By Femi Oyelola
Nigeria joined the Global Community to celebrate International Day of Democracy on 15 September 2023, which provides an opportunity to review the state of democracy in the world.
Democracy is as much a process as is also a goal, and only with the full participation of and support by the international community, national governing bodies, civil society, and individuals, can the ideal of democracy be made into a reality to be enjoyed by everyone, everywhere.
There’s no doubt that an engaged, well-educated electorate is at the heart of strong democratic societies, creating an environment in which young people feel their voices count is crucial.
Everyone must be able to meaningfully participate in the decisions that affect their lives now, and in years to come, observers have pointed our.
Given the damaging effect that a flood of false information can have on young people, this year’s International Day of Democracy is dedicated to “Empowering the Next Generation” by focusing on the critical role of children and youngsters in ensuring “today and in the future.” democracy
The 2023 celebration is coming at a crucial time when democracy is under threat in Africa, countries like Mali, Burkina Faso, Gabon, and Niger have their democracy replaced with military rules and there are calls by a section of Nigerians for an interim government, due to alleged irregularities 2023 general elections
The disturbing aspect of the agitation is that it is coming from the young people who are the future of the country’s democracy.
In a Country like Nigeria, where 70% of the population are under 30, 42% are under the age of 15, and 62% of the electors are youth they should be the focus of the government and form part of decision-making.
However, the National Chairman Action Alliance, Hon Adekunle Rufai Omo-Aje, said the young people should learn from history that the worst democratic government is better than the best military rule.
Hon. Omo-Aje said Nigeria has a lot to celebrate with 23 years of uninterrupted democracy and its citizens reaping dividends of civil rule and any call for any change of government through the barrel of Guns is retrogressive.
Going down history lane the AA National Chairman said 1993 was a watershed in the history of the country when the most free and fair election was conducted which was later annulled on June 12 same year by the military
According to him, with the return to democracy in 1999 the country has not witnessed any military incursion and joined the international community to celebrate the International Day of Democracy aside from the National Democracy Day celebrated on June 12th.
He, however, opined that the success of the country’s democracy hinges on the young people who have demographic advantages in deciding what becomes of the country’s democracy.
Hon. Omo-Aje added that Young people must navigate a world in which democracies are under threat from factors ranging from the proliferation of online mis- and disinformation to rising populism, and the destabilizing effects of the climate crisis.
He stressed that It is important everyone can meaningfully participate in the decisions that affect their lives now, and in years to come.
Collaborating this pointvof view, the National President of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, Alhaji Yerima Shettima said as a pro-democracy activist, he distances himself from the call for military intervention in the country.
He, however, lamented that , poverty, insecurity, poor economic management, nepotism, gross dereliction of duty, condonation of misdeed if not outright encouragement of it, lack of progress and hope for the future, lack of national cohesion and poor management of internal political dynamics and widening inequality are the greatest threat to democracy in the country today.
Yerima said that there is an African proverb that says that if your neighbour’s beard catches fire, you should run to get water to rub on your own, noting that Niger is our neighbour, so if a coup could happen there, it is time for the leaders to change and do the right thing to avoid what happened in Niger from happening here in Nigeria. “ It is a big lesson for us here in Nigeria and we should take it seriously.” He said
The International Day is an opportunity to review the state of democracy around the world. Each year highlights a specific theme.
It is an opportunity to highlight the important role of parliaments and to celebrate their capacity and mandate to deliver justice, peace, development, and human rights.
Fielding questions from this reporter, some youths expressed their opinions on the benefits of democracy to them and the assurance of destiny under democratic government.
In his reaction, Zalani Ahmed a student from Kaduna Polytechnic said democratic government is the best option for the country and the only assurance for the youth
For Temiloluwa Oyelola, from the Ahamdu Bello University, Zaria, Nigerian youths should eschew violence, embrace peace through dialogue, resolve conflicts through legal means, and participate in the democratic process.
According to her Nigeria’s democracy and elections are evolving and that is why citizens need to be a credible part of that process so that at the end of the day, they can be proud that they have contributed to democracy’s sustained because the worst democracy is better than the best military rule.”
She appealed to Nigerians to put the elections behind them and join hands to build a peaceful and prosperous Nigeria.
As Nigeria celebrates International Democracy Day there is a need for more youth participation in governance which will help to promote transparency, accountability, and good governance, as their voices and votes will hold elected officials accountable for their actions and ensure that they work in the best interests of the population.
It will also allow them to have a say in the decision-making processes that affect their lives and the needs and aspirations of their communities.
Young people can also develop important skills and gain valuable experience that will help them become leaders in their own right.
They can learn about the democratic process, how to advocate for their interests, and how to work effectively with others to bring about change.
This year’s International Day aims to empower the next generation by focusing on the critical role of children and youngsters in the democracy of today and the future.