With the Nigerian polity gearing up for the 2019 elections, the Pre-election environment has been a beehive of activity with activities around Continuous Voter Registration, Collection of Permanent Voters Card, political party campaigns and rallies amongst other activities in top gear. While Continuous Voter Registration has been suspended according to the extant electoral laws, collection of PVC’s is ongoing across Nigeria with many political parties are already fixing dates of party primaries with notable outcry in some quarters about the exorbitant cost of nomination forms, particularly in the major political parties.
The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) guarantees the right of every Nigerian to the Freedom of Association. Additionally, the right to vote and be voted for irrespective of superficial factors is a core principle in democratic governance based on the will of the people which is expressed in democratic elections.
In turn, the Constitution provides that no association shall canvass for votes or contest in an election except on the platform of a political party. Consequently, political parties are the only platform on which candidates can contest for an election in Nigeria, so their viability and proper functioning have a great impact on our democracy. This has been the basis for many agitations for Constitutional reform and Electoral Amendment, mainly to enhance the inclusion and integrity of our internal party democracy which has not been very effective in producing viable and desirable candidates in recent times.
Furthermore, stakeholders in the election have been actively engaging their constituents on all levels and liaising with each other to ensure that the 2019 election is conducted in a free and fair manner with the best perception of integrity and transparency.
With the passage of the Not Too Young to Run Bill, there has been a noticeable emergence of young people in the political space, with many indicating their interest to run for office in the upcoming election. Some of these young people have been registered and active in their respective parties in the past but have not had the opportunity to express their intent to contest in elections. Some are taking up the opportunity of the law opening the space so that they can participate. It is therefore safe to say that their role in reforming and shaping their parties is very vital.
Against the backdrop of all the recent happenings, there are many vital questions that arise as concerns the emergence of more young people in the political space and the implications for our democracy. How do they affect the current trend of party politics especially with issues of decamping and carpet crossing? How do they effectively engage party activities and scrutinize their level of transparency, particularly with regards to the conduct of political party primaries? How do they effectively push for policy changes, starting with reducing the cost of party nomination forms and strengthening internal party democracy? What is the level of access the young aspirants and party members have to the party policy documents at every stage of their engagements? Can the influx of young aspirants into the political system be the much needed boost for the smaller political parties in the country which are registered with INEC?
Basically, the young and new political actors on the scene are very vital to the “Change” that Nigeria is looking for. With the current set of the political class in the build up to the 2019 election, much work needs to be done in terms of moving away from the dangerous narrative being peddled by them leading up to the election.
More so, the current trend of vote buying as opposed to incidents of ballot snatching (even at the party primary level) also indicates that the power is returning to the people. Therefore, there is the need for a paradigm shift of the citizens of Nigeria in terms of holding our leaders and national democracy to a higher standard than before.
It is pertinent to state that electoral stakeholders including Civil Society Organizations have played a major role in pushing for this change on different fronts. For instance, as a civil society organization, YIAGA AFRRICA is actively involved in election observation through its Watching The Vote Project which is a citizens movement geared towards ensuring that votes count. Many other CSOs which are mainly driven by young of young influencers who are making giant strides in promoting credible elections or supporting young aspirants ahead of 2019 general elections.
Plangret is a Zonal Program Officer at YIAGA AFRICA
Twitter : @Plangbest