Nnaemeka is a 17 year-old student, who has followed Nigerian political conversation in the recent time. He sees himself more as a Lagosian than an Owerri boy, in Imo State, his state of origin. He can count how many times his father has taken him to his home town where they usually spend a few days only.
Whenever they travel to the village on a few occasions, Nnaemeka sees it just as a visit than going to his home town. There are many boys and girls like him in the cities today.
In the last presidential election, Nnaemeka said he would have voted for Peter Obi of Labour Party but for his age. According to him, this is not because Obi comes from Eastern region of Nigeria but because “many people support him and they see him as intelligent and shrewd administrator, who can handle Nigeria’s economic challenges”.
Many youths like Nnaemeka across regions of North, West, East and South-South geopolitical zones think nationalism than tribes because most of their friends in schools cut across tribes and they relate well. Again, they are yet to be enmeshed in the ethnic noise. They want good for the country.
These youths, who are below 35 years, have been exposed to social media and better conditions outside the country, and are not really pleased with the quality of life in Nigeria where infrastructure is poor, jobs are scarce, electricity is epileptic, health and education sectors are begging for attention, police brutality is high, corruption is on the increase and indiscipline is a norm. All these have combined to create ‘Japa’ syndrome (Emigration for Golden Fleece).
This and more factors are what informed the massive participation of the youth across regions in the last presidential election to create the necessary changes that will see reversal of the sordid and repugnant socio-economic situation in Nigeria. For those who cannot emigrate, there must be change.
Nigeria has a burgeoning youthful population of about 75 percent of its 210 million population, who need encouragement and support to succeed in their various skills, ingenuity and creativity; but they are daily disappointed. They need leaders who can turn things around. These youths started early to express themselves in the social media of the kind of leader they want in the 2023 election.
It was therefore baffling to the youth, who see themselves first as Nigerians than their tribes, to hear that voting in the last presidential election was along ethnic lines. This is the dummy created by older politicians who are tribal champions and see themselves first from ethnic perspective.
It was so believed because the major political actors, Atiku Abubakar of PDP; Bola Ahmed Tinubu of APC and Peter Obi of Labour Party came from three major regions in the country – Northern, Western and Eastern regions respectively. To the discerning youth, this is inconsequential and irrelevant as what matters to them is national development.
It wasn’t surprising therefore to the youths that Peter Obi of Labour Party won majority votes in some states including Abuja, Lagos, according to the result released by Independent National Electoral Commission. Lagos is a state in Western Nigeria where Tinubu is dominant and where he has ruled as governor for eight years. His influence in the state is so pervading that he could have ruled for more years if the constitution allows that clause.
But some of the results were surprising to some of old politicians who are neck deep in tribal sentiments than having national economic and development passion.
Few days after the results in Lagos were released, shops and business centers in Lagos owned by people of Eastern extraction were attacked. Since then, it is reported that there appears to be a clash of interest between Igbos and Yorubas in the state.
Recently, properties worth millions of naira were burnt in Ajegunle auto market predominantly owned by Igbos as a result of a fire incident alleged to have been orchestrated by suspected political thugs .
Some linked the fire to the presidential election result in Lagos and further intimidation to forestall that kind of result as there was fear that the governorship election earlier scheduled for March 11 but later postponed to March 18, 2023 would toe that line. Stakeholders however called for calm perhaps to obviate pitching Igbos against Yorubas in Lagos. But since then, dirty languages have continued to emerge.
Lagos is a cosmopolitan state with over 22 million people. Apparently, there is quite a number of Igbos, Hausas, Efiks and many other ethnic groups in Lagos however; Yorubas are seemingly the dominant population in Lagos.
Arguing against voting along tribal lines, Peter Obi recalled that when Olusegun Obasanjo failed in Yoruba land in 1999, he, Obasanjo recorded highest votes in South East. So also was MKO Abiola. Peter Obi said many Yorubas, Hausas and other people from other regions supported him based on what he stands for.
It is therefore inconceivable by some people to say only Igbos voted Obi in Lagos where he got 582,454 votes to defeat Tinubu who polled 572,606. Ohaneze clarified this when it said that the “votes Obi got in Lagos were not only from Igbo people but across tribes”.
If the voting was along tribal lines, Obi would not have won in Lagos, Abuja, Nasarawa and some other states. Also, Tinubu wouldn’t have won in some northern , South East and South -South States including Rivers and Atiku would have won in only Northern states but he clinched Akwa Ibom and Osun.
The purveyors of hatred went to the extent of labelling the LP governorship candidate, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour half Igbo simply because his father, a detribalised Nigerian married a lady of Igbo extraction. Gbadebo is a grandson of an eminent indigenous Lagosian, Justice SB Rhodes, a founding father of Nigerian judiciary, who served as executive council of Nigeria with Adeyemo Alakija and with other nationalists who built Lagos.
The 2023 presidential election is an indication that there is consciousness of voting and realisation of the power of PVC led by the youths across tribes who are determined to make changes for national development. Social media was a rallying point for them and they are still talking.
The youths, not only in Nigeria are tired of status quo and economic stagnation especially in the midst of abundant resources. Some Nigeria’s peers are ahead of the country on economic terms. The youth who are leaders of tomorrow do not want to inherit battered economy. They want change now.
Today the youths have found social media as a platform to express themselves and ask questions. The leaders must begin to listen.
In the last elections, they turned out en masse to express themselves through ballot boxes, the result of which some people termed tribal colouration. The EndSARS protest was also a revolution by the youth across tribes against oppression, hunger and mismanagement. They spoke in unison. Today, the youth are still talking to themselves through the social media. The leaders need to pay attention.
Through the social media, the discerning youth campaigned against all sorts of political inducement as they see such little inducements as transient. They simply want the future secured for them. The youths are talking and the voice is becoming vociferous.
Across the globe, the youths are protesting for change of government or change in policies that will spur growth. In Nigeria, such protests unfortunately will be seen from ethnic or tribe colouration and the armed force will be unleashed on the campaigners.
The frustrations among youths in Nigeria are building up. They want the leaders to fast track development. Social media has offered them the opportunity and platform to speak and prepare themselves.
The youth, irrespective of their tribes, are expressing themselves through mind protests, social media and ballot boxes. It is not about Hausas, Igbo, Yoruba, Fulani, Ijaw, Kanuri Ibibio, it is about development, national progress, checking corruption and even development. It is not about 95 percent and 5 percent development based on voting that denied South East railway connection under Buhari Government. It is about equitable development and job creation. It is about stimulating the manufacturing, agricultural sectors, feeding the population and building national pride.
The number of youths of about 150 million is intimidating. The poor and uneducated ones among them who are easy tools for thuggery are realising that the inducement are short-lived. The youths are speaking and government officials must begin to listen now.