Vulnerability of the Nigerian Youth: Aftermath of the 2023 Nigerian General Elections

INEC chairman, Yakub Mahmood

By Rev. Fr. Nicholas Okafo


According to the Encyclopedia of Britannica, “An election is the formal process of selecting a person for public office or of accepting or rejecting a political proposition by voting.” An election is very sacrosanct in democracy and the democratic process since it allows the citizenry to elect a credible leader who can be held accountable. The form and substance of an election must exist for any election to be counted as objective, credible, free, and fair. 

For an election to have form and substance, citizens must freely and willingly give their mandate to any candidate that appeals to their consciences. Nigeria holds general elections every four years. 

The long-awaited 2023 general election has come and gone, but it has left us much to ponder. Since the independence of Nigeria in 1960, Nigeria has not had a general election that interests young people like the 2023 general election. But did the 2023 general elections meet the demands and aspirations of the Nigerian Youth? 

Therefore, this article talks about the vulnerability of the Nigerian youth: the aftermath of the 2023 Nigerian general election. To achieve the aim of this write-up, we shall first elucidate the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), its preparedness and promises of a better 2023 General Elections. Secondly, we shall talk about the 2023 general election and the vulnerability of the Nigerian Youth. Lastly, looking beyond the 2023 general elections: resilience as a way forward will be discussed.

INEC’s Preparedness and Promises of a Better 2023 General Elections

On Saturday, February 25, 2023, the Presidential election was conducted with the Senate and Federal House of Representatives. Among all the elections in Nigeria, the presidential election is the most crucial. This is because the Nigerian presidential system of government vested much power in the president, making him the most influential person in Nigeria. Sequel to this, Nigerians feel his impact at home and in the diaspora.

Before the general elections, the INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, made series of assurances and promises regarding the 2023 elections. These assurances went a long way to shape and influence many people’s decisions to exercise their franchise. At this time in Nigerian history, when the country’s unity, security, human conditions, and economy were in jeopardy, Nigerians needed an election representing the will of the masses.

Hence, with the assurances of INEC, there was high hope that Nigeria, whose hitherto elections have been characterised by fraud, vote suppression, and rigging, would get it right this time. When the INEC chairman received delegations of the International Republican Institute (IRI) and those of the National Democratic Institute (NDI) in Abuja, he said, “We assure you that we will continue to work not only hard but even harder to deliver the 2023 general elections.” With this promise and other assurances, Nigerians were very hopeful that our electoral umpire, Prof. Yakubu, would keep to his frequently repeated promise of conducting a general election that would be an improvement of the previous ones.

Prof. Yakubu made several auspicious moves that strengthened people’s hope. Firstly, he deployed Nigerian-made technological devices to cut off human-based election riggings, such as ballot box snatching, falsifying results, and electoral violence. Secondly, he spearheaded the battles to pass the ground-breaking Electoral Act Amendment Bill and the issuance of electoral guidelines, which mandated INEC staff to transmit results from the polling units to the INEC website immediately after the results were counted in the presence of the people and signed by the party agents. Consequently, Nigerians thought they would experience elections that would meet the standard of the developed countries.

The Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) deployment and its success during the Anambra State and other by-elections further elucidated trust and hope in INEC. In addition to these by-elections, INEC conducted “mock” elections in some parts of the country. On January 16, 2023, at Chatham House, the chairman of INEC told Nigerians and the world, “We are ready” for the general election.

The perceived INEC’s preparations since June 2021 resulted in many people, especially the youth, acquiring Permanent Voter's Cards (PVC). The voter’s card registration was extended several times to accommodate the massive turnouts of people who suddenly became interested in the registration. According to INEC, the Continuous Voter Registration, CVR, brought in 9,518,188 new voters. That number increased the national voter’s register from 84,004,084 to 93,522,272 within one year. Among these, 87,209,007 PVCS were collected. That amounts to about 93.3% of the total number of registered voters.

After the election on Saturday, February 25, 2023, Nigerians were shocked and disappointed when INEC failed to transmit most of the election results electronically, as Prof. Yakubu and his team had promised. What was most appalling and bizarre was while most of the Senate and Federal House of Representatives results conducted within the same environment were going through electronically, the presidential was not. Most of the presidential results were manually collated. With this, INEC failed to justify the N300 billion taxpayers’ money budgeted for the 2023 general elections.

At the national collation centre, Abuja, there were obvious concerns. The Commission’s chairman promised to address them before the announcement of the final presidential results but to the great dismay of Nigerians, in the early hours of Wednesday, 1st March 2023, Nigerians woke up to hear that the presidential results have been announced. After announcing the winner of the presidential election, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu asked anyone who was not satisfied with the result to “go to court.” Nigerians were distraught, and a country with more than 200 million people was as quiet as a graveyard.

