“#EndSARS is not enough, you must get involved in politics,” Kingsley Moghalu to Nigerian youth

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Memories of the clampdown on #OccuppyLekkiTollgate protesters on Saturday 13th February, by security operatives are apparently still fresh in the minds of many.

Following this development and the worsening state of insecurity across the country, youths in the country frustrations have continued to express their frustration about the seeming reactive approach by governments across board to the situation.

Candidate of the Young Progressive Party (YPP) in the 2019 Presidential election, Professor Kingsley Moghalu have also weighed in on the issues; expressing his solidarity with the Nigerian youth and called on them to focus their energy on strong advocacy and pressure the National Assembly to pass an electoral reform bill among other solutions.

And with reference to the huge efforts made by young people in the country during the October 2020 #EndSARS protests, Moghalu who is President of the Institute for Governance & Economic Transformation (IGET), says only an active and structural engagement with democratic politics by Nigerian youth can achieve the goals of #EndSARS.

“In a democracy, the best protest against governments we consider underperforming is the one at the ballot box, the one you do with your Permanent Voters Card (PVC),” former Deputy Governor of the apex bank said.

See full text of his statement below:

I stand in solidarity with Nigerian youth in their peaceful protests against police brutality and bad governance. We must decry the apparent impotence in the face of killer herdsmen and bandits of Nigerian security and law enforcement authorities who are quick to quash peaceful protests.

However, while #EndSARS protests represent a welcome awakening of Nigerian youth against bad governance, protests alone will not solve the problem. In a democracy, the best protest against governments we consider underperforming is the one at the ballot box, the one you do with your Permanent Voters Card (PVC).

What we want is a better governed country that creates real opportunities for our youth, who make up 65 percent of Nigeria’s population of 200 million — projected to rise to 400 million people by 2050. At our current trends of rising poverty, low-skilled youth, a dysfunctional education system, and high youth unemployment, NIgeria’s future is bleak if these trends are not reversed.

These also are aspects of our fundamental dignity that the #EndSARS protests seek to assert. Only an active and structural engagement with democratic politics by Nigerian youth can achieve the goals of #EndSARS. Protest simply isn’t enough.

I therefore call on Nigerian youth to focus their energy on: (1) strong advocacy and pressure to ensure that the National Assembly passes an electoral reform bill by mid-2021 that includes provisions for electronic transmissions of votes from polling units to the database of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and for Nigerians in diaspora to have the opportunity to vote from abroad; (2) voter registration en masse for the elections in 2023 and subsequent elections, and (3) structural participation in politics, i.e. joining political parties of their individual choice as members, voting, and standing as candidates in elections. All three approaches are essential. It is not enough to simply stand as candidates in the context of Not Too Young, which was nevertheless a commendable initiative.

The Arab Spring

I invite Nigerian youth to learn the lessons of the Arab Spring youth uprising in 2011. Today, despite the moving memories of those protests, not much has fundamentally changed for the youth of the Arab States. With the exception of Tunisia, there has been no lasting democratic progress in the region, which includes countries such as Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Palestinian Territories, Saudi Arabia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

While there were protests in all these countries, leadership changes occurred only in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Yemen. According to a report by the Council on Foreign Relations authored by Kali Robinson, only Tunisia made a lasting shift to democracy. Egypt backslid, and Libya, Syria and Yemen descended into protracted civil wars. There has been no significant improvement in the standard of living in any of the Arab Spring countries. Youth unemployment in the region remains the highest in the world, and the number of journalists imprisoned in the region has increased.

The main reason for these overall disappointing outcomes is that the youth of the Arab Spring countries restricted themselves to civil society activism and failed to engage in structural politics. As a result, the autocratic, corrupt old guard continued to dominate politics and effectively resisted real change. The same outcomes are likely in our country if Nigerian youth continue to shy away from politics on the basis of weak excuses such as: “our votes will not count”, “the elections will be rigged”, etc. Surrendering their future to corrupt, incompetent and repressive political elites should not be an option for Nigerian youth.

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