March 14, 2023

Nigerian youths emerge as heroes in 2023 Presidential election

2023 PRESIDENCY: Will push for consensus sail through?

By Maurice Emelu

Regardless of which side of the political spectrum you fall, there is no denying that the 2023 Nigerian presidential election had one clear winner—the youth. This group of determined men and women has had enough of the corrupt politicians and structures that have long kept Nigeria from reaching its full potential. They are true heroes who embody everything good about the Nigerian people’s moral audacity and spiritual psyche.

Joining forces with these young heroes are citizens who challenged business-as-usual politics, all working toward a shared goal—a radical change from corruption to ethical, political leadership. The Obi-Datti coalition serves as a mouthpiece for this litany of heroes. It provides a platform through which the youth find their voice and push for change. 

As court battles continue over who truly won the election, it is vital to recognize the historical statement made by the Nigerian youth who spoke out against corruption and demanded an ethical election process. Their voices ring louder than any attempt to subvert them, marking a movement toward progress, unlike anything we’ve seen in Nigeria in the past three decades. It’s time to celebrate these courageous heroes’ unwavering determination to make Nigeria a better place for all. They have started a powerful movement toward an ethical election process and democracy in the most populated African nation, a country of more than 200 million people.

A Movement for the Moral Soul of Nigeria

The Nigerian youth movement for change is not about the Labour Party or any other political party. Instead, it represents a fight for the moral soul of the giant of Africa. Therefore, it is more appropriate to see the movement as an a-political collective sentiment to elect credible people, not money bags and political parties. 

In less than four months, our youth have accomplished what billions of naira spent on electoral reform could not achieve for decades. They have demonstrated that business as usual is no longer acceptable, and they have dared political cronyism. They have operationalized the age-long wisdom of Thomas Jefferson that government’s “power belongs to the people” and not to the so-called political godfathers. 

Against institutionalized forms of corruption that have made Nigeria a questionable brand in the global community, our youth have risen to show that their ethical standards outweigh corrupt kickbacks. Despite being labeled “lazy” by a Nigerian president, their work and hard work speak louder than words. 

The youth movement represents an existential fight for Nigeria’s heartbeat, the country’s largest economy in Africa. It is a fight for Nigerian purity and a just political order. Indeed, our youth deserve praise for their boldness and commitment to creating a better future for themselves and the country. 

The Past and The Catalyst for Radical Change 

From 1985, Nigerian politicians learned from the reckless corruption of some heads of state. Consequently, the sowing of seeds of a corrupt and decadent nation took the main stage. These rotten seeds were cultivated, nurtured, and grew into a plague that infected every facet of Nigerian society, from the civil service to corporate lives, for nearly four decades. It flourished and became a harvest of delight for political cronies controlling the dominant one-party or two-party chase boards. As each decade rolled into another, our national brand went from bad to worse, becoming synonymous with corruption and simply a volatile market in the global community. Yet politicians did not care as they felt safe with their fat bank accounts while their closest neighbors picked food from the gutters.

However, February 25th, 2025, marked a turning point in Nigeria’s history. It became the Nigerian youth public manifesto for radical change. Our generation has come to state that “we are.” A time for silence is over, for as we glean from Wole Soyinka’s, The Man Died (1972), keeping silent in the eyes of tyranny is self-annihilation. The Nigerian politicians have lived far too long in the falsehood that “we aren’t.” So comfortable in their seemingly secure but tented political Ivory Tower, they fail to recognize that things have changed. Corruption has blinded them, eating deep into their moral sense of perception. They don’t represent our sentiments because they’ve played us like pawns on their Aso Rock chessboard for too long.

Contrary to their views, our politically awakened youth are more than just active on social media. The youth are an unstoppable force for social and political change. They align with leaders who play the card of honesty and integrity within the system, those who refuse to buy votes by violence or through bribing voters and election officials, and those who represent the collective will of the Nigerian people for real change. The Nigerian youth stand with politicians who pursue political positions, not because it is their turn or the turn of their family, ethnic group, tribe, or religion, but because they are competent. Also, the youth are champions to the people they choose to serve, not those who steal their way to the government house.   

The temperature for radical change is not just about Peter Obi, although he deserves credit for symbolizing authentic moral politics the Nigerian youth crave. It is about Nigerians’ collective consciousness and political will for a new beginning. Despite alleged rigging from all quarters through the February 25th election results, the Nigerian youth demonstrated resiliency, showing they’re everywhere. No one can silence them. They won’t stop until they’ve radically changed the corrupt Nigerian politics.

Renewed Hope and Renewed Zeal

The Nigerian youth have emerged as a formidable force in the fight against tribalism, religious bigotry, and ethnic discrimination in our body politic. Their ability to see through the deceitful tactics employed by candidates vying for regional supremacy and power is commendable. They have demonstrated their commitment to democracy by voting beyond regional lines despite threats to their lives. They will serve the movement effectively if they reject any attempt by the political class to make their mission a regional, ethnic, tribal, religious, or sectarian struggle. 

The Nigerian youth have proven that they possess a deep understanding of technology. Therefore, a digital forensic of INEC’s Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and the Election Result Viewing Portal (IReV)  to preserve electoral credibility is an ethical demand to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). 

It isn’t complicated to do. If INEC is independent, its officials must prove it. INECmust recognize this reality and take adequate measures to ensure the sanctity of the electoral process. 

Considering these developments, it is only fitting to congratulate the Nigerian youth for their resilience and unwavering dedication to freedom. Their moral integrity stands in stark contrast to the moral apathy of corrupt politicians. The youth’s audacious pursuit of justice is a beacon of hope for all Nigerians who yearn for change.

As we look toward Nigeria’s future optimistically, business as usual is no longer acceptable. The brave, moral, ethical, proud, audacious, and credible Nigerian youth have emerged as a powerful force against institutionalized corruption from Aso Rock to every corner of Nigeria where corruption nests. Only credible politicians and elections plus electoral transparency win in this emergent force, a new era in Nigerian politics. Anything short of credibility is a non-starter. 

The Reverend (Dr) Maurice Emelu is the co-director of the Master of Science in digital marketing & communication strategy & graduate programs and an assistant professor of communication (digital media) at the Tim Russert Department of Communication, John Carroll University, USA. His television programs can be seen on EWTN.