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Youths And Post-Military Democracy In Nigeria


The crux of democracy is dependent on the desires of the population which such government serves. The Youths have been identified as an essential section of any country’s population because of their contribution to economic and democratic development. In the case of Nigeria, youths have participated in politics,  engineer agitation for environmental protection, electoral process and civil justice which constitute aspects of the democratic experience. However, in recent times the democratic experience in the country has been threatened by violence and insecurity which have been perpetuated by youths. This study is therefore informed by the need to analyse the challenges faced in sustaining democracy in Nigeria, the impact youths have on the sustenance of democracy in Nigeria as well as solutions that can be adopted to sustain democracy in the country. The study employs a survey design approach using a structured questionnaire titled “Impact and Challenges of Youths in Sustaining Democracy” (ICYSD) for data collection and was guided by three research questions. A total of 200 youths residing in Cross rives state were sampled from 1200 youths in the Niger delta region. Data was analysed employing frequencies and percentages. The findings indicates that the primary challenge faced in sustaining democracy is illiteracy, ethnic sentiment, unemployment, poverty amongst others and that the impact of youths on the sustenance of democracy include manpower provision, voter strength, electoral violence and disruption of economic activities to mention a few. This study further reveals that through empowerment programmes, access to education, religious and ethnic tolerance and job creation, democracy can be sustained in Nigeria.





  • Background to the study

Every country operates a system of governance, governance refers to the manner the country is governed. Scholars have identified Monarchy, Democracy, Oligarchy, Autocracy and Theocracy, as systems of governance that have been operated across the world. In recent times however, democracy has become a house hold name across the world and is increasingly being adopted by more countries across the world as such, making it one of the most commonly employed systems of governance. Although the practice of democracy varies from one country to another, democracy bases its foundation on ensuring that the rights of citizens are protected while developing and running the affairs of the country through popular vote. Democracy can therefore be defined as governance that is chosen by the people for the people through an electoral procedure. This implies that the democracy that is practiced in Ireland varies from that practiced in United Kingdom, United States of America, Australia to mention but a few. Throwing more light on democracy, scholars have highlighted that it is culled from the Greek language and refers to “rule by simple majority”. Hence, it can be defined as the ruling of a society through an electoral process that ensures that the freedom of citizens to associate with a view to actualizing their ideals and defend and advance their interest. As such principally, the task of any society is to rebuild and revitalize itself while building its own abilities, educating and mobilizing its citizens which include youths, mid- aged and elderly and they must therefore continue to allow themselves be educated and mobilized if the true values of democracy are to be sustained through consolidation and deepening of equity, in the fabrics of any society.

Youths can be defined as anybody between the ages of 18 and 30. In present projections of populations, it is estimated that over one billion of the world population are youths.  They are the owners and leaders of tomorrow Scholars have continued to buttress the importance of youths to economic and political development. According to Kura in the past, people were not trusting of the abilities of youths. This created a barrier for youths to surmount in order to attain their true potentials. However, in spite of their distrust and challenges, the contributions of the youths to societal development have continued to increase. Anasi postulates that their creative abilities, labour power and orientation define the level, security and pace of development of a country.

According to Arubayi they are potentially and are essentially the necessary resources worthy of investment by any nation and as such they are at the center of sustainable development of any country and any country that truly seeks to achieve meaningful national development must harness the potentials of the youths. In Nigeria, according to National population commission cited in Akinyemi & Isiugo-Abanihe, it is estimated that the population of the youths is over 140 million. Their demographical significance in the Nigerian context make them valuable contributors as partners, stakeholders, organisers, entrepreneurs as well as strategic catalyst for national advancement.

