VOA’s Mike Hove spoke to Ojooluwa Ibiloye, the Founder of RuralPro Nigeria, a non-partisan organization that focuses on promoting local governance rooted in citizens’ participation.
The interview was edited for brevity and clarity.
VOA: How focused are Nigerian youth on the 2023 elections?
Ibiloye: The 2023 elections are an extremely important exercise which the youth are heavily invested in, even more than the previous elections.
The recently concluded continuous voter registration program which is facilitated by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) reported 12,200,000 new registrations - approximately 7,800,000 are under the age of 30.
VOA: The youth of Nigeria have been extremely vocal about a range of challenges that they face, which was shown by the #EndSars campaign. Do you think they will maintain that attitude as the February 25 presidential race gets closer?
Ibiloye: In 2020, millions of Nigerian youths started a social movement against police brutality in the country. We said to ourselves "Enough is enough and we need police reform in the country!" We took to the streets and used social media to amplify our voices.
We are going to take the success of the #EndSars protests and use that next year by protesting through the ballot so we can elect the right candidate.
VOA: Experts say having young people and women representation in government helps address challenges faced by both youth and women, however in Nigeria’s circumstance both groups represent the minority in government. How best can that be changed?
Ibiloye: Young Nigerians are not interested in party politics, and unfortunately political parties are the gateway to political participation.
We have achieved some success with independent candidates but that is rare to accomplish without the support of a political party.
VOA: In 2018 President Muhammadu Buhari signed the “Not Too Young to Run” bill which focuses on addressing several challenges faced by youth when running for public office. Do you think we will witness changes in 2023 resulting from that bill?
Ibiloye: That bill paved the way for young Nigerians to aspire and stand a chance to contest for public office. For an example, a 25-year-old can now contest for a seat in the House of Representatives.
In 2019, the speaker of Oyo state’s House of Assembly won the elections when he was below the age of 35. Prior to the Not too Young to Run bill, this was very difficult.