Attahiru Jega, former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, says Nigerian youths are resilient, energetic, and have been instrumental in improving the integrity of Nigerian elections.
Speaking with TheCable on the sidelines of the recently concluded Commonwealth Head of Government Meeting (CHOGM 2018) in Westminster, UK, the professor said he wished the national assembly would pass the not too young to run bill in good time before 2019 elections.
“Leading up to the 2015 general election, we began to see increasing involvement of youths in the electoral process. That involvement, to my mind, has added a lot to the integrity of the elections which were widely acclaimed,” Jega told TheCable.
“But we need to see more of the involvement and participation of youths in elections in Nigeria. The youth have the energy, the resilience and the capacity to improve the integrity of our elections. The youth corps members for example, played commendable roles in the registration of voters and in the management of polling units on election days.”
He added that many youth groups acted as commendable role models in the build up to the successful 2015 elections.
“Also, many youths groups that were identified and used as role models in the 2015 general elections did a lot of commenable work in voter education and sensitisation and getting youths to come and vote, as well as to also get involved in their communities in mobilisng people to come out and vote.
“We have seen the commencement of the positive role of youth in 2015 general elections, compared to the past before that time.”
I WISH NOT TOO YOUNG TO RUN BILL IS PASSED BEFORE 2019
The Bayero University lecturer added that the youth should be given a place in the engagement and participation in politics, and the nation’s youth bulge should be harnessed positively.
“As we move towards the 2019 general election, I want to see greater involvement of the youth, begining with opening spaces for elective positions for the youth. I think the not to young to run initiative is very good,” Jega said.
“I really wish the national assembly will pass the legislation in good time before the 2019 general election, for our youth to use that opportunity to even begin to contest for elective positions.
“There is a general recognition that in Africa, and in Nigeria particularly, because of demographic changes and shift, we have what is called a huge bulge.
“Youth of between 18-35 constitute a large percentage, if not the largest percent of the population and obviously it is an opportunity to use that buldge positiviely because if we do not use it positively, it would be used negatively.
“In fact our politicians in Nigeria have been using youths negatively; using them, arming them, giving them drugs, and mobilising them to disrupt elections or to perpetrate violence.
“Given the rising unemployment situation and increasing poverty, that youth bulge can explode with negative consequences. So, by opening the political space, we would be encouraging the youths to engage their energies in positive participation and engagement in the electoral process, and we better do it preparatory to the 2019 general elections.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This sit-down was done before President Muhammadu Buhari made remarks about the Nigerian youth. Hence, the former INEC chairman was in no way responding to what the president said.