In the political scene, going by the age bracket that youths are classified, they represent a significant percentage of the electorates. According to Anasi they out-number the aged and the middle-aged in the society. As such, their role in the electoral process cannot be over emphasized. Khasan postulates that they are the mobilizers of political revolutions and changes and  this has seen them in developed countries take up political appointments. The President of France, Emmauel Macron, Prime Minister of Ireland; Leo Varadkar, Sebastian Kurz foreign minister and former President of Nigeria Nnamdi Azikiwe and many more are typical examples where youths have embraced politics and empowerment. However, proponents have highlighted the cynicism usually associated with youths regarding politics. This has subsequently affected their attitude towards existing political and organizational settings thereby affecting their participation in politics. In developing countries this experience is even worsened by unemployment, lack of educational opportunities, poverty and corruption. These conditions can be particularly seen in the Nigerian democratic system.

Nigeria, situated in the western part of the African continent is the most populous country in Africa  with more than 150 million inhabitants. The Nigerian democratic experience is a peculiar one. Once described  as one of the strongholds of military dictatorship in Africa, the country has become an exemplary figure of the democratic practice in the African continent.

Prior to the military interruption of the democratic system of government, the country gained its political independence in 1960 under a democratic parliamentary system which has since evolved into presidential system of democracy that has produced four republics spanning several years. The cultural diversity of the Nigerian population has presented distinctive socio-political challenges for the country’s political scene and has seen nepotism; ethnicity, tribalism and corruption gear its ugly head in a country with over 350 distinct ethnic groups.

These sentiments has been passed down across generations and has seen youths easily swayed into violence as a result of misgivings towards another tribe that have been stirred by political and religious figures. As a result of  this the country is constantly faced with fear of ethnic and religious clashes, insecurity posed by unemployed youths, protest by youths, terrorist attacks, militancy activities such as oil pipeline explosions and kidnapping by youths to mention a few.

The first three decades of the twentieth century witnessed the establishment of British Colonial Administration in Nigeria, which transformed the Nigerian economies and societies. In the 1930s a new generation of anti-colonial activities emerged in Nigeria, demanding the involvement of Nigerians in government. The new nationalist movement pressurized the colonial government to be more responsive to the needs of average Nigerian. This resulted to Nigerian self-governance at the regional level and, ultimately, led to the attainment of independence on October 1st, 1960 (Falola and Heaton 2008: 136).The manner the political elites mobilized the youth is reflected during elections, because they are often mobilized with the promise of sponsorship by the patrons. The participation of the youth in the Nigerian politics is very important. For instance, in 1962 the agitations by Nigerian youth were instrumental to the abrogation of the Anglo-Nigerian Defence Pact which sought to tie Nigeria to the Military strings of Britain even after independence in 1960. Also, the youth contributed in the struggle for democratization throughout the military rule up to the return of the democratic rule in 1999 (Apam 2010: 37-39). The development of democracy ushered in the 1999 election of the fourth republic, which took place on May 29th, 1999, when the thirty three years long military government came to an end. The parties which contested in the first phase were: People’s Democratic Party (PDP), All People’s Party (APP) and Alliance for Democracy (AD). But in 2003 the number of political parties increased to thirty (30) political parties, and more than fifty (50) in the 2007 and 2011 general elections. Ultimately, more than fifty political parties participated in the 2015 General Elections. (Ishaq 2008:113).

1.2. Statement of the Problem

History records that the efforts of the youths in the emancipation of Nigeria from colonial rule and the continued sustenance of democracy cannot be overlooked. According  to Chika & Onyene the participation of youths in the democratic process in Nigeria can be traced back to 1920s when Nigerian youths started establishing local newspapers such as the “Lagos Daily Newspaper” by Herbert Macaulay and the “Nigerian Daily Times” by Richard Barrow and Adeyemo Alakija in 1925 and 1926 respectively. These newspapers were instrumental in raising the consciousness of the Nigerian youths and in 1934, a political party known as Nigerian National Democratic Party was floated by Herbert Macaulay and ever since politically oriented groups such as the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF), TIV Youth Organization (TYO), Ijaw Youth Congress (IYC) to mention a few have continued to raise and agitate for issues that affect the political landscape of the nation. These agitations have led to the passage of the not too young to run bill by the House of Assembly with a view to encouraging youth participation in governance. The nascent democratic process in Nigeria is however, not without its challenges, there is still widespread electoral subversion, political violence and ethnic related agitation in the country that are perpetuated by youths under the instructions of political leaders and elders. As such, using the youths as weapons against the growth of democracy in the country.

