Very recently, I wrote an opinion entitled ‘2023; PVC and Future of the Republic’. The referenced piece among other things narrated how in my effort to obtain my permanent Voters Cards (PVC), I took a trip to one of the Government buildings in Lagos venue of the programme. And in the process, met with courageous Nigerians and came across Nigerian youths, mostly boys with a sprinkle of girls, who narrated how they have met resistance from their own government in the past but refused to give up in their quest to build a better Nigeria.
I listened to them explain that their decision to actively participate in this electoral process was not taken hastily or rashly. But because there is little hope for Nigerians until they become tough-minded enough to break loose from the shackles of prejudice, half-truth, and downright ignorance, noting that a nation that produces soft minded men purchases its own spiritual and socio-economic death at installment plan’.
Expectedly, a chain of reactions trailed the piece.
Majority of commentators rued that with the recent political development documented by the piece, Nigerian youths have gained their pride of place and ready to make political statements come 2023. To others, the above argument may not be as easy as postured as what happens on the day of the election determines who wins.
To further add side light to the present discourse, this piece will spread out two examples of such comments.
First came via a whatsapp message and has to do with the news report that with dropping a kobo, top notch artists assembled to ensure more PVCs are gotten in support of a presidential ambition of a particular candidate in the 2023 general election! President Muhammadu Buhari, they argued, won his presidential position with only 15m votes. But at the moment, over 13m people are registered; these guys are calling for more. Nigeria shall witness the most powerful voting event in history worldwide. This is massive! It concluded.
To another, youths contrary to the above opinion, cannot get to the next phase of the nation’s political project or achieve their leadership vision without a grander mind-set. Getting a Permanent Voters Card is not enough!
Continuing he said; never mind the huge excitement of the excited youths. Though the youth has the noise, they should also learn to understand power, not noise. In politics, experienced politicians are not as agitated as the average Nigerian youth because politics is power; it is not noise or mere youthful ‘drama’. This is the reality everywhere in the world. Politics is not straightforward anywhere like Nigerian youth fantasize it to be. Everything is not based on “competence.” Favour must back competence for competence to be relevant in politics. Sometimes this plays out behind the scenes, away from the impressionable eyes and ears of the gullible youth. If these youths that everyone knows are still the ones in question, then, such effort/paparazzi will soon fizzle out. Majority of the youths registering today will definitely not vote on the day of the election-they lack discipline and patience which are the basic ingredients of the Nigerian electoral process. He concluded.
Indeed, Leadership in Nigeria is in my views not only deformed, but has glaringly become a platform where leaders daily assume self-sufficient attitude, despise others and view self as the exclusive possessor of what he has, as well as claim excellence not possessed. A factor that largely explains current leaders’ inability to provide direction, protection, orientation, shape norms or manage conflicts in their various places of authority and impeded the establishment of a people-centered leadership culture.
In view of these troubling realities, this piece views as right, and supports Nigerian youths’ present resolve to democratically redress the situation come 2023 general election by participating in the electoral process; a move that has prompted many to angle for different political positions including that of the presidency.
However, despite the popularity of this opinion, it is of considerable significance to state that, there are of course probable factors that may render the current move fruitless irrespective of the demographic advantage enjoyed by these youths.
Indeed, the need for a shift in the nation’s leadership structure has become inevitable and eminently desirable to accommodate young technocrats who can take responsibility for their actions and results, be accountable where previous administrations were not, and tell the truth about their failures without blame games.
But, one fundamental obstacle that will prevent this from coming to fruition is the subjective view of the electoral process/positions by the youths as a right which must be given, even in the face of obvious inabilities, and gross absence of planned programmes and pragmatic strategies to making a positive impact by the power-seeking youths.
To Nigerians with discerning minds, electoral exercise as practised the world over is both programme and strategy based and a keen contest where the candidates with the best programme and realistic strategies for achieving that programme is given priority/favoured by the electorates. The youths at the moment, have neither been programme specific nor strategy concerned.
Again, from investigations, seeking an elective position with the aim of effecting political and socioeconomic change is synonymous with fighting for emancipation from captivity which is never voluntarily given without personal sacrifice/ self-denials; as the beneficiaries of the old order will do everything to thwart the moves. Very objectively, Nigerians are yet to see such sacrifice, be it ideological or material from the youths. The situation is even made worse as some of the youths for pecuniary benefits work across purpose while others have settled for political crumbs that fall from ‘the masters’ table.
Certainly, the need to inject youths into positions of authority to ameliorate the present blow of inflation and recession, subsidize education, health, and create employment as well as guarantee security of lives and property has become unavoidable.
It will, however, be antithetical to support a movement based on sentiment or allow sentiment to determine our actions. What the youths currently project in my views, is well-intentioned but pragmatically vague, variable and ungraspable to be taken seriously as their actions and strategies are masked in ambiguity with unclear vision and blurred goals.
For the youths to be taken seriously, therefore, what Nigerians expect is a development of potentials that are politically new, something that is not yet known and not in existence, which will establish new political configurations. This is an imperative demand as their political survival should not be left to chance just as anyone that fails to search for his potential leaves his survival to chance. Very instructive also, the argument for a generational change from the head and the placement of our fate in our youths who had integrity, energy and the drive to recognize that extraordinary conditions call for extraordinary solutions is indispensable but must be accompanied by a reassurance from the youths.
Another contentious challenge that may in the estimation of the vast majority scuttle the present ambition/move is the belief that electoral projects in Nigeria are capital intensive while Nigerian youths are financially placed at the base of the pyramid.
The assertion about the huge financial involvement in my views is in order but may not be completely correct. Such an argument is not only sophistry but antithetical to building a nation devoid of corruption and goes against the global warning on corruption as succulently pointed out.
‘A precondition for an honest government is that candidates must not need large sums to get elected, or it must trigger off the circle of corruption. Having spent a lot of money to get elected, winners must recover their costs and possibly accumulate funds for the next election as the system is self-perpetuating.’
To make an impact in the forthcoming 2023 general election, therefore, what the youths urgently need is the creation of innovative ideas that electorates can buy into, building of alliances/coalition with various pressure groups and being ecumenical in movement with already existing coalitions or political parties.
They need to do something theatrical to make such plan both effective and efficient
Utomi is the Programme Cordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via; email@example.com/08032725374