AMAKE DOROTHY and HOPE EKELE take a look at the role of students in the 2019 general elections and report that students are the major mobilisers in the elections.
Youth as leaders of tomorrow
It is said that youths are the leaders of tomorrow. This assertion is hardly practical in Nigeria. Elections are democratic means of changing governments all over the world. Successful conduct of periodic elections engenders legitimacy of the government and reduces political tensions. Once elections are flawed, delivery of good governance is truncated and leadership confusion erupts like wild fire. This may stir up conflicts in the polity.
Nigeria in the past had had histories of flawed elections. This usually stirred up violence before, during and after elections. Electoral violence is most often perpetrated by the youth recruited and armed by political elite.
Year in year out, we hear politicians and their usual statement, “The youth are the future of the country.” Well, the truth about that statement is still in the court of public opinion. But to say the fact, the youth have been let down many times by the leaders, who have continued to tell them that they are the leaders of tomorrow, yet they don’t want to commit anything into their hands. They want to hold on to power till death.
The painful reality is that, the youth have not leveraged on the power they have to make a progressive change. They have failed to explore the population and strength of the youth. Majority of the voting populace is made up of youths; they have the social media to their advantage, yet they have failed to live up to the billing.
The strength of any nation lies in the hands of its youth. In developed world, the youth play significant roles in the development of their country. But in Nigeria, the youth have been relegated to the background when it comes to decision making.
Who are the youth?
We are talking about adults from ages 18 to 45. Going by this age bracket, a larger percentage of the electorate are youths. The mobilisers for politicians are youths. Based on these facts, the role of the youths before, during and after elections cannot be underestimated.
In previous elections, the youth played significant roles that pulled the country to the brink; they were ready tools in the hands of vote robbers and agents of violence who subverted the will of the people. It is also worthy to note that many youths stood on the path of progress, that is, those who could not be bought by moneybags.
Although a larger percentage of youth mortgaged their future over filthy lucre and joined criminals to perpetrate electoral violence.
Going back to what happened after the 2011 general elections, which culminated in the declaration of Dr Goodluck Jonathan as the winner of the flawed elections, nine corps members serving in Bauchi were killed. Who killed them? Our youths did it, all in the name of protest against an electoral manipulation.
Where are the politicians’ children?
Among the candidates seeking our votes are selfish politicians whose children are in safe place abroad, but want young men and women to foment trouble should their interest be threatened by election results.
The youth must reject politicians asking them to cause violence. If the youth are willing to make their stand known, then it will send a signal to the proponents of violence that they have changed. The youth should also demand change in the way electioneering is conducted.
Permanent voter cards
How many students have collected their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs)? Elections are not won on the social media. Using a particular candidate’s picture on social media will not make such candidate win election. Rather, the process starts from registering and collecting the PVCs and coming out to cast votes on election days. Nigerian students between the age of 18 and 35 years are the highest population of voters.
Students constitute the highest population of Nigerians registered to vote in the 2019 general elections, according to data made available by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), out of a total of 84,004,084 registered voters, 22,320,990 are students, constituting 26.57 per cent of the total registered voters
It is a pity that we are in the internet age, but we are not ready to toe the path of technology. So, while we are agitating on the social media, we should be ready to cast our vote for our preferred candidates too.
We cannot afford to miss that point, for any mistake we make will haunt us for another four years.
Vote buying and selling
If any politician gives you rice or money, it won’t even last for four days, but we may have sold out our four years if we are induced by the money to vote wrong candidates. Generations yet unborn will not be happy with us if we make the wrong choice. In Nigeria, we see politicians engage a number of youths as thugs and hired killers, among others, to maim, kill and destroy their perceived opponents.
social media and general election
Social media have played the role of assisting the news industry disseminate information faster and increasing the public’s accessibility to facts surrounding newsworthy events .
A youth corps member, Akinyemi Lawani, described news media as an integral part of “our daily activities in the 21st century.”
Lawani said that candidates running for various positions have been able to reach a wide range of people across the country and receive feedback from them through social media.
“Social media also play a vital role in sensitising the people on their voting rights and encouraging them to shun bribery and violence.
“With increased access to and consumption of information across interactive news media, it is not hard to see why youths depend on social media for up-to-date coverage of political events. Social media have allowed us to share our opinions and ideas with the rest of the world. However, we should understand that our opinions are just opinions without facts. Hence, we should avoid imposing our personal opinions and views on public matters.
Youth and political violence
Indeed, the continued resurfacing of political violence and thuggery are hinged on certain factors within and outside Africa. Among other things, what makes youths vulnerable to the acceptance of thuggery include the phenomenon of godfatherism in African politics, desperate attitude of party leaders and members, money politics, foreign manipulation of political activities in Africa, etc.
Gangs of all the political parties and in some cases, ethnic groups, seeking for political domination in Africa, are made up of thugs who are usually drug addicts. They are aggressive, rough and dangerous, who are either school dropouts, boys and girls from broken homes or societal outcast who are willing and able to cause trouble and spill blood.
By implication, youths who are socially downcast and from broken homes become the cheap articles for politicians who are looking for those who will do their bidding. This in furtherance now makes it possible for political violence to continue as long as such categories of youth continue to be available. Of course, where there are no youths who are willing to foment trouble for the politicians, the reserved option will be bitterness expressed through the available media channels.
Godfatherism though not absolutely in all parts of Africa, engenders political violence and encourage political thuggery of which the youth are tools for realising them.
Historically, the phenomenon of godfatherism can be traced to orthodox churches, especially the Roman Catholic Church after baptism. According to the doctrinal injunction after catechisms and other teaching processes, the new convert was expected to have a guarantor, appropriately referred to as the godfather. The godfather was expected to oversee, supervise and guide the actions of the convert now appropriately referred to as godson or the goddaughter.
In the context of most African politics, the godfather is the man or woman who has enormous goodwill and respect of the people, so much that his belief system represents those of his people.
Godsons maintain army of thugs who intimidate political opponents, snatch ballot boxes during elections and play other key roles in the manipulation of election results in accordance with the wishes of the godfather.
Godfatherism as a factor in perpetuation of political violence manifests in the way they provide money for more youth to be lured into violence during election in order to make sure their interests are secured. Of course, their interest is to make sure the godsons or daughters win elections at all costs for their investment in politics to yield profits
Student thugs during the general elections