Frustrated youths take front seat ahead of elections

A trinity of insecurity, the prohibitive cost of living, and unfavourable economic conditions have coalesced to drive unprecedented grievances in Nigerian youths.

With over 65 million young people aged 10-24, Nigeria has one of the largest youth populations in the world, representing an extraordinary opportunity for development and growth. Yet, the government’s indifference and failure to deliver public goods and keep Nigerians safe are instigating and accelerating the demand for change by Nigeria’s young population.

Millions of students in the country’s public universities have been forced to stay at home since February because of the government’s failure to meet the demands of the Academic Staff Union of Universities. The Nigeria Labour Congress has said that there would be no going back on its planned nationwide strike until the federal government accedes to the demands of the university lecturers.

Young people are a tremendous resource for Nigeria. Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Nigeria Representative, said in March, “Nigeria’s huge youth population represents a great economic potential that guarantees a sure return on investment. They also have the right to fulfill their potential and their dreams. If we get it right in Nigeria, it will make a huge difference for the African continent as a whole.”

The recently released 2022 Africa Youth Survey Report showed that young Nigerians have the most negative opinion in the whole continent about the direction their country is headed, with 95 percent saying things are going badly, citing bad leadership, insecurity and tough economic conditions including rising levels of unemployment as reasons for losing hope in the country and for wanting to get out.

In response, the country’s youths are taking their future into their hands by massively building up their electoral armoury.

Nigeria’s youths make up more than 71 percent of age groups who have completed their Permanent Voters Card registration, while all other age groups; the middle-aged, the elderly, and the old together make up the remaining 29 percent.

In late June, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced that the number of fresh voters registered by the commission stood at 10,487,972. The commission’s data released on July 25, 2022, showed that about 7.8 million youths have been registered; this is more than twice the number of the other age groups that have completed the process to be able to vote.

Read also: Are we striking out the future of Nigerian Youths?

According to a 2018 PEW research report, people 50 years and older are more likely to vote during elections than people within the age range of 18 to 29 years, as against the younger population who participate more in political and social commentaries online.

However, things are beginning to take a dramatic turn in Nigeria. In Osun State, youths played a major role in determining the winner of the recent governorship election. According to data provided by Kimpact Development Initiative, a non-profit organisation in the state and confirmed by the Centre for democracy and Development, 40 percent of voters in the state are between 18 and 34 years old.

A Gallup survey of the past two elections in the country shows that voter turnout was at 35 percent or lower. But with the recent trend in the Osun and Ekiti state elections, where voter turnout was 42.4 percent and 36.7 percent respectively, participation in the 2023 election is expected to increase.

A recent survey by BusinessDay and African Polling Institute shows that 92 percent of Nigerians are looking forward to voting in the 2023 election. The results of the survey show that reviving the economy, tackling insecurity, promoting good governance, personal integrity and character, and strong leadership are the qualities Nigerians are looking out for in the next president.

The introduction of the INEC Result Viewing Portal, elimination of voting points, and the adoption and configuration of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System for voter accreditation, outcomes of the amended Electoral Act are giving youths and the public more confidence in INEC’s commitment to conduct free and fair elections in 2023.

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