2023 General Elections and Nigerian Youths
The Fourth Republic of Nigeria will hold its seventh straight general elections this weekend and early the following month, specifically on February 25 and March 11. There is no denying that the elections will decide the future of the nation for this vivacious, irrepressible, articulate, and highly intellectual Gen Z, who are between the ages of 18 and 35.
Frantz Fanon, a renowned psychiatrist from Martinique, was alluding to society’s young people when he wrote in his classic book “The Wretched of the Earth” that “Each generation must discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it, in relative opacity.”
The actions taken by Nigerian youths in the run-up to the upcoming elections and the roles they will play during the elections are listed below. As you are probably aware, there are three phases to the electoral cycle: pre-election, election, and post-election. Nigerian youths volunteered with the Independent National Electoral Commission to register voters during the Continuous Voter Registration period, which ran from June 28, 2021, to July 31, 2022, as part of the election preparation process. Nigerian youths were also employed by the commission as registration officers. Additionally, they were employed in the distribution of the Permanent Voter Cards, which were discontinued on February 5, 2023.
Many Nigerian youths between the ages of 25 and 35 have been running for various political offices during the pre-election phase as a result of the much-heralded “Not-Too-Young-To-Rule” change to the age requirement for certain political offices in the Nigerian Constitution in 2018. They have mostly been running for council positions, state houses of Assembly, and the House of Representatives. These positions have a minimum age requirement of 25 years. Therefore, it is not surprising that thousands of young people who won their party primaries were nominated as candidates by their political parties. How well they will perform in the general elections is still unknown.
Millions of young people in Nigeria have registered to vote during the period under consideration. Youths (18 to 34) make up the largest demographic in the upcoming election, according to INEC, with 37,060,399 of them making up 39.65 percent of the National Register of Voters. 26,027,481 (27.2%) of this total are students. Is it surprising that the National Universities Commission ordered last week that universities and interuniversity centres close from February 22 to March 14 in preparation for the general elections of 2023? This will prevent the disenfranchisement of Nigerian students who may have registered at home during the eight-month university strike in 2022.
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Regarding the statistics of those who have registered to vote in the upcoming elections, middle-aged people (those between the ages of 35 and 49) make up 33,413,591 or 35.75% of the total number of registrants, which INEC estimated to be 93,469,008. A total of 75.40 percent of the electorate will vote in the upcoming election after adding 39.65 young people and 35.75 middle-aged people.
The INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, stated that the commission was completing the issuance of 1,642,386 identification tags for the polling and collation agents nominated by the 18 political parties, consisting of 1,574,301 polling agents and 68,085 collation agents, during his meeting with leaders of political parties on Monday, February 13, 2023.
Given the demanding nature of the work they are expected to do on Election Day, it is safe to assume that the majority of these polling and collation agents are selected from the youth category.
Civil society organizations, including YIAGA Africa and a number of youth-focused organizations, mobilized Nigerians, particularly youths, to register during the Continuous Voter Registration during the pre-election period. To encourage young people to register and pick up their PVCs, they organized musical performances, seminars, town halls, radio jingles, television commercials, and newspaper advertisements. They also launched social media campaigns. In one instance, Frontline Youth Creativity Initiative even offered to provide financial assistance to people who had registered to vote but had not yet received their PVCs.
In preparation for the upcoming election, INEC hired an estimated 1.4 million pro-tem workers, including presiding officers, assistant presiding officers I, II, and III, collation officers, returning officers, registration area centre technicians, and managers. They are the ones who will conduct the elections and are primarily recruited from federal universities and the National Youth Service Corps programme. Only graduates under 30 are encouraged to sign up for the NYSC programme, proving that Nigerian youth will be in charge of organizing the general elections in 2023.
Over a million accredited observers will visit each of the 176,606 polling places where the elections will take place next week (elections will not hold in 240 polling units according to INEC Chairman for security reasons). The majority of these observers will also be young people, between the ages of 18 and 35. They must provide unbiased and fair coverage of the polls.
No one can deny that over a million young people will make up the combined security forces that will be used to enforce and guarantee election security before, during, and after the elections. The majority of the authorized security officers who will monitor the polls will be nimble and vivacious youths, though they will be overseen by their seniors.
The accredited journalists who will be trained and sent out to cover the election will be another group of young people involved in the upcoming elections. It is also crucial to mention those who will provide INEC with logistical support for the transportation of election personnel and supplies.
Over 100,000 bus, truck, and boat drivers will be employed by INEC to assist in this laborious task of moving election staff and materials. On election days, everyone from accredited observers to journalists to polling and collation agents will need drivers to get them around. Even security agents will need drivers for their vehicles. These drivers are primarily young people as well.
The main argument is that young people will run the 2023 general elections and choose the new generation of leaders who will represent the 1,491 constituencies where voting will take place on February 25 and March 11. The future of Nigeria will be shaped by how the youths choose to take on this crucial role. I urge all the outstanding and unstoppable young people who volunteered to play various roles to do so honorably and professionally. Those youths who are being encouraged to attack political opponents and set INEC buildings on fire should stop and join the band of honorable and patriotic youths who will be praised for their contributions to Nigeria’s democratic consolidation.
2023 Elections: The Role of Nigerian Youths