The 2020 #EndSars protests against police brutality which rocked the nation during the pandemic lockdown showcased the potentials and resolve of the teeming youth in Nigeria to drive political change and demand for good governance. Their use of the internet, digital platforms and social media to organise and stage the protests showed not only social and political awareness but creativity and alignment with global trend of democratic civil disobedience to effect political and social change.
The acephalous nature and message-centric rather than people-centric approach adopted by the peaceful protesters points to a deeper yearning for broader political change to reflect the realities of the average youth in Nigeria away from police brutality which triggered the protests. Mass unemployment, collapse of public education, widening inequality, etc., are some of the underlying issues that were triggered by the #endSARS protests which compelled a lot of youths to join the protests. This is 2021, the #EndSARS movement has lost traction and even though the searchlight of attention has been beamed on the issues raised by the movement, sustainable efforts have not been made to ensure these issues are dealt with decisively. A look at youth movements around the world will reveal that stronger political actions beyond peaceful protests need to be taken by young people to engender the change they yearn for.
The 2014 “Occupy Central” and “Umbrella protests” in Hong Kong was led by young people who wanted greater autonomy and changes to the way Hong Kong is governed by China. They were demanding greater democracy for the territory and protested against highly restrictive electoral reforms. This culminated in 2016 legislative elections that saw young people bonding together and forming pro-democracy political parties that won a record 53% of seats in the Hong Kong Legislative council including the election of Mr Nathan Law, a 23- year- old student who was one of the leaders in the umbrella protests. Mr Law was quoted after his victory as saying “Young people have a sense of urgency when it comes to the future.” Nigerian youths will do well to channel this alacrity towards engaging the platforms that political parties present. After all the best way to change the system is to do so from within the system; to obtain the Nigeria we want young people will need to venture into governance.
The emergence of Bobi Wine as a strong opposition figure in Ugandan politics threating the rule of the est ablishment is a clear marker of the sway young people have in politics. George Weah rode on the mantra of youth votes to rise to power in Liberia and even Joe Biden focused his campaign to elicit for young black votes in America which eventually tipped the scales in his favour.
Elections are due in Nigeria by 2023, that’s more than enough time for Nigerian youths to really effect the political change the country and the teeming youth population needs. The #EndSARS energy needs to be translated into political action, young people need to engage the political process and political platforms (political parties) more and eschew political apathy. Politics is a numbers game and 42% of Nigeria’s population is made up of young people, getting involved in the process will ensure more young and youth friendly candidates gets into governance. We’ve done the protests in a remarkable and historic fashion. 2023 is the time for more politically correct actions. With a strong youthful population of 42%, our political choices are not limited to the two major political parties.
Chinonso Kenneth, Research Assistant, HipCity Innovation Centre