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Nigeria 2023 Elections: Gubernatorial Results (Source:INEC)

2023 Election: The shutdown of higher institutions and young voters’ political franchise

The registration of new voters for the upcoming 2023 election no doubt witnessed an incredible surge with young voters (between the ages of 18 and…

The registration of new voters for the upcoming 2023 election no doubt witnessed an incredible surge with young voters (between the ages of 18 and 34) topping the list of new registered voters (constituting 39%). This is a clear testimony of the palpable excitement of the youth of our nation to rewrite the destiny of their country, a paradigm departure from the ‘stay aloof past.’ The end SARS movement and the myriad of existential challenges confronting the soul of our nation, no doubt play a big role in this new political reawakening and revival.

The youths of our nation are apparently weary of taking the back seat and sitting on the fence, and would not allow their destiny to be further decimated by their political allergy. There can be no more room for political apathy with millions of them armed with their PVC to determined the course of their political destiny. Expectedly, the free choices of our young men and women across our nation is anticipated to shape the outcome of the upcoming 2023 general election. But I am honestly pessimistic that this expectation may end up as a mirage given the recent directive by the National Universities Commission (NUC) that all Universities be shut down, a directive that has by extension affected other allied tertiary institutions of learning.

The directive of NUC for campuses to be shut down on account of general election is no doubt alien to our political history and evolution. If my memory serves me right, what was obtainable during previous general election was the suspension of academic activities in our institutions, to allow for students of tertiary institution to exercise their constitutional franchise. But as it stands, the blanket directive by NUC to Universities to shut down our campuses is a big blow to the excitement of our youth to participate in this forthcoming general election. Traditionally, our campuses are polling units to registered voters, with the bulk of this voters comprising students and staff who are resident on our campuses. Granted that some students are registered at home for this upcoming election, evicting those who are registered on our university campuses, is a great miscalculation tantamount to disenfranchisement of this critical population. Apparently, this ill-conceived order by NUC to shut down our campuses, for students to compulsorily vacate their hostel will inadvertently impact negatively on youth participation in this epoch election. More worrisome is the strain of travelling and returning back to school after the three weeks break, for those who reside far away from their institutions.

Rightly, this directive by NUC received the blessings of the senate and management of most of our institutions because of the palpable prelection violence in some parts of our country. But quite honestly this trajectory is not alien to our emerging democracy, it is a situation borne out of the intolerance of our political elites who are desperate for power and control. Notwithstanding, the pocket of violence in some states, our institutional campuses serving as polling units are often the safest polling units historically, and the factors responsible for this cannot be fractured by existing tension in the air. To my mind, 2023 election will come and go, with winners emerging, but our young men and women must not be denied the opportunity to express their voice at the polls. As such, all stakeholders must work painstakingly to protect the political franchise of students who registered on campuses and possess their PVC to vote at their various polling units.

Wishing our nation, a free, fair and violent free 2023 election. God bless Nigeria.

Dr Francis Agbaraolorunpo Writes from fagbaraolorunpo@unilag.ng.edu