According to Statista, Nigeria has one of the youngest populations globally. The statistics signify that the youths have the numbers to take up leadership positions. However, some youths still underestimate the power that their voices can wield. The #ENDSARS protest against police brutality in 2020 proves that Nigerian youths can be involved in their country’s affairs.
The youth must display the same energy as they did during the #ENDSARS saga to keep the political landscape going forward. The 2023 elections present an opportunity for a turnaround in the country’s political structure. It is time for youths to show more willingness to vie for political positions by actively joining and forming political parties that seek to question the status quo.
Political parties put their houses in order as Nigeria gears up for the 2023 general elections. Several aspirants have declared their intentions openly, and the small number of youths ready to break into the political space is worrying. Over the years, the participation of youths in politics and governance has been abysmally low. The results usually range from the financial implications and the belief that youths are “inexperienced.” But it is time for the youth to change their status.
In 2018, the Buhari administration signed the #NotTooYoungToRun bill into law, giving young Nigerians leeway to aspire to and contest political positions.
As a result, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended reviewed requirements for occupying elective positions in the country. The age qualification for president is from 40 to 30; governor from 35 to 30; senator from 35 to 30; House of Representatives membership from 30 to 25 and House of Assembly membership from 30 to 25.
The 2019 general election was the first after signing the NotTooYoungToRun Act. The election saw a good move from a young Nigerian, then 37-year-old Nicolas Felix of the People’s Coalition Party (PCP), emerging as the second runner-up with 110,196 votes.
There is a need for a paradigm shift because Nigeria’s teeming youths are dissatisfied; the country’s economy and security infrastructure, among others, are not in good shape.
However, there are many things that the average Nigerian youth must avoid in the forthcoming elections. The first is misinformation— propagandist messages spread over social media about aspirants who have decided to contest political positions. Apart from that, there is a preconceived notion that a youth cannot become the president of Nigeria. It is pertinent for youths to eschew all forms of misinformation that make them believe that they cannot aspire to be in positions of governance. Youth must obtain their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) and actively participate in the voting process.
Rather than being tools in the hands of older politicians, youth must learn to support themselves in couching progressive manifestos and participating in grassroots campaigns. Nigeria’s election is not a reality show where there are online voters and supporters; youths must troop out to the polls on election day to galvanize efforts at improving participation in governance.
The older generation has governed Nigeria for a long, and now, the younger generation must take up the challenge and help contribute to the development of Nigeria. The 2023 elections will be a litmus test for Nigerian youths. It should be different with youths vying for the position of president and other arms of government like the National Assembly, House of Representatives, State Houses of Assembly, and Local Government sectors. The forthcoming 2023 election would be the second after the #NotTooYoungToRun law was signed. The Nigerian youth must take up the opportunity. Youth must not allow the chance to pass by.
Temitope Bademosi is a Writing Fellow at the African Liberty.