The recently held presidential election in 2019 supports this proposition and saw wide spread cases of political violence and ethnic related agitation across the country prior to the elections by youths. These actions further threaten the sustenance of democracy in the country and must be tackled if the country is to experience true democratic dividends and national growth. This study therefore, seeks to analyse the role of youths in sustaining post-military democracy in Nigeria.

1.3 Objectives of the study

The main objective of this study is to examine the the role of youths in sustaining post-military democracy in Nigeria. Specifically, the following objectives were addressed:

  1. To ascertain the challenges of sustaining democracy in Nigeria.
  2. To determine the impact of youths on sustaining democracy in Nigeria.
  3. Proffer solutions to sustaining democracy in Nigeria.

1.4 Research Questions

The following research questions guided the study:

  1. What are the challenges of sustaining democracy in Nigeria?
  2. What role do youth have on sustaining democracy in Nigeria?
  3. What efforts are necessary for sustaining democracy in Nigeria?

1.5 Significance of the study

The study looked at and solve the problems of policy implementation,with the hope of ascertaining and guiding the government‟s politicians and bureaucrats, on how to handle policy implementation in every society. These processesare garneredin many instances from scholars‟ views on policy implementation and alsofrom the viewsof respondents that were gathered in this study.

The study also suggested for youth development in the society at the grassroot level of

government. This is aimed at guiding the lower level of governance with proposals that will equip the administrators with enough input to enable them face their responsibilities of governance in a better and appropriate way, especially with regard totheissue implementing youth development policies.

The study considered the implementation of National Youth Development Policy a

challenge. It therefore discussed issues that undermine policy implementation and advances knowledge that could be useful for the smooth growth of the youth, and also argument government initiatives for youth development in its effort to ensure security of lives and property in the society.

The study recommended possible approaches to implementing a policy for people, facing similar challenges in life.This will, therefore, serve as a guide to the public and advisers on how to avoid unnecessary mistake, especially at the grassroot level of the society

1.6 Hypothesis

The formulated and tested the following hypothesis

Ho: The youths does not play significant role on sustaining democracy in Nigeria

H1: The youths plays significant roles on sustaining democracy in Nigeria

1.7 scope of the study

The study was carried out in the Niger Delta region which comprises of  Delta, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Bayelsa, Ondo and Edo states. The study purposely selected youths residing in Cross Rivers State because of its level of socio-economic development as well as the population of youths residing in this state. The study focused on youths residing in Calabar town that were from each of the 36 states in the country.

1.8 Limitation of the study

Financial constraint- Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview).

Time constraint- The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.

1.9 Theoretical Framework

In this study the following theories were looked into,

Democratic Theory

Role theory

Maslow’s Theory of Needs

Self-Efficacy Theory

Democratic theory (1861)

The proponent of this theory was an ancient Greek philosopher known as Abraham Lincoln in the year (1861). The theory states that massive involvement of the people is an essential factor in every democratic process. This theory was one of the distinguished theories used in assessing popular participation. It was mostly adopted in politics to give every member of the society opportunity to participate actively in the political process. Desarion and Langton (1997) stated that public policy decisions  are  increasingly influenced by democratic theory and this act as one of the structures by which .decision – making is defined and analyzed. Democratic  theory buttresses the  fact that anybody who  is directly or indirectly affected by a particular decision or activity has the right like any other person in making the decision or carrying out the activity. This theory emphasis that everybody must be involved in community development activities as long as they are citizens of that particular community. Democratization involves asking question about the survival of democracy.

Literally, democracy can be said to mean government of the people, by the people and the people. Since democracy is about people’s power, it originates in conditions that place resources of power in the hands of wider part of the populace; such that authorizes cannot access these resources without making concessions to their beholders. Democratic theory therefore, will be relevant to the present study; this is because  the  study  emphasized massive participation of youth in the day –to-day affairs of their community. The theory emphasizes that anybody who is a member of an organization or unit must be deeply involved when decision concerning the organization has been discussed. Thus, youths need to be involved in any community development projects; this  is  because  youths are very important segment of the community and should be participate in the development of their community; democratic theory demands that they do.

