The fact that many Nigerian millenials are utilizing social media and technology as a medium for political engagement instead of conventional participation shows that there is an increasing interest in the affairs of the nation and elected officials online. We voice out opinions on Facebook statuses, post photos of themselves at rallies to Instagram, call out leaders on Twitter, and we have seen protests unravel and reconstruct the Nigerian society before our very eyes on Youtube. Social media has become a forum for political discourse, a means for political engagement. Technology has transformed the way Nigerian millennials participate in politics and furthermore, it has changed the way we shape policy. This has proven that Nigerian millennials are not politically inactive as we are perceived to be, we just choose to do it in a different way via different platforms.
However, Nigeria has witnessed a steady decline in conventional political participation by millennials in recent times. That is, we are politically engaged having warmed up to unconventional politics i.e. starting or joining a civil society organization, protesting, or signing a petition. Yet, we are increasingly avoiding formal politics i.e. voting, joining political parties, and running for office.
Interesting to note is the fact that only a small percentage of Nigerian millennials have ever seriously considered running for office. The Not Too Young to Run campaign which sought to reduce the age limit for those seeking political office in Nigeria, was signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari and while some may argue that campaign costs and old establishments may be a form of hindrance for young aspirants, the upside is that they get to be part of the decision-making process thereby formulating and implementing policies that reflect their demographic’s aspirations. How can we change policies if we are not in the vital decision-making positions to do so? The consequence of this is the gap between our political leaders and what we believe.
A large portion of Nigerian millennials, from what has been observed in the 2011, 2015 and 2019 elections, tend to treat electoral politics the way they would treat movies: we only show up for the mega hit forgetting that the math of democracy is unyielding. The lack of interest, however, can be attributed to the electoral violence and voter apathy witnessed in those elections at the time. If we want change, we have to vote for it. Not just every four years. Not just for cool candidates. If we want the change we so crave, we have to vote again and again and again, in local elections and presidential elections as well. To change the country, we have to do something truly radical: we have to convince our friends to vote just like old people would.
Being an intelligent and passionate demographic, Nigerian millennials are likely to align themselves with political entities that seem to present concrete, effective answers to societal challenges. However, as is expected within any generation, millennials differ. We are a diverse group with contrasting views on many of the important issues of our time and older and younger millennials may differ in terms of our political views and party allegiances.
A glaring factor as to why there is a decline in millennial participation in politics is that we have little or no trust for the government due to the state of the nation with the rise in insecurity, flouting of court orders, nepotism, corruption and tyranny. The average millennial does not see the point participating because, to their argument, it never goes anywhere.
Dear Nigerian millennial, watching from the sidelines is not the way to go neither is relying solely on online activism the surest way to effect change in policies. We need to engage politicians on a one on one basis. We need to attend town hall meetings. We need to register with a political party. We need to bring our online Aluta to the “streets” and show our leaders that we can and will hold them accountable. What better way to effect change than actually be in the corridors of power? Think about it