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Engaging Nigerian youth in politics and governance

By Olalekan Odewale
11 February 2015   |   11:00 pm
THE political landscape in the country is gradually unfolding. The political gladiators have started beating and sounding their drums in commencement of their campaigns. Sadly, the situation still remains the same. The old warhorses are the dominant faces in politics.   With the exception of a state like Lagos where the race will see the…

THE political landscape in the country is gradually unfolding. The political gladiators have started beating and sounding their drums in commencement of their campaigns. Sadly, the situation still remains the same. The old warhorses are the dominant faces in politics.

  With the exception of a state like Lagos where the race will see the intellectual prowess and administratively tested candidates vie for the governorship seat, many other states will see more bullishness reign over objectivity.

  Recently, a childhood friend of mine asked me who are my governorship and presidential choice for 2015. At that point it hit me, and I asked the question “who are my preferred candidates for 2015?

Naturally, my interest in elections has never been in parties but in candidates. What they represent and what they can offer in terms of governance. For the Lagos 2015 elections, my interest remains the same. Party affiliation is unlikely to influence my choice but any candidate that woos me most in the governorship debate that would be organised by the various media groups. I remember how I fell in love with Jimi Agbaje in 2007, when his articulated views gave me the impression that this was the right man to lead Lagos to the promise land. Sadly, Agbaje lost but the winner Babatunde Fashola didn’t disappoint Lagosians. The good works have started and I am convinced the standards have been set, continuity is inevitable. 

  The 2015 Lagos governorship race is between two brilliant minds. Both candidates are experienced and sound in administrative judgments. Both candidates are thorough breed professionals who have excelled in their chosen field of endeavor one as an accountant and administrator, while the other is a pharmacist and also an administrator. The race will be interesting.

  A lot has been said about Lagos gubernatorial race, the presidential race has kept me in a dilemma. The presidential race is between the opposition party and the ruling party, the incumbent and the perennial candidate, the PhD holder and the Nigerian Defense Academy graduate. 

  At the beginning, the race exhibited a bit of fun given the horse trading that characterised the presidential primaries of both parties and the emergence of their candidates. Suddenly, the race turned cold for me and a lot of other Nigerian youths. With the emergence of the two candidates many had expected that policy issues-based campaigning would have started, but sadly we find ethnicity and religion rubbing away the fun of the race. I like many other youths who have been expectant suddenly found our pregnancy aborted by the verbal descriptions of candidates given by others. 

  Even on social media many youths have joined the campaign of hate, ethnic abuse and deceit. Many have posted unverified information on the timelines and labeled it “facts”. But many of such facts have turned out to be falsehood and malicious misinformation. As a youth, sometimes, I find myself writing to the authors of such calumny not to misrepresent facts and to verify facts and be objective.

  The 2015 election is a turning point in the electoral process. The hype generated by both parties ordinarily would have been enough to sell their candidates, but the introduction of ethnic nationality and religion is giving the race a biased view. The uninformed youths joining the social media war of hate is compounding the complexity of the election process.

  Coming back to the question asked earlier, I felt compelled to answer this way: “I am confused and waiting for the presidential debate to come up before I make my choice.” My friend himself became more confused, his response was that in election history a particular candidate has been noted to avoid debates.  The state of the nation requires us to know the various programmes that will be originated to return the nation back to its glorious days. 

  It would be difficult for me to pick a candidate whose major assessment was done well over 30 years ago, a candidate who might have succeeded administratively and also succeeded in fighting the corruption war when younger who, might have had the strength to pursue his convictions. Similarly, using the last five years as benchmark is also an uphill task, having been unable to witness the much talked-about “uncommon transformation.

  As a young Nigerian, it would be difficult for me to vote along party lines or ethnic and religious sentiments. I personally feel that until both candidates are subjected to rigorous interviews and debates in order for them to come, preach their manifestoes and agenda, while we define our expectations for 2015 to 2019. As a youth it isn’t enough for me to base my decision on noise made by hired praise singers and government beneficiaries who continuously preach the good but unseen works of a candidate, neither is it sufficient for anyone to claim I should assess him or her on a 30 year old report card in this modern times.

  Both candidates must be compelled to come to the debates to objectively explain, define and proffer processes for the execution of their plans for the next four years. As youths, we should ask for expectation in education, power, youth development, employment, corruption, rising national debt profile, declining revenue and enhancement of our GDP and the general state of the economy.

   All the candidates must be made to give expected timelines on key accomplishments they intend to make within the next four years. We as youths need to hold them accountable for every promise made but not kept rather than follow the bandwagon of praise singers.

  The precarious state of the economy should be a concern to the Nigerian youth; dwindling revenues have employment implications for the average Nigerian youth. Rising national debt without prerequisite infrastructures must be seen as a future headache to the present day youth. Thus indoctrinated followership of political office holders and aspirants is no longer allowed. Constructive policy and issue-based discussions should be engaged in between the aspirants and the youth population. Social media war of hate and sentiments should be discouraged in order to focus on the issues of national and developmental interest.

  The future of this nation should not be placed in the hands of clueless politicians most of whom have failed the nation given the state of the nation since independence. The youth should take up the responsibility of intellectually tasking the brains of the aspirants rather than singing praises of aspirants whom they are unable to specifically identify with their agendas. 

  The absence of young minds in the race is a paradox and source of concern for me. A lot of noise has been generated on youths being neglected in the political system. While many have blamed it on the age limitation imposed by the electoral act, others say it has a lot to do with the financial resources indirectly attached to campaign expenses.     However, it is a known fact that the youths are bandwagon followers.

  As youths we can influence the aspirants with our contributions, the era of youths sitting in the boy’s quarters of power is over. Our strength is in our number, and the number is what we should use to achieve the required change. Change will not come by our non participation in the political process neither will change come via abusive and hate-filled social media messages.

  Change will come by active and objective contributions to the political systems, engaging the aspirants in constructive discussions on policy issues. Let us not be quick in taking sides with politicians but as youths, we should clearly understand the various agendas of the aspirant and carefully review the processes of execution with a view to ascertaining its workability. We should not be sweet talked into accepting vague and bogus promises.

  Our vote is our power, our destiny and the future of Nigeria, without the youths there is no future; let us use our vote wisely in creating a better Nigeria.

Olalekan Odewale

lonelake2001@yahoo.com, 08060787730

Olalekan Odewale a trainee accountant resident in Lagos area.