Role Theory

The role theory is propounded by sociologists during the1920s  and early 1930s. This theory focus on the role of development concerned with what causes people  to develop the expectations they do. Role is defined as the set of expectation that society places on an individual. Individual are rewarded for living up to their roles; those role expectations constitute a role or roles. Roles are therefore, the results of persons engaging  in purposive behaviours within an interactional context governed by group norms  and taking place within social system. It treats a set of connected behavior right  and  delegations as conceptualized by actors in a social situation. It is an expected or free or continuous changing behavior and may have given individual social status  or  social portion.

The expected role represents the objective of the organization while perceived role represent psychological organization. (Steimanin, 2000) argued that role are important because they organize an individual’s behavior and  performance  towards  other  individuals in very distinct patterns. Role is defined by the normative expectations of the members of the group as formulated in its social gathering. Therefore, there is need to motivate individual actions for adequate role performance. This  theory is  important for  this study because there is need for policy makers, government, community development agencies to specify the role of youth and motivate them for their effective and efficient participation in planning and implementation of community development activities

Role specification and performance of youths seem to be crucial in community development; meanwhile, these entire roles cannot be effectively filled simultaneously by one person in a social action process but can be filled collectively. Therefore, there is need for division of labor and classification of responsibilities. This is crucial since  youths without a clear understanding of where they fit into in community development activities are likely to fail in their responsibilities. Adequate role expectations on the part of youths are considered to be necessary prescription for efficient and sustainable democratic development in cross river State.

Self-Efficacy Theory

Self-efficacy theory refers to an individual’s expectancy in his or her capability to organize and execute behaviours needed to successfully complete a task (Shunk, 2000).  This theory is important to this study because youths need to be counseled, guided and encouraged in carrying out community development activities.

They should be made to know that they are capable of initiating, monitoring and executing community development activities. Shunk (2000) affirms that individuals who have high sense of self-efficacy for accomplishing a task work harder and persist longer when they encounter difficulties, whereas those who do not feel efficacious influence individuals actual performance, emotions, choices of behaviour and the amount of effort expended on an activity.

Bandura (1986) opined that beliefs individuals hold about their abilities and about the income of their efforts powerfully influence the ways in  which  they  will  behave. Thus, some people have a strong sense of self-efficacy and others do not. This theory focuses on expectances for successes. However, Bandura  distinguished  between  two  kinds of expectation beliefs: outcome expectations belief that certain behaviours will lead  to certain outcome belief that motivation will enhance performance and efficacy expectations beliefs about what one can effectively perform, the behaviours necessary to produce outcome. These two kinds of expectancy beliefs are different because individuals can belief that certain behaviour will produce a certain outcome, but may not belief they  can perform that behaviour. This theory is important to this study because community development requires youths to participate in planning and implantation of community development activities. For this reasons, determining this type of  characteristics of youths is extremely important for government policy makers, community development agencies and youth interest groups in order to give youths the support and counseling they need.

1.10 Definition of terms


Youth is the time of life when one is young, and often means the time between childhood and adulthood. It is also defined as “the appearance, freshness, vigor, spirit, etc., characteristic of one who is young.


Government by the people especially : rule of the majority. a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.  a political unit that has a democratic government.


Election, the formal process of selecting a person for public office or of accepting or rejecting a political proposition by voting. It is important to distinguish between the form and the substance of elections. In some cases, electoral forms are present but the substance of an election is missing, as when voters do not have a free and genuine choice between at least two alternatives. Most countries hold elections in at least the formal sense, but in many of them the elections are not competitive (e.g., all but one party may be forbidden to contest) or the electoral situation is in other respects highly compromised.


Politics is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups, or other forms of power relations between individuals, such as the distribution of resources or status. The academic study of politics is referred to as political science.

Political participation

Political participation includes a broad range of activities through which people develop and express their opinions on the world and how it is governed, and try to take part in and shape the decisions that affect their lives.


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