By Niran Adedokun
Take the return to civil rule in 1999, for instance. 23 years on, there is hardly any story of pride. The economy, despite its expansion, serves the interests of only a few; national institutions are completely paralysed; corruption has taken on a life of its own; unemployment is at an all-time high; the people are more divided than ever and, worst of all, lives have become unsafe, if not worthless. Nigeria has been at its lowest for years on end, and the youths are now determined not to have it any longer.
So, on social media and physical platforms these days, youths sell 2023 as the year of change and are preparing for the elections. First, there is a massive campaign for youths to get their permanent voters cards, be ready to vote and defend those votes.
As part of the package, the preponderance of Nigerian youths also seems to have made up their minds concerning whom to vote for. They say it is the time to retire the two major parties, the ruling All Progressive Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party, both of which comprise people who have had roles in the misadventure of the past 60 years.
As much as it is the right of youths to make this change happen, since it’s all about their future, there must be a sense of caution in the ways we go about and execute this determination.
The first point to make is that Nigerians, young or otherwise, cannot afford to make emotional decisions now. Some will disagree but this was the decision that Nigerians made in 2015 and seem to have jumped from frying pan to fire.
We must be clear-minded about the choices that we make in the coming elections. We should not be swayed by any form of propaganda or window-dressing. As manifestoes are usually not worth more than the paper they are written on in Nigeria, and political rallies are jamborees of paid loyalists where politicians hawk little other than entertainment, leaders of this movement for change must be clear about the characteristics and competencies Nigeria’s 21st leader should possess.
They must then interrogate claims to those capacities.
The second thing is that elections are neither contested nor won on social media. Those who want to change Nigeria must prepare to get their hands dirty and step into the ring.
If Nigerian youths unite behind a particular candidate, they must be ready to convince others about the credentials of their candidate by embarking on grassroots mobilisation of the people. A substantial number of those who make up this demography are in the rural areas, without education and enough education to read between the lines that the movers of this change idea have identified.
It must also be said that in trying to convert other people to voting, we should eliminate every form of righteous indignation. A corollary to this is that youths cannot do it alone, so we must make efforts to covert even those who belong to the old order.
Politics is not just about good or evil; it is about individual persuasions, mostly governed by the level of understanding and, sometimes, personal interests. That is why democracy gives politicians the opportunity to campaign and win people over. And even when we don’t win them over, we must continue to respect their right to hold an opinion. Ultimately, Nigeria has dealt a significant blow to the psyche of most citizens and making enemies of one another helps no one.
Finally, we must realise that change is not just about elections. When the candidate of choice wins, work is just starting. A lot of things affect politicians when they get into office, that is why someone said they campaign in verse and govern in prose.
The only way to ensure they remain focused on their promises and the needs of the people is to keep a tab on them and continually take them to the task. Citizens have no business romancing or getting star-struck by politicians. It is possible to change those ruling Nigeria in 2023 but that would only be the beginning of the change that Nigeria needs.