From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Vice Chancellor, University of Abuja (UniAbuja), Prof Abdul-Rasheed Na’Allah, has challenged Nigerian youths to actively participate in the processes that would culminate in the emergence of a new set of political leaders in next year’s elections.
The former military governor of Kwara and Kano States, Air Vice Marshal Mohammed Umar (retd), and former INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner for Akwa Ibom State, Mike Igini, also joined in the advocacy and sensitisation of youths to participate in the forthcoming political exercise.
He also expressed the readiness of the institution to deepen the political participation of young Nigerians by providing them with the necessary leadership training and other capacity required to boost their confidence.
Prof Na’Allah spoke at the 2023 election town hall organised by the Abuja Leadership Centre which is a TETFund Centre of Excellence in Public Governance and Leadership domiciled in the university.
He said the University is leaving up to expectations by leveraging on its strategic location in the nation’s capital to contribute to the development of Nigeria, promising that the institution through the Centre would enthrone an improved leadership system in the country.
He added: “This Centre of Excellence on Public Governance and Leadership has provided the opportunity to help develop leadership fortune for this nation. We are now committed totally as a university to support and change the leadership fortune of this nation.”
Director of Centre of Excellence, Prof Philip Afaha, in his address said the town hall meeting was targeted at young people in order to boost their participation in the next year’s elections and subsequent electoral processes in the country.
He said: “The objective of the town hall was to educate the public, especially the young public who constitutes a larger percentage of the population. University communities are predominantly peopled by young Nigerians and they have the right to know what will be happening in the country by February and March next year.
“We are approaching a very significant phase in our nation which has to do with electing those that will run the affairs of the country in the next four years. It is important to educate young minds with the right information and courage to participate in the political process and choose their leaders.
“Election is very important and cannot be left in the hands of politicians alone. Young ones must know the technicalities, BVAS, transmission of results, how voting is to be done.”
Prof Efaha, registered his concerns that the political activeness of the youths in social media has not translated to real political involvement, stressing the need for young Nigerians to transform the same passion into reality.
He said: “It is not enough to be on social media and be shouting 2023. It’s important to know what is going to happen in 2023, and acquaint ourselves with the processes. We must ask questions like how am I going to be involved? What are the implications of my actions? What are the technicalities? Are there new rules by INEC?”
In his remarks, the military governor of Kwara state stressed the point that producing good leaders is key to the development of any nation. “Actions and inactions of leaders determine the future and success of such society.”
He called on Nigerians to choose good leaders in the 2023 general elections, stressing that the country needs to overcome its crisis of leadership recruitment before the expected growth and development can come.
In a presentation, Mike Igini said there would be a major paradigm shift in the 2023 polls as voters now have the ultimate power to determine winners of elections.
He said: “INEC has designed a system that has brought power to the people, that is why many politicians are now afraid. With the introduction of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), rigging and other forms of voting manipulations by politicians have been curtailed by the device. It’s important the youths seize the opportunity to vote out bad leaders.
“Polling unit, ward and local government collation centres are now mere ceremonial collation centres as results entered into the BVAS are automatically loaded into the cloud system. The amended electoral Act prescribes severe punishment, a prison term of not less than one year or N10 million fine for electoral officials that attempted to change election results.”
The Executive Director of Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), Clement Nwankwo, in his presentation, said that despite the innovations and other good measures initiated by INEC to curb rigging, Nigerians need to be vigilant as the BVAS is not totally immune from manipulation.
Nwankwo called on Nigerians to fully take part in the 2023 general elections and ensure their votes count, adding that “unless we get it right, the country will be plunged into more crisis.”