The sudden move by Nigerian youths to fully participate in the country’s general elections is not unconnected to the 2020 EndSARS protest which served as an eye-opener that young Nigerians can influence critical decisions in the country.
Recall that youths across the country shut down economic and other activities in Nigeria in October, 2020, when they protested alleged extra-judicial killings by the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS.
The social movement and mass protests against police brutality, which took-off in Edo State after an innocent citizen was allegedly gunned down by members of the SARS, escalated to other parts of the nation, halting social and economic activities.
Although several youths paid the supreme prize when the protests were hijacked by alleged sponsored hoodlums, some of the core aims, which include call for the disbandment of the SARS, were achieved.
It can be recalled that prior to the Lekki massacre, the then Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu on October 11, announced the disbandment of SARS following the mass protests.
According to the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Restitution for Victims of SARS Related Abuses and other matters, at least 46 unarmed protesters were either shot dead, injured with bullets, or assaulted by security forces at the Lekki toll gate where protesters converged on October 20, 2020.
It was reported that memory of the Lekki massacre has resurfaced on the internet as some politicians accused of masterminding the unfortunate shootings, are now running for political offices.
Recall that two major correctional facilities in Edo State were also attacked by the hoodlums who freed several convicts. Some public and private properties were completely destroyed and vandalized; the sanctity of the Palace of the Oba of Lagos was also violated.
In a move to quell the escalated movement, President Muhammadu Buhari in his address on October 23, pledged the inclusiveness of young Nigerians in policy making.
Recall that for the first time in the history of Nigeria, a 25-year-old Nigerian youth was elected as youth leader of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in 2021.
Suleiman Mohammed, who hails from Kaduna State, was elected as youth leader during the party’s convention in October 30, 2021.
Currently, most of the presidential and governorship candidates of the major political parties running for the 2023 general elections have vowed to ensure youth inclusiveness in their administrations if elected into office.
It was reported that some Nigerian celebrities who coordinated the End SARS protest are currently campaigning against the voting of old and incompetent politicians.
Peter Square, a defunct member of the popular music group, P-Square and Adebowale David Ibrahim Adedayo, known by his stage name Mr Macaroni have consistently used their social media handles to warn Nigerian youths against voting wrongly, asking everyone to get their PVCs.
When the Permanent Voters Card, PVC registration center in Bwari, Abuja was visited, it was observed that over 70% of those thronging the facility for registration are youths preparing to make changes in 2023 elections.
Some of those seeking to obtain their PVCs to kick out incompetent leaders, told DAILY POST that the era of political apathy is over in Nigeria.
Mr Sunday Adikwu said, “We have waited too long, it is time to take it with our hands. They will always claim that the youths are the leaders of tomorrow, but when will the tomorrow come? I have been hearing that since I was born and now I am over 30 years old.
“We need to tell these old fools that we are aware of our rights. They will not believe the power we have but we will surely shock them next year”.
Yemi Adebayo said, “Even the little kid born last year can feel the pain. These people have messed up with our lives and destinies. They have nothing in their heads yet they want to die in power.
“I was part of the End SARS protest in 2020 before it was hijacked by the paid hoodlums. Look at the killings everywhere, human lives no longer mean anything to people anymore, yet we have a government. Enough is enough. If we can seize the attention of the whole world through protest and make changes, then we can actually decide who rules us”.
Similarly, a human rights activist, Mr Femi Kolawole, who also participated in the End SARS movement, told DAILY POST in Abuja that the “long awaited revolution will happen in 2023”.
“We voted for President Buhari in 2015 because we were desperate for change, unfortunately, that change didn’t help us. Buhari wouldn’t have made it to Aso Rock without the support of the youths.
“The two major political parties have ignored the youths for a long time. We will now show them what we are capable of doing. It is no longer about APC or PDP, they have all failed us. Youths are no longer campaigning on social media like before, we are now getting our PVCs ready.
“One thing I know is that this forthcoming general election cannot be rigged. We will make sure that our votes count. Forget what happened in Ekiti the other day. We heard of vote buying which was really unfortunate, but I assure you, we will tackle that before the presidential election. We still have more than ten months to educate the general public”.