Nigerian students have been encouraged to get involved in the country’s electoral process. The call was made at a forum organised by the International Press Centre (IPC) with support from Action Aid and UK Aid.
Titled Campus Conversation on governance, elections and related electoral issues, the event held at Ikorodu, Lagos was designed as a dialogue for Lagos Campus Leaders who were enjoined to participate in campus activism.
At the event, a Senior Programme Staff from Women Advocate Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC), Mary George Peluola led a discussion on “On-campus and off-campus realities: articulating youth activism as agents of development.”
During her presentation, she allowed the student representatives from the Lagos State Polytechnic (LASPOTECH) and few other campuses to state the various challenges they confront daily on the campuses.
After the participants took turns to relay their daily challenges on their campuses, Peluola however enjoined them to organise themselves and speak with one voice in order to achieve results and get the better campus society of their dreams.
“If you have one voice and organise yourselves, you can surmount any issue you are confronting. You must be able to influence yourselves,” she said.
Defining activism as a positive action to bring about environmental reform or societal change, the senior officer at WARDC noted that things have continued to change especially for the women folks since the Beijing Conference held in China.
“Since the Beijing conference, things have opened up and still changing positively. As a woman you can aspire once you are qualified, don’t look down on yourselves and don’t let others look down on you,” she said, encouraging further that, “Women should participate in developmental process because if anything happens today, women are the ones to bear the brunt. It is a double tragedy on women, they can’t run and leave their children behind in time of crisis.”
According to Peluola, “When we talk about activism women should be at the fore front. Students must collaborate and build networks, they must be actors in the communities which would help you in fundraising.”
She also warned against students supporting politicians based on sentiments. “As a youth you don’t have to support a politician based on religious or ethnic sentiment but on ideologies. This will help you to hold them accountable. Don’t allow them to use you as thugs. If you don’t organise yourselves they would not listen to you,” she counseled.
Also at the event, Director of the International Press Centre (IPC), Mr. Lanre Arodundade tasked the student participants to participate in the electoral process.
“Sometimes what you become in life is a matter of interest. Electoral process means the procedure before, during and after election. It includes registration and involves participation; joining a political party,” Arogundade said.
Continuing, the former Chairman of the Lagos Chapter of the Nigerian Union of Journalism (NUJ), Arogundade observed that Nigerian electorates often lack knowledge of the political parties they endorse. “In a democracy you must seek knowledge. How many people read the manifesto of the political party they voted for? You must be well informed and to be informed is to seek knowledge.”
Talking about the Nigerian youths, Arogundade, a former senatorial aspirant on the platform of the National Conscience Party (NCP) noted one factor that affects the Nigerian youths negatively. “One of the things that affect young people is that they are not informed. To participate in an electoral process you must read the Constitution and the Electoral Act. Don’t stay aloof, don’t say it doesn’t concern you because you are going to leave the school and get into the society to face some of the things you are being told.”
The former National President of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), however encouraged the students to participate in their campus politics. “While in school, participate in your departmental meetings, ask questions.
Sometimes, you have leadership qualities but you may not know. I am challenging you if you cannot participate in the student union government, be part of your faculty, attend meetings and by so doing you are preparing yourselves for leadership in the future,” he said.
Moderator of the event, Mr. Francis Abayomi however enjoined the students to seek knowledge by reading in order to be able to effect the needed change.
“Your campus is your community for now. There are lots of issues you desire improvement on the campus. How do you effect the change when you are not part of the discussion?” He asked, stating further that, the students should make themselves available for positive engagements on the campuses.
Concluding, Abayomi said, “We are to read about our history so that we can know where we are coming from. Don’t let anybody deceive you that things cannot get better, we can’t keep complaining for now.”