Many Nigerians were more interested in the election process than the person that emerged as the winner. As one of the presidential candidates would say, “If you must be referred to as “Your Excellency,” then the process through which you arrived in office must be excellent. For how long will Nigerians be taken for granted? How long will the future, hopes, and aspirations of Nigerians, especially the youth, be thwarted, aborted, frustrated, and truncated?

The 2023 General Elections and the Vulnerability of the Nigerian Youth

The Nigerian youth was very involved in the 2023 general elections. The young people hoped that the polls, mainly; the presidential, would produce a credible, reliable, trustworthy, and servant leader Nigerians needed after the eight years of hardship brought about by a seemingly corrupt, insensitive, religious bigots, the divisive and incompetent government of President Muhammadu Buhari.

It would not be an overstatement to say that Nigerian youths are one of the most patient, enduring, and tolerant youths in the world. They are ambitious, enthusiastic, very hardworking, and creative. When the gifts of these youths are not adequately channelled or utilised, the results are devastating. 

Unfortunately, Nigerian youths are conspicuously among the world’s most vulnerable youths. Vulnerability is derived from the Latin word vulnus, or vulnerare, meaning to wound, hurt, injure, or maim. Catriona Mackenzie et al. accentuates that “vulnerability is often invoked in connection with a range of other concepts, including harm, need, dependency, care, (risk) and exploitation.” The Nigerian 2023 elections have exacerbated and aggravated the vulnerability of Nigerian youths.

In Nigeria, the ruling class undermines and alienates the youth. The youths are unemployed and their talents underdeveloped. According to the Nigeria National Bureau of Statistics, “Youth Unemployment Rate in Nigeria increased to 53.40% in the fourth quarter of 2020 from 40.80% in the second quarter of 2020.” The ordinary Nigerian youths are not too demanding; they only ask for the basic needs of life. Good education and a promising, rewarding, and accommodating future are enough for them.

The basic things the Nigerian youths ask for are very ordinary compared to what the youths of advanced countries enjoy. It is very disappointing and disturbing that our leaders who keep promising the youths a better tomorrow only use them like serial abusers as thugs to accomplish their selfish interests, to dump them afterwards. The sad part is that Nigerian politicians who steal the country’s resources send their children to study abroad, where there are very well-equipped academic resources and uninterrupted academic calendars. They also go for medical treatments overseas. 

When the youths failed to achieve their objectives with the protests against police brutality, especially the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, popularly known as EndSARS, in October 2020, they regrouped for the 2023 elections hoping that the polls would help them realise the aborted dreams of EndSARS. However, with the outcome of the general elections, especially the presidential, Nigerian youths tend to feel that all hope is lost. Like the widow of Nain (Lk 7:11-17), whose only son and last hope of existence has died, the youths are despondent and shattered. Their dreams have been aborted, and some live without trust in Nigeria anymore. The Nigerian youths feel more vulnerable now than ever.

This is because many Nigerian youths hardly afford the basic needs of life. They depend on their parents for their day-to-day upkeep. They are adults but still live at home and are fed by their parents. Every attempt to secure jobs and earn a meaningful living has been in vain for some. Some parents borrow money or sell their valuable properties to ensure their children receive an education, hoping they will take care of them in return when they are old. It is heartbreaking to see that some parents still provide and care for their adult children years after graduation. In some cases, parents who are civil and public servants are owed months and years of salaries, making it difficult for them to provide some basic life needs for their children.

The academic calendar, meant to last four, five, and six years depending on one’s course, has lasted more than expected because of incessant strikes. Our educational sector’s budget is nothing to write home about. How can a country that wishes to progress and compete favourably with other nations play with its educational sector? Young people in Nigeria need to develop themselves; they do not need to be stocked with the moribund and outdated system. This does not help a country like Nigeria to grow. The youths look forward to opportunities to be involved in the decision-making and development of Nigeria. 

In his 72 pages and seven priorities area manifesto tagged: “Pact with Nigeria”, released on Saturday, December 3, 2022, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, His Excellency Gov. Peter Obi, promised a holistic poverty eradication and “to build a country where everyone can achieve his or her dreams, a country where a child of nobody will be able to be president of this country.” He also promised to move Nigeria “from consumption to production” and a “new social order where political leaders will be public servants working for the good of the people and not predators flourishing amid extreme poverty and misery.” His seven key priority areas include security, economy, restructuring, infrastructure, and war against corruption. 

With these promises, his pedigree, and antecedent, most Nigerian youths leaned towards Peter Obi, and the Obedient Movement was formed. They saw Mr Obi as the Messiah and a leader who would give them hope and better their future.

Nigerians have never experienced the hardship they received at the hands of the government of President Muhammad Buhari before. While every Nigerian of goodwill, including the youths, were panting and longing for a breath of fresh air, the Nigerian political mafias who were not bothered by the cries of the masses ignored everyone’s plights and feelings and went ahead and masterminded the manipulation and manoeuvring of the figures of the elections to the advantage of their preferred candidates. How long will Nigerians continue to suffer at the hands of these wicked people holding Nigeria hostage? Must the Nigerian youth’s dreams, aspirations, and inspirations end with the 2023 general elections?

