Inclusive participation in the electoral process is essential for measuring the quality of elections. An inclusive electoral process is an indicator of a country’s democratic development.
Election management bodies must ensure the principles of inclusion and representation are guaranteed in their operations. If youth participation must be enhanced, then youth engagement must be seen to be interesting and meaningful.
Historically, youth between the ages of 18-35 years in Nigeria (estimated to constitute about 60% of the population of the country) have been playing active roles in deepening democratization in Nigeria. The huge milestones Nigeria and the Independent National Electoral Commission recorded with the successful conduct of the 2015 elections would have been impossible without the contributions of the youth demographic.
Therefore, it is imperative to have avenues in which the youth are able to be a part of electoral processes rather than against it, having an inclusive system by encouraging participation via voting, contesting, election management among others. Strategic and intentional youth engagement throughout the electoral process also reduces the risks related to political exclusion. A youth strategy deliberately aimed at young people especially from a young age will help in building appreciation for the democratic practices and electoral process. Ultimately, a youth strategy will strengthen INEC’s sustained efforts for conducting free, fair and credible elections.
The Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) recommends that electoral management bodies (EMBs) should begin to integrate the youth into their organizational structures, and make use of their largely untapped skills, especially in the use of technology.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in partnership with YIAGA as part of efforts to strengthen youth voices for advocacy and increase youth participation in the electoral process with hold strategy development meetings, regional consultations, campus tours, online engagements and validation meetings towards the development of a strategy to guide INECs youth engagement throughout the electoral process.
“We all benefit by having young people exposed to the ‘way things are done’ in a democratic society. Isn’t it time… to ‘tap the power of youth?’” — Hans Bernard