It brooks no argument that youths play a critical role in the life of every nation.
Nigeria is unarguably the most youthful nation in the world, with young adults between ages 18 and 35 making up over 50 per cent of the nation’s over 180 million population.
This makes Nigeria potentially one of the richest nations in terms of human capital resources. Unfortunately, in spite of the huge youth population which should portend a viable economy and productive nation, it is on record that the youths remain one of Nigeria’s albatrosses due to high rate of unemployment, youth restiveness, drug abuse, cultism and high rate of crime among several other societal ills.
A worrying incidence in our political history has been that the youths most often become tools in the hands of promoters of election violence who sponsor them to violate the electoral process in their desperate bid to grab power at all costs.
Electoral violence occurs before, during and after elections. Pre-election violence usually begins with mudslinging with the use of hate speech and other abusive language during campaigns. More often than not, this is more visible on social media as supporters of various parties and candidates seek to outdo one another in throwing barbs at their opponents.
During the election proper, young supporters become veritable tools for ballot snatching, vote selling and buying, voter intimidation and thuggery.
Post-election violence results from supporters opposing results announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). At this point supporters of losing candidates often become violent, claiming their candidates had been cheated of victory.
In 2011, the Human Rights Watch reported that deadly election-related and communal violence in northern Nigeria, following the April 2011 presidential vote, left more than 800 persons dead and over 65,000 people displaced.
The 2015 election was one also where tension remained high as fear of electoral violence pervaded the country, especially the northern parts, over the possible rejection of the outcome of the presidential election. However, that was nipped in the bud as the then president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, took an unprecedented step in African politics by congratulating his main challenger, Muhammadu Buhari, while the votes were still being counted.
This newspaper considers it pertinent to remind the youths that they have a very important responsibility towards the successful conduct of this year’s general elections. They need to understand that in every electoral contest, there must be a winner and a loser; that democracy is not a feudal or autocratic system of government where leaders are foisted on the citizens by few persons, rather they emerge by testing their popularity and acceptability through elections, and that those who try to recruit them to cause violence are desperate people who do not wish the well, otherwise they would not keep their own children out of harm’s way in foreign schools whereas they use other people’s children as political thugs and make them do things that put their lives and careers in danger.
Another general election is just weeks away and the hint of election violence is thick in the air as supporters of various candidates have continued to fling inappropriate words to discredit the opponents of their desired candidates on social media.
To address this ugly trend, this newspaper is of the opinion that the media, civil society organisations (CSOs), political parties and indeed various religious bodies and organisations must be involved in voter education.
Other stakeholders like parents, traditional rulers and religious leaders should play an active role in enlightening their children/wards, subjects, faithful and all those under their control and influence on the correct and acceptable voter behaviour. Parents, especially, should monitor their children and wards closely this election cycle to keep them away from being recruited by desperate politicians.
Also, candidates running for various positions should make a deliberate effort to counsel their supporters on the need to practise decorum and place value on the life and property of fellow countrymen by not causing any harm to either.
As a newspaper, we urge the youths to realise that the future of this nation belongs to them and that it is in their best interest not to engage in any actions capable of undermining that future. They should start by saying a firm no to being used to derail the smooth conduct of next month’s general election.
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