Uncertainty around 2023 and Gbajabiamila’s message to youths

Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila

As Nigeria inches daily close to the 2023 general elections, so also is the deepening level of uncertainties surrounding the expected outcomes, mostly on who or which political party might clinch victory of the presidency. JOSHUA EGBODO writes on the recent admonition of Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila to young Nigerians.

Mounting tension

Though the campaigns for next year’s general elections will  formally commence next month, politicians under the cover of consultations have been meeting with stakeholders across the nation.  

As usual, such engagements were apparently not devoid of political statements, which in the aftermath usually generate one form of reaction or another. 

The country’s electoral umpire; the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had in its activity schedules for the polls, fixed period for the presidential and National Assembly election campaigns for between September 22, 2022 and midnight of February 23, 2023. 

It similarly fixed that of governorship and state Houses of Assembly polls for between October 12, 2022 and March 9, 2023.

However, analysts have pointed out the extreme polarisation of the country along religious and ethnic lines, blaming the development on politicians, other leaders and their respective followers. 

According to such pundits, there have been comments and assertions which were at times, made unguardedly, some legal, others illegal, some civilized, and many more uncivilized, leaving vulnerable followers to absorbing them without filtration.

Social media, fake news as catalyst 

Followers of the ongoing politicking have been quick at also blaming the mounting tensions on the massive use of the social media, which they argued that unlike the conventional platforms where there are great measure of controls and consequences, had no responsibility to anybody or authority as regulator(s). 

To this end, they said fake news, outright falsehoods and hate speeches targeted at figures on the opposing sides of the pushers’ divides have become the order. 

The greater danger, they further noted, was the flexibility of available multimedia options and the ease of make-believe manipulations, and or modification of content, which in the end attract massive traffic and dangerous widespread.

Police cautions

With the worrisome trend taking a more dangerous dimension by the day, the Nigeria Police Force has recently been reported to have cautioned politicians to shun violence as well as advice their supporters against threatening voices in the run-up to the 2023 general elections, adding that such actions have their attending consequences under the law.

Freedom of choice

All extant laws and known conventions unequivocally uphold the freedom of choice of candidates by the electorates in a democratic environment, but such in practice have been repeatedly abused in this climes, as there have usually been reported cases of thuggery, voter intimidation, violence, ballot stuffing, snatching of ballot boxes and at the extreme; open votes buying. These to many pundits always leave the credibility of our election outcomes being questioned.

Gbajabiamila task youths

As debate on the who should be the right choice for Nigerians in the 2023 presidential election continue, Speaker of the House of Representatives in a recent engagement with a youth group, advised the youngsters not to make mistakes. To many, his choice of the young people was not out of place, but rather strategic, as all demographic data confirmed the segment as one with the largest voting population in the country.

Gbajabiamila during the engagement which he virtually participated last Friday told the  youths that the choices they make at the next general elections will determine the outcome, and to a greater extent, the fate of the country. 

The event was tagged; Youth and Social Development Summit, organized by the Gbaja Professionals Volunteers Network (GPVN) in Abuja, to mark the 2022 edition of the United Nations International Youth Day.

The speaker described as “unfortunate”, the tone and divisive nature of political conversations dominating the social/media space ahead of the 2023 presidential election”, as to him, facts-based analysis and objective evaluation and assessment of issues and individuals have taken the back seat.

“What happens in that election and the kind of nation we will consequently have will depend greatly on the choices young people make in the lead-up to that election and at the polling booth. It is unfortunate that the political conversations about the forthcoming elections have become dominated by the loud voices of division and derision for whom politics is a contact sport designed to inflict the greatest harm on the individuals and the body politic.

“These voices have elevated fake news over facts and the politics of grievance and victimhood over studied consideration of the policy questions and answers that will determine the fate of the young people who make up the majority of our population. You must resist this. It is time for the voices of reason and compromise, whose manifest desire is to be part of the solution, to seize the debate, and make their voices heard.

“This Summit is part of that effort to refocus the public debate on matters of substance and consequence, and I am honoured to be associated with it”, he said.

But the tilt

Understandably to many, Gbajabiamila is one of the known political sons of presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Ahmed Bola Tinubu, but his (Gbajabiamila’s) decision to narrow down a programme expected to offer youths a guide in making the right choices in the coming poll, to a person of his interest have been questioned. 

To such, there had been a tilt, which may hamper the expected wider participation of the targeted population group. Others have opined however that it was clear as a volunteer group for the speaker, and so his interest must be a priority.

Ggbajabiamila had informed participants that the Summit was targeted at unveiling the Digital Ideas Bank, and establishment of a policy faculty whose job is to collate the views generated by the summit for transformation in policy proposals for Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.

“Two important things are going to happen at this Summit. First, the unveiling of a Digital Ideas Bank for Nigerians and friends of the country here and abroad to send in their ideas about the changes they wish to see and their recommendations on making those changes possible. Secondly, a Policy Faculty will be established to collate, review and cohere these ideas and suggestions into practical policy proposals. These proposals will be presented to guide the campaign and, hopefully, the Presidency of His Excellency Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu….”, he said.

In action

True to the speaker’s Friday promises, the group has commenced activities. “The Gbaja Professionals Volunteer Network (GPVN) has launched its Digital Ideas’ Bank from which a virile policy document on youth, economic and social development will be developed.

The document is to be presented to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu for possible implementation upon his assumption of office as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Insha Allah”, Chief Press Secretary to the speaker, and Chairman of the faculty, Musa Abdullahi Krishi announced through a social media platform on Sunday.

Participation encouraged

Like the social mobilisation in the wake of the just ended Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) by INEC, Nigerians, irrespective of the backgrounds have been encouraged by civic rights groups to participate in the election of their leaders, as apathy can never be the best alternative. 

“I encourage you to spread the message to your friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances. Tell them they too can be a part of building a nation that meets their best expectations,” Gbajabiamila encouraged youths, and it was a message pundits agree, should spread.

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