nigerian youth on the change they want to see

Nigeria is about to vote in a new president, and the outcome will have a vast impact on the country's youth, who make up over half of the population. 17-year-old photographer Isabel Okoro captured her peers and asked them what they want for the country.

by Isabel Okoro
|
13 February 2019, 3:00pm

Being born and raised in Nigeria, I am no stranger to the many hardships that my people face, even though I’m fortunate enough to be attending school in Toronto. In a country like Nigeria where corruption prevails with no sympathy, it’s very easy for the youth to feel like we have no voice and no power. Recently, my native city, Lagos, was ranked as the third worst city to live in -- worldwide. This seems strange at first look, as we are home to so many billionaire politicians and government officials, but it all boils down to corruption and bad leadership. Last year there were many debates about whether or not it’s important to vote in the February 2019 elections, as some people felt that voting was useless and wouldn’t change anything and could even be rigged or swayed in a particular direction. Although I can’t vote yet, I believe it is extremely important for the younger generations of Nigerians to step up and at least attempt to reclaim our country. We are the future.

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Damilola Toriola, 19, university student

How would you describe the current generation of Nigerian youth?
Socially aware. Proud of their identity. Ambitious and invested in African culture.

Why do you think it’s important to vote?
The current generation of leaders might not be able to lead Nigeria of the future. There is a
large youth population and therefore we need to best represent us. We need someone who has a better understanding of how the new world works and what our new needs are.

What change are you hoping for?
Crime reduction. Leadership with a better understanding of the youth and with our interests at
heart. Economic improvement and stability. More jobs. More focus on education. Better
infrastructure.

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Richard Ogundiya, 20, university student

How would you describe the current generations of Nigerian youth?
Our president once referred to us as lazy, it’s sad he sees things that way. In as much as a lot of Nigerian youth are uneducated and unemployed, it’s a hustle generation. Things don’t work here, so we have to work three times harder to get good results. There are still many young people in Nigeria doing exceptional things, trying to make it work in entertainment, technology, agriculture, entrepreneurship and recently, politics. The #NotTooYoungToRun initiative has opened doors for more young people to challenge the country’s political structure. I believe things will get better and the Nigeria we want is upon us.

Why do you think it’s important to vote?
I believe voting is both a privilege and a duty that comes with democracy. Today, young Nigerians have the right to vote and be voted for, the skills and numbers to make a difference in government and society at large. We’re rewriting so many narratives and it is imperative we stayed engaged with politics and current events.

What are the most important issues for young people in this election?
The economy. A good economy will also mean better living standards and more jobs. Hopefully it saves us from becoming the world’s poverty capital as predicted. Education, so we don’t run out of the necessary skills needed for the future. Security, so we don’t live like outcasts in our own home. Infrastructural development, more programs and aid to support young people.

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Amaka Ihenacho, 23 years old, human resource personnel

How would you describe the current generations of Nigerian youth?
We are forward thinking, innovative, global citizens who are proactive. This is because we know our leaders do not really have our best interest at heart, so we grab the bull by the horns. We are no longer sitting around and waiting for handouts, we now give handouts to each other.

What are the most important issues for young people in this election?
We are lacking in terms of political representation. Although the Not Too Young to Vote bill was passed in 2018, I personally feel it's not enough. It’s one thing to reduce the age limit, it’s another to make it accessible, as it costs so much.

What change are you hoping for?
Change in the public sector. This includes education, electricity, job opportunities, healthcare. It might sound cliche but we actually lack basic amenities

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Toye Sokunbi, 20 years old, content creator/writer

How would you describe the current generations of Nigerian youth?
We have a generation where some people are really sheltered, and some people are not sheltered at all.

What change are you hoping for?
We need to empower local governments and make sure that from a grassroots level there is empowerment of the people. I want the uncomfortable conversations to start and never stop. I want to see more discussions involving people from completely different ends of the spectrum.

What do you think is the most important thing that Nigeria needs right now?
A leader with empathy. Someone who has the understanding that after you make certain decisions that appear to be balanced on your end, but then you receive some criticism stating that it might not necessarily be in the best interest of some other people, a compromise should be made to better serve everyone.

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Sinmi Adepoju, 19 years old, university student

Why do you think it’s important to vote?
I feel Nigeria is at a crossroads. We are at a point where if the wrong decision is made, my future as well as countless other youths are at stake. So we have to come together and choose wisely.

Do you and your friends agree about politics?
More often than not we do. I’m about dividing the national moi moi and sharing the national cake
which basically means everyone should eat good. However some of my peers are more
‘everyone fight for themselves’.

What do you think is the most important thing that Nigeria needs right now?
I think the most important thing needed right now is unity. Everyone being on the same page. Everyone waking up together to achieve the goal of making Nigeria great irrespective of age, gender, sexuality or religion. We need to work together. Also having faith in the youth, we are the leaders of tomorrow, aren’t we?

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Deto Black, 24 years old, accountant

Why do you think it’s important to vote?
It’s important to vote if you care about yourself and your future. It’s funny when people say they aren’t interested in politics because they don't realise that’s pretty much like saying they aren't interested in life.

What change are you hoping for?
I’m hoping for leaders elected to actually do the work they set out to do. I’m also hoping for a more transparent government.

What do you think is the most important thing that Nigeria needs right now?
Good leadership. We need leaders that genuinely care about our people. Leaders are like the
parents of the nation and any parent that neglects their child puts the child in a dangerous position.

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Kammal Zulu, 19 years old
, student and musician

How would you describe the current generations of Nigerian youth?
I think we are angry. But we are also eager and open-minded; open to unlearning outdated and archaic traditions that ruled the past and learning new ways of understanding the world we live in.

Why do you think it’s important to vote?
It’s the most crucial and effective way to make your voice heard and to play a role in the future of your country. It’s rather easy to stay apathetic in a world where voter suppression and election rigging is prevalent, but it's imperative that we take a stand and use our voices.

What do you think is the most important thing that Nigeria needs right now?
I think what Nigeria needs right now is for its people to wake-up and begin to take an active role in the fate of their lives. For the youth to rally and use our strength in numbers to turn things around; to be politically aware and active, to take on leadership roles.