Youth apathy sours African election fever – DW (English)

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Despite young people comprising Africa’s majority, their political participation is riddled with inconsistencies. Many young Kenyans won’t vote this August, but it is likely to be very different next year in Nigeria.

Young Nigerians are more interested in politics than their Kenyan counterparts
On August 9, Kenyan voters will cast their ballots in what many are calling a two-horse race between the 77-year-old Raila Odinga and the 55-year-old William Samoei Ruto, the current deputy president.
Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has also cleared two other candidates in the hotly contested race to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta.
According to IEBC Chairperson Wafula Chebukati, the general elections will likely witness a reduced participation of young people. “The number of youths aged 18 to 34 years and registered to vote in 2022 stands at 39.84%, which is a decline of 5.27% against what we had in 2017,” he told reporters in the capital Nairobi as he unveiled an audit of the voters’ register.
Kenya is predominantly young, with youths making up about 80% of the population of 56 million. But many young people seem disinterested in the political and electoral process. Some say that this has something to do with insufficient civic education but not everyone agrees.
“We cannot say it is a lack of civic education, but a lack of solid interest in things that matter,” Edwin Kegoli, a Kenyan political analyst, told DW.
“We don’t want to participate in electoral matters fully, but we are the ones who will be on social media platforms complaining about bad governance and the deplorable state of the economy,” he said. “So, we are the first to complain and the last to participate in the national discourse.”
Analysts say that many young people would not spend one or two hours queueing to vote
Many young people, who also form the bulk of the unemployed, often grumble about being marginalized in terms of opportunities.
At least 1 million young Kenyans enter the labor market each year, but most struggle to get jobs, according to Kenya Private Sector Alliance.
Wilkister Aduma, a youth leader who runs an NGO that supports young people seeking elective seats, said that the “political space” had encouraged a climate of “apathy.”
“This is why young people have found themselves on that side because what they’re looking at is the opportunities. If they don’t see the opportunities, they don’t relate,” Aduma told DW. 
The young political activist said that he believed the current economic hardships had also fueled voter apathy among youths.
Others say that young people have lost faith in the entire election process because of a lack of trust in politicians.
“It’s very toxic and so acidic,” said Peter Mwyne, campus director at Daystar University. “It’s toxic because it is not based on mutual ground. It’s a symbiotic relationship where you give me this, I give you that. It’s a quid pro quo.” He said that politicians were perceived to come to see youths only when it was convenient.
Young Nigerians are eager to select their next leader, who is most likely to be Bola Tinubu (L) or Atiku Abubakar (R)
The picture is very different in Nigeria. Africa’s most populous nation is due to go to the polls to pick its next leader on February 25, 2023.
Unlike Kenyans, Nigerian youths seem eager to cast their ballots and to make a change.
“Nigeria is in a mess, everything is upside down, the economy is getting worse by the day,” said Peace Joseph, a student in Lagos.
“Most people can’t afford a three square meals a day. So, I am going to come out on that fateful day and vote,” she vowed. She also said that others should not be “ignorant” by saying “our votes do not count.”
Tolu Akinsulere, a young public relations officer, also said that he was looking forward to choosing his presidential candidate.
“As a [Nigerian] citizen, I would vote because I feel it is my right,” he said. “I implore all youths, all Nigerians over 18, I implore all of them to come out and vote because if they do not vote, then it might even get worse.”
“If they [youths] are tired of the way the country is, if they are tired of the high rate of insecurity, banditry, terrorism, Naira devaluation, and all other factors affecting us, they should come outside and vote,” he insisted.
Political observers say this might have to do with the 2020 #EndSARS protests triggered by a video of a man purportedly being killed by the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
The 2020 #EndsSARS protests galvanized Nigeria’s youth to actively engage in political discourse
Young Nigerians mobilized tens of thousands of fellow youths and protested against police violence in the streets under the hashtag #EndSARS.
The demonstrations shook the nation for two weeks and forced the government to disband SARS and establish judicial panels of inquiry to look into numerous claims of police abuse.
