Nextier, an international consulting firm, focusing on enhancing peace and security in Africa has highlighted focal points on how the government can engage the youth against electoral violence during the 2023 electioneering period. With less than two months to the general elections, Nigerians have been apprehensive about the rising spate of electoral violence across the
Nextier, an international consulting firm, focusing on enhancing peace and security in Africa has highlighted focal points on how the government can engage the youth against electoral violence during the 2023 electioneering period.
With less than two months to the general elections, Nigerians have been apprehensive about the rising spate of electoral violence across the country. The growing violence which has been extended to the facilities of the Independent National Electoral Commission, and had seen several of such facilities destroyed across the country.
To stem the spate of violence, Nextier, has urged the Nigerian government to form a critical alliance with the youth before the polls. The international firm noted that the rising population of the youth in the country has placed them in a notable position in the country’s electoral process, and the government must not sideline them in consultation and relationship.
In its weekly analysis, authored by Dr. Chukwuma Okoli, an Associate Consultant at Nextier SPD and a Lecturer at the Department of Political Science, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Nigeria, and Dr Ndu Nwokolo, Managing Partner and Chief Executive at Nextier SPD with an Honorary Fellow at the School of Government and Society, University of Birmingham, UK, stated that the youth are significant in the country’s political ecosystem.
The report analysed that despite the population of the youth in Nigeria and their participation in political activities, many Nigerian youths are incapable to contest for electoral positions because of the high cost of running for political offices in the country. As a result of that, the report noted that the youth have the tendency to resolve to violence for recognition.
“Although the youth constitute about 70 per cent of Nigeria’s population and account for over half of registered voters, their participation in politics as contestants and elective office holders is limited by the high cost of elections, exclusionary legal framework, party system, and structural factors such as poverty, unemployment, etc. The prebendal character of politics in Nigeria makes the youth a cheap tool of violence in the hands of political godfathers.
“The frustration arising from their exclusion not only pushes them to seek violent ways to express their dissatisfaction but also makes them willing tools in the hands of politicians who deploy them to intimidate non-supportive voters, harass political opponents and actualise self-serving political objectives. Young people’s engagement in election violence is usually facilitated by agencies such as cults, gangs, ethnic-nationalist groups, militants, and thug groups which provide platforms for planning, recruiting, mobilising and arming young people for violence during elections,” the reports stated.
The analysis further explained that the existing relationship between the youth and the government has bred mistrust, and the government has failed to engage the youth representatives in the past. Due to this, the youths only have social media to express their thoughts. Nextier organisation said the proliferation of fake news on social media platforms by politicians can also create division among the youth and there is a possibility that false information can instigate violence in the country.
“The relationship between the youth and the Nigerian state is largely characterised by mistrust. Formal youth agencies set up to facilitate meaningful engagement between the youth and the state appear to have been hijacked by persons who use such agencies to pursue narrow personal interests. Thus, youth agencies such as the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN), the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), and the Students Union Government (SUG) on various campuses have failed to provide a channel for meaningful engagement between the state and the youth Meanwhile, social media has also been employed by politicians to spread misinformation and disinformation in ways that divide the youth and predispose them to electoral violence”, the report stated.
Suggesting how government can engage the youth to mitigate violence in the coming election, NexTier urged the government to create a proper channel of communication with them. The consulting firm also urged all electoral stakeholders including the Independent Electoral Commission to ensure transparency in the coming elections to build the lost trust among the youth.
“Stakeholders such as INEC, the security agencies and political parties involved in the electoral process should engage the youth through various platforms to build the trust of the youth in the electoral process. Communication channels such as social media (WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) appeal to the youth should be used to reach them with peace messaging that would influence their actions and dissuade them from violence.
INEC must demonstrate transparency in all the phases of the electoral cycle through effective communication of electoral processes and outcomes in order to gain the trust of the youth. The report also charged the government to have a dialogue with the youths in the violent parts of the country. It suggested a roundtable with the militants, the separatists and agitators across the country to have a peace poll in the country.
“Election management stakeholders should leverage the existence of credible organisations to map and equip youth groups in schools and local communities with peacebuilding and other nonviolent engagement skills. Violent groups like cult gangs and thugs which provide agencies for mobilising the youth for violence must be checked at this time by decimating them to shrink their operational bases.
“Ahead of the 2023 elections, there is a need to engage the youth through various means including strategic communication in order to dissuade them from violence and deepen their role in promoting peace in the electoral process”, the consulting firm concluded