2015 elections: Take note, youths have arrived! (1)

nysc-corpers-attacked-CopyLOOKING back at previous elections in Nigeria and the reactions that followed after announcing results, a well meaning Nigerian would naturally be burdened about how the giant of Africa would scale through the important test of 2015 general elections.

Nigeria is the most populous black nation in the world, and key when it comes to Africa’s development; peaceful conduct of elections can only shape the future of Nigeria’s democracy and as well expand the frontiers of democracy in Africa.

As the presidential election rescheduled for March 28, 2015 drew nearer, the world began to watch Nigeria. As a resource person to the African Union on the implementation of African Youth Charter and through my engagement at the global stage courtesy UNDP, UNHABITAT, UNESCO, UNAOC among others, the most questions friends of Nigeria asked me outside our official thematic areas of engagements were all about the success of 2015 elections and the roles of Nigerian youth in expanding the frontiers of democracy in our country.

The answer to this question then varies and was already a subject of debate and analysis in Nigeria. Nonetheless, there was a hardening consensus that something had to be done about it.

But what? Given the lack of a collective and institutional memory about electoral challenges and its damaging effects on all aspects of the society, clearly new approaches to these old problems were necessary.

The roles of the Nigerian youth are fundamental as our democracy is still work in progress. The numerical strength of the youth is vital enough to determine who wins the presidential election.

As a young professional and after studying the body language of my co-active young citizens in their hundreds, we all understood perfectly the nature of task ahead of us.

If we get it wrong, omitted our responsibilities in building our nation or allowed ourselves to be used by unscrupulous political actors as tools of violence to disrupt our hard earned democracy, the damage of breaching such public peace and public order may be mutagenic, carcinogenic, teratogenic and injurious to our democratic system.

We needed a patriotic stand whether apolitical or irrespective of peoples’ political affiliations. While I was thinking about a nationwide initiative that would build a culture of peace before, during and after the elections among our youths as United Nation Peace Ambassador, the Commonwealth Youth Council (CYC) from United Kingdom appointed me and few other young Nigerians as its Youth Campaign Against Election Violence (Y-CAEV) Ambassador in Nigeria. To us, the work to deepen our democracy has begun.

We believed that in conjunction with traditional media, a newer approach using online social media tools and strategies to complement existing efforts will open up a dynamic new front in achieving free, fair, credible and violence free 2015 general elections.

Given the inherent flattened hierarchies of the Internet, the democratisation of access to information, and the demographics of Nigeria’s Facebook, Twitter among others and smart phones generation, we knew that a new type of engagement and advocacy was possible in Nigeria.

Youth driven initiatives such as Enough Is Enough-(EIE), Constitutional Rights Awareness and Liberty Initiative-(CRALI), Community Agenda for Peace-(CAP), and YIAGA, African Youths Initiative on Crime Prevention –(AYICRIP) to mention but a few (Pardon me if other active organisations are not mentioned simply because of the required character of this article) and numerous young Nigerians with physical and virtual influence, began direct and indirect preliminary scrutiny and/or selection processes of youth activists, relative technology experts.

On Youth stakeholders’ consultations, most especially CRALI did well in involving communications. AYCRIP and CAP for example established strategic partnership with major youth networks, selected youth civil society organisations, youth leaders, political actors across Nigeria and development partners such as U.S. Consulate, Lagos and United Nations Information Centers (UNIC), Lagos, respectively towards building a strong buy-in and vast inter relation structure.

In all these activities by individuals and different youth platforms, young Nigerians all had clear objectives.

They wanted initiatives that would build the culture of peace and achieve violence free 2015 general elections; Initiatives/campaigns that would enlighten people to freely and actively participate in the 2015 general elections; and police the electoral processes from the beginning till the end.

Via both physical and virtual gatherings of these young active citizens such as youth activists, technology experts, bloggers and the media, they all designed their initiatives to share best practices, analyse the daunting challenges of popularising and layman-understanding of the electoral processes in Nigeria.

The popular #RSVP code on invitation cards to events was creatively transformed by EIE to ‘Register to vote, select credible candidate, vote candidate of your choice, and Protect your vote.’ CRALI did not to stop also through its #KnowYourRightsNigeria on social media and #KnowYourConstitution initiative on UNILAG 103.1 FM to educate Nigerians on their civic rights, responsibilities and simplifying the electoral law, electoral processes to the understanding of ordinary man.

• To be continued.
• Oyinlade is a lawyer, youth policy, human rights and international law expert. He tweets via @AdeolaOyinlade.

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