Ahead of the 2023 general elections, Very Rev. Fr. Gabriel Odunaiya, National Chaplain, Catholic Youth Organisation of Nigeria (CYON), has urged Nigerian youths to take advantage of their numerical strength to play decisive roles in the political process and emergence of a new Nigeria. Speaking exclusively with The Catholic Herald weekly newspaper on his recent paper entitled, “The Role of the Nigerian Youths in the Emergence of a New Nigeria Vis a Vis the Strategies for Tackling Voters Apathy,” Fr. Odunaiya noted that the involvement of youths in the affairs of our Nation is long overdue. The CYON National Chaplain stated that of utmost importance in building a better and new Nigeria is the urgent need for youths to explore the political space of the country, instead of being mere onlookers in the political process. He said, “Nigeria desperately needs the current generation to champion the cause of promoting oneness, togetherness, nation building and chart a path that leads to the development of a country that works for all. The admission of the failures and ugly history of the past fueled by self-servicing interest is a starting point for the realisation of a new Nigeria. “Nigeria has a long history of political apathy, thanks to the common falsehood of “votes don’t count”.
Since the return of civilian rule in 1999, the average voter participation has never exceeded 50% of the total registered voters (and total population), which makes a mockery of majority rule which informs the opinion that if half of the youth population actively take part in elections, they are most likely to have a huge say in the election’s outcome. Young people have an important role to play by taking part in the electioneering process. “The involvement of our youths in the affairs of our nation is long overdue. Their participation in the political exercise is not negotiable. The blind among them can see clearly now, the deaf among them can hear loudly about the various pains being decried in the whole nation. I can say the youths are more than never before are ready. “Freedom can’t be won by mere folding of hands.
There must be a deliberate and well calculated step to achieve this. It’s not everything one will have to say on air, but then it’s necessary to prevent youths from being mere spectators in the political processes that will bring into power those who will govern us for the next four or eight years as the case may be.” Fr. Odunaiya further stated, “The youths have what it takes to cure the epileptic state/situation of our political system. “With over 60% of the population comprising people between the age group of 18-35, according to the National Youth Policy, young people have a demographic advantage over every other age group. Young people must lead the rebuilding project by uniting the nation on all fronts, devoid of ethical or religious sentiment.” The cleric also charged eligible voters to eschew apathy and participate actively in electoral activities.