OPINION: Our Elections Are Powered By Youths- The “Engine Room” And Future Of Nigeria

👤 By Adenike Lucas, DENISAURUS News 

Nigerian political parties have now deployed the full use of social media for the dissemination of vital information during election campaigns.

As seen with recent elections, an army of “digital nerds,” who built a network through Facebook, Twitter, Whats App – where information about elections are devised, and then shared widely among other groups in society, have shown that they can add to the political discourse.

And as the older generations – in their 60s begin to bow out, the young people will be further engaged. That is why the ninth Senate, which has passed the second reading of the Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill, has a lot of protestors.

The Social Media Bill, which is on its way to becoming law, is proposed  by Senator Mohammed Sani Musa, and is different from the Prohibition of Hate Speech Bill proposed by Senator Sabi Abdullahi.

The Bill, argues that it wants to put an end to false stories, like that hoax made about the death of the President, when he was away on vacation in UK. The fine for culprit is 300,000 Naira or a jail sentence of up to three years or both.

But the lawmaker for Enugu East, notes that the Cyber Crime Act already deals with this issue. Besides, any one who believes a false statement has been published against them, can use laws like libel to deal with the matter. An example is the President of the eight senate, Bukola Saraki, who sued a US website to court for defamation. Senator Saraki was awarded 4 Billion naira in compensation.

So, what is the need for the Social Media Bill or the Hate Speech Bill by Senator Sabi Abdullahi, which proposes death by hanging for offenders.

This bill will see people become weary about what they post, and no longer free to post as they feel. No wonder, why many young people see it is a plan to cut of their oxygen.

While the opposition, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has become dormant, the trending hash tag, No To Social Media Bill, shows in itself how the internet has become a tool for ordinary citizens, to use in fighting government policies they believe is not ideal.

Not only does the proposed bill cut of their voices “oxygen,” but,  by preventing these youths from using these technological application to engage and mobilise, the parties themselves suffer, because it will affect the flow of information to the citizen they want to appeal to and get their votes.

It seems to me that the older generation don’t understand technology as much as this digital nerds. The older generation, who are passing on the baton say the youth are the future and the engine room of elections. As Ayo Olubori, the Secretary of the APC in Ogun State notes in a recent speech, the successes of the last general elections should be credited to young people.

In Engr Olubori’s state, young people like Dennis Ogunnaike, who served as the Chief Administrative Officer of the party, worked hard for the success of the party.

Digital nerds like Mr Ogunnaike, confident about their ICT and political skills, have embrace the internet and what it embodies.  They mobilise people ward to ward and sensitise them, providing information about the incoming government and areas that would see improvement.

They train others to disseminate vital information, and create a virtual meeting point where brain storming of strategy for the elections is done.

Mr Ogunnaike and his team, do a bit of imagine branding and work to raise the profile of the principal, as well. They work on ideas such as the Tech Hub, that connect with the people in the state, and came up with simple slogan “Building Our Future Together,” that resonate with most people.

This vital role, helped APC to cling Ogun state for President Buhari and also deliver a win for its Governatorial candidate, who faced stiffed opposition from his predecessor, a member of his own party.

It helped to win in other states like Lagos, where the current Governor Babajide Sanwolu, deployed a strong use of social media. Lots of young people such as Jubril Aremu Gawat based in Lagos Island, replicated what Mr Ogunnaike did in Ogun State.

Engr Olubori, notes that the future is now for the youth. In a speech delivered last week, he said youth development must be harnessed: “As we are getting older and about leaving the political scene, it is the youths that owns tomorrow.”

He encouraged other young people that they “must start at this moment to show interests in  active participation in the political process.”

This paper believes he is right. Politics is a game of numbers – and the youth being the future needs to begin to participate in the act, in order to acquire the right numbers to make that difference.





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