As the movement towards the 2015 general elections reaches a crescendo, the citizens are eagerly looking forward towards the election of credible leaders into different positions of authority.
While most citizens pray for the election of trustworthy leaders who will pilot the affairs of the nation in the next four years, Nigerians youths, however, express some reservations.
Some concerned youths note that in previous elections, young Nigerians were only engaged as thugs by some unscrupulous politicians to foment trouble.
They recall that some youths were also used to perpetrate electoral crimes such as ballot boxes’ snatching, harassment of political opponents, as well as riots and other forms of electoral violence.
Although available statistics show that Nigerian youths constitute 43 per cent of the nation’s population, most of the young citizens are largely unemployed and marginalised in the country’s political calculations.
However, the youth have somewhat resolved to rectify the situation in the forthcoming general elections in 2015.
They have vowed to resist the often-recycled retrogressive leaders of the country, while restructuring the nation’s political climate.
Mr Jude Imagwe, the Senior Special Assistant to President Goodluck Jonathan on Youth and Student Matters, says that in 2015, Nigerian youths will brace to their expectations in efforts to transform Nigeria,
He, nonetheless, urges the youth to take advantage of their numerical strength by voting in credible leaders who would facilitate the transformation of the country.
Imagwe insists that through such concerted efforts, peace would reign in the country, while the dream of a better future for Nigerian youths would be achieved.
“Going by our numeral strength, we, the youth, dominate the electorate.
“Let us translate our superiority in numbers into voting in credible leaders who can stimulate the country’s transformation; those who can facilitate the fulfilment of our dreams.
“Above all, let us tell those persons, who feel that the only time we can be called upon is the time of destruction and violence, that enough is enough.
“Let us stop being used as agents of destruction, because the future of Nigeria belongs to our generation; we have more at stake than the older generation that wants to use us to destroy our country.
“So, the elders should allow us to enjoy peace and they give peace a chance,’’ he says.
Sharing similar sentiments, Mr Kenneth Okoineme, a Policy and Campaigns Officer for ActionAid, an international organisation, says that young Nigerians must find a way to redefine the agenda for the country’s development.
He stresses that the youth should use their numerical strength to set the agenda for good governance in Nigeria via their active participation in the country’s political processes, including elections.
“One of the challenges we have as youths is the kind of orientation we have today; we have a lot of young people who are not interested in how the country is being governed.
“We must provide spaces and platforms for the youth to come together and talk about nation-building strategies,’’ he says.
Okoineme says that Actionaid is using a platform known as “Activista’’ — a youth advocate group — to provide opportunities for young people to get together and discuss topical issues in their localities and proffer solutions.
However, Miss Bushrah Yusuf, a journalist, urges the youth to vote rightly and set aside every form of religious and ethnic sentiments in efforts to provoke positive changes in the country.
“We are expecting a positive turnaround in our country’s affairs but we ought to be the agents of change.
“So, we must stand up for the change by voting for the right candidates, irrespective of religious and ethnic sentiments; we must also eschew election violence,’’ she says.
Nevertheless, Mr Danielson Bamidele, the Secretary, Coalition of Nigeria Youths for Good Governance, insists that government and non-governmental organisations should mobilise Nigerian youths to refrain from violence and any form of electoral malpractices in 2015.
He underscores the need for the youth to get involved in intellectual and leadership activities as the 2015 election approaches, instead of being used as thugs.
Bamidele argues youth leaders to channel their energy into worthwhile ventures which would promote the inculcation of leadership qualities in young Nigerians, while grooming them for leadership positions in the country’s state of affairs.
Mrs Cornelia Paul, a 42-year-old school teacher, particularly decries a situation where youths are not encouraged to take up leadership positions in the country even when they are duly qualified for the posts.
“It is unfair, since my days in the primary school, our teachers made us to believe that we were the leaders of tomorrow and we eagerly looked forward to the fulfilment of that prophecy.
“But now, I’m almost a grandmother and my grandfather’s mates are still willing to rule us forever.
“They should please step aside and give the young ones a chance, the youth should at least constitute 30 per cent of the country’s ruling class,’’ she says.
However, Paul is not alone in the calls for more involvement of the youth in the country’s governance.
Dr Mourtada Deme, Project Director, United Nations Development Project (UNDP), made a similar call at a recent national youth conference on Democratic Governance and Development in Abuja,
He particularly urged Nigerian youths to participate in political activities.
While decrying the exploitation of youths by politicians, Deme advised political parties to strengthen youth participation in politics, saying: “Genuine political parties do not need a youth militia wing’’.
On the whole, observers believe that with the right information and environment, young Nigerians can thrive better in the political arena, as partners in the nation-building efforts.
They, nonetheless, note that factors such as unemployment, poverty and educational deficiencies are still militating against youth development aspirations in the country.
“If these factors, among others, are effectively tackled, Nigerian youths will be able to play dominant roles in the nation-building efforts,’’ some of the observers say.