Looking Beyond the 2023 General Elections: Resilience as a Way Forward

When all hope seems lost, and the Nigerian youths look like strangers in their father’s land, they are left with only a few options. One of those options is internet fraud. Nigerians have been nicknamed “fraudsters” by many nations of the world. “An Idle brain is the devil’s workshop,” they say. Nigeria is gifted with natural and human resources, but ironically, it is one of the world’s poverty capitals. The talented and energetic Nigerian youths need to channel their energy somewhere. But is being involved in fraudulent activities the best option for the Nigerian youth? The answer is a big NO! For one’s wealth to be genuine, the means and the end must be morally sound. 

Another way the Nigerian youth may resort to solving the problems that besiege their future is by relocating from Nigeria to developed countries in search of greener pastures. While the relocation to other countries has allowed some Nigerian youth to experience “brain gain,” Nigeria has suffered a lot more of a “brain drain” from these movements. Nigerian students preferring to settle overseas after studies has cost Nigeria a lot. In addition to that, Nigeria loses many locally trained professionals to developed countries daily. We do not have enough medical (doctors, nurses, pharmacists, etc.) personnel to manage our over two hundred million Nigerian population. Our doctors and nurses prefer to work in countries where their needs are met. That’s understandable since families that invested a lot in their children’s high cost of education would like to reap the fruits of their investments.

However, the desperate movement from Nigeria to overseas has its challenges. Many of our well-educated youths and professionals have condescended to the level of cleaners, aged care assistants, Uber or Taxi drivers, beggars, prostitutes etc., to make ends meet overseas. Sometimes those who relocate abroad experience and endure racist and other inhumane treatments at the hands of foreigners to maintain their stay overseas. Sadly, our leaders have forced our youths to experience “eating the food meant for pigs,” like the biblical prodigal son.

The sufferings of our youths in the hands of some Nigerian politicians are enormous. However, indulging in illegal practices for quick money making and relocating abroad will only partially solve our problems. Losing our intelligent and innovative children to the Western world will not augur well for the quality of future Nigerian leaders. We need to take more courageous actions to alleviate the suffering of the Nigerian youth. We need patience, perseverance, determination, and persistence in this project.

When the result of the Senate and the Federal House of Representatives are appropriately analysed, one would say that the Nigerian youths achieved a lot through the “Obedient Movement” in the last general election. In places where elections seemed free and fair, the outcome showed that the youths have the capacity and capability to change the dynamics of Nigerian politics. After all, the youth make up the majority of the Nigerian population. Abia State and Enugu State are examples of the states the Obedient Movement retired some of the incompetent, selfish, and corrupt politicians. The ability of some unexpected candidates to emerge winners in some Senatorial and Federal Representative elections in some states of the federation, including Abuja, is the foretaste that if the Nigerian youth remain committed, focused, and resilient, more will be achieved in the nearest future. Revolution, whether peaceful or violent, hardly accomplishes its aim in one or two attempts.

Just like how the youth reorganised and regrouped after the 2020 EndSARS, they need to stay together and start on time to plan for the next general elections. Resilience is the way to go. Etymologically, “resilience” was derived from the Latin word resiliens, the present participle of resilire and re-salire meaning to “jump, leap, or bounce back.” Titus, C. S. defined resilience as “the ability to cope in adverse conditions; it endures, minimises, or overcomes hardships. It resists destructive pressures on the human person’s physiological, psychosocial, and spiritual life, and it creatively constructs and adapts after adversity.” Nigerian Youths should not give up on their aspirations and dreams because of the disappointment of the 2023 elections. Being hopeless and living without goals is an ill wind that blows no one any good. Nigerian youths should remain focused and united to achieve the future they long for. Confucius would say, “A warrior’s greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”


INEC, through its promises and assurances, created high hope in Nigerians. Many thought the 2023 general elections would be the freest, fairest, and most credible Nigeria had ever conducted. Hence, there were many interests. Some people travelled from overseas to cast their votes because they believed that their votes would count. Nigerians in the diaspora were passionately looking forward to having a sigh of relief because it seemed that the burdens of those at home were on their necks. There was an unprecedented turnout of people. The number of first-election voters, both young and older people, was very inspiring. The involvement and investment of time and talents of the young people in the 2023 general elections can never be over-emphasized. Unfortunately, to the surprise of most Nigerians, the outcome of the polls was antithetical to their dreams, aspirations, and anticipations. In the 2023 general elections, many hopes were dashed, lives were unnecessarily wasted, and the taxed payers’ money was squandered in what many have said were the worst elections conducted since the existence of Nigeria. However, to turn around the political pendulum of Nigerian politics, Nigerian youths must stay focused, determined, and resilient. They should start preparing for the next general elections now because they can shape a new Nigeria that will meet their hopes and aspirations.

Rev. Fr. Okafor writes from München School of Philosophy München, Germany.
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