Column #1: Millennial Political Engagement

No Fly on the WALL now has columnists! In the lead up to the General Election on Thursday (May 7th), Ruth Taiwo reflects on the increasing political engagement of the millennial generation. With sixty per cent of young people registering to vote this time round, are we right to be hopeful that positive and meaningful change is on the way?

Over the last few years, it has been (dare I say) extremely encouraging to observe the increasing political energy from the millennial generation.

A highlight from 2015 so far for me was the Nigerian elections: watching, listening and being amongst other Nigerians at home and across the diaspora who engaged so intensely. This was unquestionably our most historic election to date – the first in which an incumbent was voted out of power via the electoral process. Notwithstanding the obstacles and challenges that were faced through the change of dates, to the few instances of violence across the country and the like, it was still a really proud time to be Nigerian.

INEC Chairman Professor Attahiru Jega was an incredible mediator of the process and at every point proved to be the definition of cool, calm and collected. Our resilience and strength as a people shone through the various trials presented and was by many media outlets and organizations (in Africa and abroad) acclaimed for paving a way for the practice of democracy within politics across the continent. It was no doubt for me, and most assuredly for many other millennials, the first election in Nigeria’s history where we were so intentional about political engagement. I however faithfully remain sceptical and look forward to seeing President-elect Muhammadu Buhari’s time of reign unfold.

Moving across the pond, here in the UK, the general election is set to take place on Thursday. The buzz that has been brewing from the under 30s been exciting, which has not always been the case. Honestly, traditional methods of British politics are the perfect recipe for disengagement. Issues and policies are discussed in exclusive language to a majority audience that is waning away and as a result alienates the younger generations, assuming we do not have the capabilities to understand what is going on.

Social media has without fail (contrary to what some say) played a pivotal role in engaging this generation of young people with politics. In an era where we are inundated with more information and technology than ever before, a plethora of useful resources have been made available to ensure this election process and political issues in general are more inclusive for this demographic. Clippet News, for example (a free audio app that delivers current news segments in 60 seconds or less), has used relatable language to cater to those with shorter attention spans, making news more accessible.

Twitter has been a powerful tool used for many forms of political activity (e.g. the leaders’ debate, pushing for people to register for voting, watching Cameron try to win ethnic minority votes by visiting community church leaders, and so on). Other resources like voteforpolicies.org, a survey that allows party policies to be compared to see who you align with best, have been created to help people, especially millennials, make more informed decisions when voting.

vote

It would be naïve to say that all millennials have a complete grasp of political culture and that political apathy has been entirely eradicated. There is of course still much work to be done to be ride of political apathy, but we are the generation who are creating the content, the culture and hopefully in the long term, the change necessary all for people in society.

Registration for voting has now closed, but for those who have registered and have yet to decide who to vote for, here are some useful links to resources worth checking out before Thursday:

Vote for Policies (Survey to compare policies across political parties)

#StateOfTheYouth (Versified Life: What Young People Think About Politics)


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