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2014/2015: Millennials, Africa’s Elections and the Social Era

By Charles Umeh

the peopleThe year 2014 and 2015 would test the continuation of Africa’s democracy.

With Nelson Mandela’s South Africa going to the polls today, May 7, 2014 and the Nigerian electorate spending 2015 St. Valentine’s Day on the queue choosing their next leader, the continuation of democratic principles in Africa would be tested in the polls again.

April 14, 1994 South African democracy took a global front role when president Nelson Mandela became the first African leader under the umbrella of the ANC (African National Congress). For twenty years, South Africans have had the ANC in power, as people believe that the ANC has lived under the shadows of Nelson Mandela. An underdog alliance of political parties DA (Democratic Alliance) would be giving the ANC a run for their money in the polls. As South Africans go to polls, it sure would be an interesting contest to follow closely.

The case in Nigeria is similar in some light. Nigeria’s fourth republic (1999-present) ushered in a democratic era where the PDP (People’s Democratic party) have held the ace of power.

With a visible underdog in the name of the APC (All progressive congress) a similar alliance of Political parties, the Nigerian election would likely be fiercely contested.

If there is one thing certain, the democratic process in these two power house in Africa would be tested fiercely in the polls again.

African youths almost require the same things from her government hence we differ in very little areas. Are most youths in Africa not clamouring for participation from the powers that be? The past four years have revealed the tilt in the balance of power and how millennials now hold the ace in the social Era.

It all started with the Arab spring in Egypt when a 30 year old Google executive, Wael Ghonim, with the aid of the social Media mobilized the Egyptian youths to Tahrir square on the protest of the killing of Kullena Khaled Said (a 28 year old man who was killed by security officials). With an anonymous Facebook account Wael mobilized tens of thousands in days.

The whole world watched the exit of President Mubarak of Egypt and the power wielded by these young minds.

If the effect of the Egyptian revolution was a fluke, I guess the spread and what bookmakers now call the Arab uprising (or Spring) and its spread, got you at hello! The social media proved a powerful mobilization tool. I recommend Wael Ghonim’s masterpiece Revolution 2.0. It gives you a glimpse of what the power of an idea can do.

Having lived in Nigeria all my life, I am tempted to believe young people can make a change. With 70% of Nigerian population under age 30, I believe we have numbers. In politics numbers is everything.

To get a view of what young people in Nigeria can do to prepare for the election year, I decided to reach out to my network of young people and ask them how Millennials can prepare for 2015 election.

I have summarized their recommendations. However, they came up with a list which would only be incomplete without your contribution – when you add yours and carry out what we advise, we are like a formidable team.

•Educate young teens that are just clocking age eighteen on the power of their vote and why they must let it count. This responsibility goes more to NYSC Corp members for 2014/ 2015 Batch, and youth advocates. You are advised to choose community development projects in this light.

•Registration of voters: Young people should mobilize their peers to go register early and get a voters card. Someone should be responsible to inform the public on the number of new converts they have got on this course via social media.

•Expose track records of contestants: we seem to be guilty of political amnesia in Nigeria. It would be good some of us use Google to remind electorates of past records of our present contestants; this would help people make wise choices.

•Join a political Party: Only when young people join a political party in legions, are they able to influence decision-making and make their voice count

• Go social: Begin citizen journalism and become an instant photojournalist. Report all election activities with your Smart phones.

  • Don’t waste your vote: Nigeria is fast turning into a two party state so make your vote count by voting for the two political parties PDP or APC (for the presidential election) don’t waste your votes with other smaller political parties let your votes count.
  • Monitor the number of new young voters using social Media.

Your views…

I might not agree with all the opinions here, trust me they are valid and we need more realistic views and next steps. As we count down to 2015, let’s exercise our power of numbers and always remember, “The power of the people is greater than the people in power” Wael Ghonim

Charles Umeh is a student of Life and life coach who makes impact through his writings and speaking engagements. He is an Alumnus of LEAP AFRICA Youth Leadership Programme and heads the LEAP Alumni in the South eastern states. Twitter @CharismaCharles

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