Five months to the very critical 2023 polls in Nigeria, the din of political activities is rising.
For a vibrant and boisterous democracy as Nigeria, this is to be expected. What is to be encouraged then is that the outcome is desirable and beneficial.
Indeed to proceed towards this envisaged end result, it is important to do an audit of how far we have gone and how much further we have to go. It is in this way that we can then best situate what needs to be expunged from or added to our current democratic diet as we know it.
At the return of democracy in 1999, the central challenge was to keep the military at bay. Now, 23 years into the journey, we can say that that task has been formally achieved, even when it remains arguable that quite a lot of the impunity and knee-jerk militarism that was at the base of our military rule era still remains with us in confounding and vexing volumes.
A second principal challenge that came with the era of non-democratic rule was the distortion of the federal structure of government. Sadly, that has remained till date with attempts to point the nation to the critical need to correct this travesty continuing to be resisted and frustrated by vested interests that are benefiting from the persisting distortion.
The third major challenge is the alienation of a large segment of the population, namely the youth, from the political process. For very many years, a lot of this very important demographic was largely uninvolved in the country’s governance arena and could symbolically be seen playing football on election days and generally being indifferent to the process.
In the past few years however, this has begun to change and indeed reached a crescendo of sorts in the EndSARS protests against the spate of police brutality in the country. More recently, the youth stirring seems to have found an expression in what is now referred to as the ‘Obidient movement,’ and weekly, if not daily, we see young people undertake mobilisation and expression marches on our streets and cities.
Going down memory lane, there is a sense in which some of this development is reminiscent of how the modern Nigerian state came into its own. For indeed, it was young people that took up the gauntlet in instances like the Iva Valley massacre protest, the Cost of Living Allowance strike, the Bristol Hotel protest, and the Zikist movement activism that contributed very significantly in pushing the colonialists into arranging their exit from the country.
It was also young people that constituted the core nucleus of political associations and parties like the West African Students Union, the Nigeria Youth Movement, the Nigerian National Democratic Party, the National Council of Nigerian Citizens, the United Middle Belt Congress, the Northern Elements Progressive Union and the Action Group, that were to play very notable roles in the political developments leading to the Independence of Nigeria in 1960.
In summary then, it could be said that, young people; the forebears of today’s youth, participated most actively in, if not essentially led the process of decolonisation as well as negotiations for independence between the 1920s and 1960.
As today’s young people take their very welcome place in the nation’s political firmament, this newspaper welcomes them to the field and urges that they be most focused and constructive. This is more so as the fact of their huge demographic, accounting for almost seventy percent of the total population of the country, immediately confers on them the very grave responsibility of being in a most advantageous driver’s seat in what is essentially a game of numbers. They must, therefore, see themselves as taking decisions on behalf of not just themselves, but also the rest of us.
It is plainly true that Nigeria has not been most reasonably and purposefully governed for many years now. Indeed, in more recent years, our governance metrics have sunk really low that the country has become a byword and a parable of how not to run a country.
Without belabouring the point then, it is important to remind our young people that a lot is needed to rightsize the ship of state. And the place to begin is to ensure that their engagements are essentially decorous, civil and lawful.
Everything must be done to not exacerbate the challenges Nigerians are currently burdened with, while they focus single-mindedly on charting out new paths and possibilities for the Nigerian future, alongside the rest of us.