With the frenzy and preparation for the forthcoming 2023 elections in Nigeria, it is pertinent to note that youths have unanimously decided to become active and take their place in politics.
We have seen the influence of some celebrities and social media influencers on most of their followers. On social media, mainly Twitter, which is the most comfortable environment for youths to express their emotions, there has been a noticeable reduction of political apathy among youths. They are determined to get their Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) and ready to vote for whoever they feel deserves to become the president.
While this is laudable, it is quite unfortunate to say that a high number of these youths who are meant to be frontrunners for leadership positions have clouded their mind with the opinions of others and are clueless about what politics and leadership entail.
After a quick survey among 30 youths between 18 and 30, asking questions on why they are OBIdient, ATIKUlated or BATified i.e. why they support Peter Obi, Abubakar Atiku or Bola Ahmed Tinubu ( main candidates of the presidential election) as the next Nigerian president, seven of the 30 (23.33 per cent) youths had a valid reason that was enough to convince a person to join them in supporting their choice candidates. Sadly, this was not very impressive as the percentage was less than a quarter of those interviewed.
Twenty-three people (76.67 per cent) either had no reasons or gave reasons like tribe, age and religion. I guess if that was all politics and leadership was all about, Nigeria would have been in control of the world.
Looking at the small statistics above and the fact that the present generation of youths live to impress on the internet, it is clear to notice the mighty power the social media has to influence their minds and deprive them of the chance to think and make decisions themselves.
About 76.67 per cent of the people in the survey (Those with the flimsy or no reasons) had not supported their chosen candidates because they are aware of his leadership prowess or traits that make him worthy to become the president.
Rather, they do because they have been influenced by the people around them (mainly on social media) or large number of people support those candidates. However, the majority do not win always.
For instance, in 2015, although I was ineligible to vote as I was less than the voting age, I knew I wanted Buhari to become president at all costs, not because I knew anything about him or his leadership skills; it was because my parents wanted him and the sounds of SAI BABA was all over the country . Sometimes, the majority can be wrong.
Apart from the fact that youths are being influenced by social media opinions, most of them are afraid of backlash and trolling from netizens. Hence, they are careful of what they think and say to avoid drawing the ire of others even if such thoughts and opinions do not conform with their beliefs or opinions.
Recently, supporters of a particular candidate have taken it as a full time responsibility to insult, ridicule and curse anyone who does not show the same support for their candidate.
This action has particularly discouraged most youths from publicly voicing their opinions.
Does this mean that the involvement of youths is just a façade that is likely to end when those at the helm of the social media (celebrities and influencers) wants it to end?
Youths are the future of the country’s democracy, but what would happen if the future we think we see is just a mirage because of the inability of the youths to actively take a stand in Nigeria’s politics?
- Oladipo is a 100-Level student at Federal University, Oye-Ekiti (FUOYE), Ekiti State.