According to Amnesty International, at least 12 people were killed after the army reportedly opened fire on demonstrators.
Since then, Nigerian youths have been engaging more actively in the country’s political discourse, said Sam Olukoya, DW’s correspondent in Lagos .
Political analyst Edwin Kegoli said that it was crucial for young people to develop an interest in the national discourse.
“If we get more young people into employment and empower them so that they are participating in programs that will bring growth and development from an economic perspective, then we’ll find most of them beginning to develop that interest,” he said.
He called on all political stakeholders to bring serious discourse to young people and tell them that the future belongs to them.
“If you fail to make a decision right now, maybe you are disinterested. You are only trading in your future,” Kegoli said.
Sam Olukoya and George Okachi contributed to this article
Edited by: Keith Walker
Our investigation began in Benin City, capital of Edo State. Almost everyone we spoke to has at least a friend or a family member in Europe. More than three-quarters of illegal prostitutes in Italy are from this region. Due to high unemployment among the youths in Edo state, many young women see fewer prospects here. They seek for a better life in Europe instead, not fully aware of the dangers.
Catholic Sister, Bibiana Emenaha, has tried for years to warn young Nigerian women before they ended up in Europe. “Many are lured with false promises,” she told us. The traffickers promise jobs such as babysitting or hair dressing, but that quickly turn out to be a lie. Once the young women are in Europe, they end up on the streets.
After long negotiations, a trafficker agreed to an interview with us. He called himself Steve and claimed he has already transported more than 100 Nigerians all the way to Libya. He wouldn’t speak about the people behind his business. He said he was simply a service provider. “The people here in Edo State are greedy. They are willing to do anything for a better life,” Steve said.
For 600 euros ($666) per person, Steve organizes the journey from Nigeria to Libya. “Most people know how dangerous the journey is through the Sahara,” the human smuggler told us. Many people die very often along the way. “That is the risk,” Steve said, who brings the migrants personally to Agadez in Niger. A colleague then takes over from there.
The desert town of Agadez was the most dangerous part of our research trip. The town thrives on human and drug trafficking and foreigners are often kidnapped for ransom. We could only move around with armed guards and had to wear traditional head cover to be less visible.
Like many others in the desert town, Omar Ibrahim Omar, the Sultan of Agadez, sees human trafficking as a problem that cannot be solved in Agadez. He is asking for more money from the international community. His argument: If Europe does not want more migrants to keep coming through the Mediterranean Sea, Europe should give more support to Niger.
For months now, several trucks with migrants from Agadez set out every Monday shortly before sunset towards the north. The crisis in Libya has contributed to human traffickers being able to reach the Mediterranean Sea without the usual controls. And we soon learned that the authorities here in Niger have little interests in their activities.
Many of the migrants from Nigeria land on the streets in Italy. Social worker Lisa Bertini works with foreign prostitutes. “They are coming more and more,” she told us. According to official figures, about 1,000 Nigerians went to Italy across the Mediterranean in 2014. In 2015, the figure climbed to 4,000. “And the girls are getting younger,” the social worker said.
With help from a Nigerian colleague, we discovered an alleged “Madam” in northern Italy. A Nigerian host in Italy is referred to as “Madam,” she is at the top of a smaller trafficking network. The madam we found lived in a suburb of Florence and one victim made serious accusations against the her: “She has been beating us and forced us into prostitution,” the victim said.
As we confronted the supposed “Madam” about the accusations, she admited accommodating six young Nigerian women in her house, but denied forcing them into prostitution: “It’s just something young Nigerians here do.” After our interview, we handed our research to the Italian public prosecutor’s office.
Sister Monika Uchikwe has long been criticizing the inactivity of the Italian authorities. For eight years, she has cared for victims of human trafficking. She explained in rage as we asked about the customers. The men always want cheap satisfaction – sex with a Nigerian woman on the streets costs only 10 euros. “Without this possibility, this problem would not exist,” she said.
Author: Jan-Philipp Scholz / Adrian Kriesch / abj
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