Opinion | Can Nigeria’s Electoral System Evolve to Represent a New Generation?

Young Nigerians have proven that they have the energy, education, and skill to help fix the problems plaguing their country, but most have become disillusioned because they feel they have no real voice in government. Beyond simply being allowed to participate in elections or run for office, young leaders need a level playing field so that their voices aren’t drowned out by well-established and well-funded political machines. 

What does that level playing field consist of? A multi party system that supports and promotes party supremacy, internal democracy and membership discipline across board. A political party in a popular participatory democracy is a shadow government in the waiting. The ruling party is always subject to the vigilant watch and criticism of the rest of the parties especially, the major opposition party.

Electoral process right from party primary elections is fraught with manipulations, rigging as dictated by the party stalwarts, money bags who run the party affairs like Mafia thing. The culture of money party politics in Nigeria transformed into a monstrous proportion after the return to democracy in the second republic. Party supremacy and discipline was thrown to the winds as Do or Die dictum became the norm. This reality was exercerbated with the influx of retired military officers into the political arena. They came with the mentality of conquest, elimination and domination and corrupt the electoral process in favor of force. Their civilian counterparts joined in the new negative variance of democracy and put the final nail in the coffin of electoral democracy in Nigeria.

It was within this maisma of negative variance of democracy that the generations of youths since the second republic were caught in the emulation paradox.

Socioeconomic and political mobility for them became a herculean task that they have to resort to doing dirty jobs as foot soldiers for party stalwarts and money bags to belong. Just like in the mafioso where you belong to a family by blood or connection to  be assured of rising in the society. The successive generations were coerced to learn how to stand on the shoulders of successful party men on whose dry bones they climb the social ladder. Trapped in this mindset, the tenets of democracy in the context of the youths in Nigeria was brutally desecrated and trampled upon. Political contests through the instrumentality of popular participatory democracy became a war fought with money and guns.

When the voice of change in political consciousness among the Nigerian youths championed; “Not Too Young To Run” campaign for review of the eligibility of contestants in party politics, a new vista was opened, but few discerning minds realized it. Many more saw it as an opportunity to continue from where the old brigades hand over. This of course would tantamount to old wine in new bottles, meaning nothing has changed.

It was at that critical juncture that Generation for Change Africa Initiative embarked on intensive advocacy for political reorientation and leadership training for youths. The leadership crises in Nigeria is a vicious cycle that can only be tamed by a revolutionary political education for the youths to pull them out of alternative knowledge deficit and build a new conscious generation from the ashes of the old. They have been indoctrinated in the parochial ethno religious primordial sentiments that denied them understanding of issue based political engagement. 

Generation for change Africa initiative is poised to set a whole new political consciousness agenda that transcends primordial cleavages to direct attention at issue based and development oriented democracy. The political community must be consciously developed through positive political education to rise above tribal, ethnic and religious sentiments in their electoral choices and voting behavior. The projection is to create a level playing ground that is fertile for the planting, nurturing and propagating of new  alternative ideas to pull the country out of poverty trap caused by alternative knowledge deficit.

This is a mission that must be fulfilled by a new generation of Nigeria’s youths or betrayed to relative opacity as admonished by the legendary fairy revolutionary of his time; Frantz Fanon.

Ameh A. Ogbu is a Nigerian journalist and Convener, Generation For Change Africa Initiative, GFCAI