Students Charged to Embrace Democracy, Nigeria


Nigerian students nursing reservations about the country and how it practices democracy have been charged to think again and to fully accept Nigeria as their own to which they owe the duty of contributing to efforts at achieving desired change.

The students, during an interactive political forum organised by a strategy and media group, Gatefield, at the America University of Nigeria (AUN) in Yola, were also charged to accept that democracy remains a government mode of preference for its liberal inclination towards civil rights.

The Frame Democracy Forum at the AUN Auditorium which attracted students mostly from the host university, included talk sessions by two resource persons and a panel discussion session which featured the two resource persons and two students.

The two students in the panel were President of the AUN Student Union Government (SUG), Talford Ongolo and another student, Otuekong Nyong.

In the course of presentations by the resource persons: public affairs and strategic communications specialist Mahmud Jafar, as well as development and social change advocate Vanessa Williams, the students voiced hard words against how democracy is practiced in Nigeria.

“Nigeria’s democracy exist only on paper. Our politicians start with rigging their path to office and once there, feel no commitment to anyone,” one of the students asserted.

Another said, “Youths are willing to engage politically but are discouraged by the feeling that their votes, their opinions, their needs don’t matter.”

A third student said, ” Political aparty among youths derive from many things: Political corruption affects them. The economic situation does not encourage them. Young people also feel that this country can be authoritarian, that power belongs to few political elite.”

And yet another student complained, “Democracy places impossible barriers against those seeking to enter it. It is so highly monetized it looks like there is a deliberate policy to keep people out.”

Many spoke in similar vein, and Mahmud Jafar who presented a paper on the topic, ‘Promoting Democratic Values through Youth Dialogue and Narratives,’ admitted imperfections in democracy the way Nigeria practices it.

Taking a close look at the authoritarian turns of Nigeria’s democracy, Mahmud who is the Program Manager for Frame Democracy, recalled that one Chioma Okoli criticised a tomato company and was arrested.

“This is an example of what happens in an authoritarian state,” he said, adding that the Twitter ban (by the Muhammed Buhari government) was an authoritarian move.

Both during his paper presentation and at the panel discussion sessions, however, Mahmud Jafar impressed it on students not to dismiss democracy wholesale, but to contribute efforts to reform it.

He said Nigeria is to be preferred to China which runs an authoritarian government that does not brook citizen or media rights.

On her part, Vanessa Williams who is a Frame Democracy Ally, agreed about certain issues with democracy.

She said a big red flag for democracy is when leaders lose touch with the reality among the people, as well as if leaders cannot send their children to the schools attended by children of the people.

She said however that on the part of the followers, there does not seem to be passion for Nigeria.

She asked, “Do you have enough love for Nigeria to want to die for Nigeria? But you might die because of Nigeria if you are not interested or passionate enough to wish to die for Nigeria to be better.”

By Onimisi Alao