote for a bag of chips for president, you should be honest enough to sing, “Long live the bag of chips!” With all the efforts made by the government, civil society groups, INEC, the formal media and others to sensitize young people to their responsibilities, they can no longer complain about having to lie on a messy bed. Just as you make your bed, so you will lie in it.

I urge Nigerian youth to stand up to be counted.

Every time a young man falls, in a sense all of humanity falls. If I may borrow Pope Francis’ exhortation to young people at the 36th World Youth Day: “When a young person stands up, it is as if the whole world stands up too… Also today God says to each one of you: Stand up ! I fervently hope that this message can help us prepare for new times and a new page in the history of humanity. However, we cannot start anew without you, dear young people. If our world is to emerge, it needs your strength, your enthusiasm, your passion.”

Wole Olaoye is a veteran Public Relations consultant and journalist. He can be reached at wole.olaoye@gmail.com, Twitter: @wole_olaoye; Instagram: woleola2021


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