by Kunle Durojaiye
Over the past year, I have read and heard various perceptions and opinions of young Nigerians regarding the civic duty of voting. In spite of the ongoing campaigns aimed at motivating and stirring the voting spirit, some young folks still seem to be either apathetic or totally against the whole concept.
This apparent apathy is not surprising. For a country whose political system has no obvious trend of justice or fair play, it becomes an arduous task to convince the young populace to believe in, or worse still, partake in it. How do you convince a young high school leaver that university education is the path to his future when he can see his peers foretasting instant wealth from aligning with local government chairmen or ward councillors? Res ipsa loquitur. In the same vein, most young people, logically thinking, cast their minds back on past elections, the pre-event campaigns, the attendant violence, their results, and acclaimed winners. They recall numerous post event tribunal cases (mostly protracted), and the melodrama that beclouded them. For the rational mind the foregoing, certainly begs the question – Why should I vote? Votes in the past have been counted, but didn’t count; voters’ security and safety were hardly guaranteed; results have been declared with votes exceeding the population in the region; spurious voters cards (with names like Michael Jackson) have been reported in several cases! It certainly makes no logical sense to vote…the past bears witness!
So what then? Is this a lost battle? If votes never really counted, will they count now? There are no easy answers to these questions. However, the defining question to pose is this – Does the past determine the future? Statisticians will suggest that with past experiential data, we may predict future ‘possible’ occurrences by regression analysis, based on the same variables. What happens where the variables change?
It has often been said that you cannot change your background, but you can affect your foreground and influence your future-ground. While we have no control over when or where we were born, or even how we grew up, we can choose the kind of lives we want to live now and in the future. Yes, we acknowledge the past and we embrace our history, but we choose not to allow it to become a limiting factor to our present progress. We learn from the past, affect the present, and influence the future.
Nigeria’s demography (2010 estimate) shows that over 40% of the population is between ages 15 and 39. This age group currently holds the controlling share in terms of population size. A shareholder with controlling stakes in a firm has the power and influence to create change in the firm, by his vote! This category is the ‘Nigerian Youth’, latent with the power to influence positive change in the growth of such a great nation. It is very possible that in the past, this age category was unable to wield the force of critical mass. Today, however, with aggressive ongoing campaigns like RSVP (Register.Select.Vote.Protect) and Enough is Enough Nigeria, there is a growing awareness, an increasing aggregation. It will be difficult to shout down the voices of at least 45 million young people. From the north to the south, the east to the west, critical mass is forming, young people are getting together, and the stage is being set. A man who refuses to speak will never be heard. Your vote is your voice. It is not a sound to the past, but a note to the future.
Our country contends today with the forces of bad governance, dilapidated infrastructure, inconsistent policies, poor accountability, and the mother of all, corruption. In response to these prevailing issues, many young people sit at evening hang-outs on a typical Friday evening, complaining, counter-complaining, buck-passing, blame-gaming and what not. They rise to leave, yet with their eyes focused only on the past and what brought us to this point. It is time to make that shift from merely acknowledging our past failures, and analysing current political imbroglio, to active participation in the determination of our future. Your vote is your future.
So, young Nigerian, will you sit unperturbed and maintain status quo? The era of ‘siddon look’ is fading away. The clouds are gathering, the people are rising, and change is imminent. Do not be left out!
Kunle Durojaiye holds a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Ibadan. He has worked in the consulting and oil & gas industries, and is currently enrolled on the MBA program at Cranfield School of Management, UK.