BY TAIYE TOSIN JOSEPH
Many political analysts have described the 2023 elections as crucial to the fate of Nigeria as we seek to improve the nation’s socio-economic fortunes. Indeed, many believe that the upcoming general elections will make or break Nigeria, no thanks to the current downturn in the economy and tension in parts of the country, on the brink of secessionist turmoil, pursued through violence. One cannot help but agree with them. But the questions that ask for answers are; Do Nigerians, especially the youth, know that if another mistake is made, we would have to wait another four years to correct the mistake? What do advocates of the so-called not too young to run with candidates over seventy?
The #EndSARS protest has shown the world that the youth of this country have the influence to change things for the better, if only they could organize politically. It triggered a kind of awareness that they have the number. Only the will that must be maintained, albeit diplomatically, using the 2023 general election as an avenue to make a statement.
The promotion of broad political participation of young people is commendable and an idea that the time has come. We need more young people at the forefront of governance and decision making. Of course, everything revolves around politics and in order for us to get it right, we must first get it right.
Despite representing more than half the population in many countries, young people are often marginalized from mainstream politics and decision-making. They struggle to earn the respect of public officials and are seen as lacking the skills and experience to engage in politics and governance in a way that leads to positive changes in society. This exclusion, coupled with limited educational and economic opportunities, has left many young people idle and frustrated with the established order, thus turning them into willing tools in the hands of agents of destruction.
Today’s youth need real opportunities to participate in political processes and contribute to practical solutions that promote development. However, they should know that no one voluntarily relinquishes power. The only way to force those who support the development of the country through the jugular, through the politics of clientelism and rent seeking, is for young people to get involved in party politics, with their number and outvoting them until the irrelevance.
When given the opportunity to organize, express their opinions, and play a significant role in political decision-making, the youth of this country have consistently demonstrated their willingness and ability to bring about positive and lasting change. They also become more likely to demand and defend democracy, since it is the process through which they come to power. That would also give them a greater sense of belonging.
As general elections approach, Nigerians must be prepared to choose between improving the country and accepting self-serving, power-motivated politicians in government, not because of what they can do to improve their country, but because of what they can do to improve their country. what they can earn for their pockets. . For the sake of the necessary reform that the country craves right now, it would be short-sighted for Nigerians to prioritize the inordinate ambitions of politicians to seize and stay in power under any guise over the priceless opportunity for worthwhile change.
As patriotic Nigerians, nothing should matter to us more than sheer enthusiasm to save the country, to bring sanity to the system. We must also ignore any distraction disguised as a political campaign. We (the youth) also need to be intentional in our pursuit of a country that works for everyone, regardless of party affiliation, class, creed, age, and tribe. This requires bright young people to be prepared to go through the rigors of leading by example. They must be forward-thinking lots, who have the ability to deliver in restoring the country to its lost glories.
Young people need to look beyond the current options of Bola Tinubu, Abubakar Atiku, Rabiu Kwankwaso, or even Peter Obi, and all the other old political gladiators who have been recycling themselves in our political space, since independence, and are also responsible of the rot in which we find ourselves. If we really want national redemption, young people must be prepared to do the hard work of looking beyond the top four contenders who are part of that set of politicians who have gotten us to where we are today.
In general, young people MUST WAKE UP AND DO IT RIGHT by channeling their energy and creativity into greater political participation. When young people are unwilling to participate or are denied the opportunity to actively participate in the political process, a significant part of the population would have been deprived of participating in the decisions that affect their lives. A key consequence is the weakening of the representativeness of the political system.
To make a difference in the long term, it is essential that young people wake up and become more involved in the political process, so that they can have a say in shaping the policies of today and tomorrow. Inclusion politics is not only a fundamental political and democratic necessity, but also a crucial ingredient needed to build a stable and peaceful society.
It also helps develop policies that respond to the specific needs of the younger generations, who are the future of the country. For young people to be adequately represented in political institutions, processes and decision-making, they must know their rights and responsibilities and receive the necessary education and capacity to participate effectively at all levels.
However, just as youth participation is reasonable, so is “youth rehabilitation”. A study of unionism at the student level, which often serves as a foundation for leadership, would reveal that today’s youth require a reform of thoughts, conceptions, ideologies, beliefs, motivations, and actions. The youth of yore (some of whom are now guilty of abusing their welcome in the political arena) excelled in their own day. They excelled in studies and morality. They had a sense of action and patriotism.
They were good ambassadors, including at the Student Union level, and contributed enormously to Africa’s political development, culminating in independence. Instead, today we have young people who, for the most part, have lost their sense of direction; who have not been able to exploit their full potential for good, but who sometimes channel it towards the wrong companies.
In terms of leadership, we have young people who have no sense of selfless solidarity, loyalty to a cause, and unquestioning integrity. Someone looking for an opportunity to help himself with union funds, for example, cannot be said to be a good model of Nigerian youth, very different from the energy that liberated Africa from colonialism and imperialism.
All hope should not be lost as the situation is not yet beyond redemption. Government agencies such as the National Guidance Agency must be aware of their responsibilities to start a campaign for national revival, something that is similar to the etiquette revolution, with a view to eliminating corruption. The constitution must be constantly amended and revised to meet new challenges in the interest of the masses, rather than the political parties that form its foothold.
Religious leaders also have a role to play in promoting the virtue of honesty, integrity, love, and hard work at all times, and should be seen living them as well. According to John F. Kennedy’s favorite quote: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
Taiye Tosin Joseph is a 200-level mass communication student at Bayero University, Kano.
Opinions expressed by contributors are strictly personal and not those of TheCable.