Promoting youth participation in the democratic process is one of the cardinal objectives pursued by Spaces for Change (S4C). The world watched with admiration as America went to the polls which saw Barack Obama re-elected in a keenly-contested presidential election. The issue-based political campaigns, the robust intellectual engagements involving both contestants and voters alike during that election, was a far cry from the ballot-box snatching, thuggery, rigging, sectarian violence and political intimidation characterizing elections in Africa.


TOWARDS 2015: THE CONVERSATION HAS BEGUN! (1) 12Disappearing voter apathy, especially among the youth populations and racial minorities is the single most important factor responsible for the enthusiastic levels of citizen participation and mobilization in the American electoral process. Notably too, nonprofit initiatives played an unprecedentedly large role in helping America engage communities with a history of non-voting, including those communities least likely to be reached by traditional voter outreach methods. Drawing important lessons from that trend, S4C believes that Africa’s giant, Nigeria, is capable of reinvigorating its electoral process in a way that matches the enviably high electioneering standards witnessed in America. To effectively reform the electoral process, concerted efforts must be made to overturn voter apathy, particularly by stimulating public interest and participation in the entire electioneering developments: from the selection/emergence of candidates; formulation of political party manifestoes; election campaigns; voting at elections up to the declaration of results.
When is the best time to prepare for elections? Why and when should citizens get involved? What the benefits of participation? What kind of leaders do young Nigerians want to see in 2015 elections? And most importantly, are there certain persons Nigerians would want to see ascend positions of power? In search of answers to these questions, S4C’s Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri facilitated online debates and discussions – spanning over three weeks – to ignite voter engagement and also suggests ways to bring non-partisanship to election administration and competition and fairness to elections.
These are some of the selected responses we got: 
Kemi Adeloye While my vote will unequivocally be for a Nuhu Ribadu /Oby Ezekwesili; Aminu Tambuwal/Rotimi Amaechi Joint Ticket; my major worry is from within the South-East. In a situation where blood brothers were at daggers-drawn over political offices, I can imagine the idea of a woman leading the race from the Igbo nation. It, sure, will be a very tough task to get the home support for Oby but conversely; when the chips are down; the north will unite in support of their own. Rotimi Amaechi has distinguished himself in office; so also is Godswill Akpabio. Aminu Tambuwal has shown a great deal of a firm and brilliant individual. The real task then should be how to get the South East to get its acts together as the day gets by.
Anthony Akabogu The responsibilities of citizens in a democracy, does not end in just casting of vote. Nigerians simply have yet to understand their roles in a Democracy, 99% of us simply come on Facebook to pass time and vent anger at each other. That said, somebody like Obiageli Oby Ezekwesili is very much capable to lead this country. But one major issue stands in the way: the Nigerian population, especially the youths must solidly “back” her for complete 4 to 8 years in order for sustained transformation to happen. When I use the word ” backing”, I do not mean Facebooking, rather a sustained toe-to-toe backing to fend off those cabals that would want to ridicule her government. The only cabal here in this case that can help sustain her leadership should be the Nigerian people. If you still do not understanding me, ask any Venezuelan what has sustained Hugo Chavez till date as the president of Venezuela.
Somebody like Obiageli Ezekwesili cannot navigate the murky waters that continue to hold Nigeria down. She is not a politician, and would equally not settle for the kind of blood politics being played in Nigeria. She is a policy chief and a strategist with vast global connections in every international scene. The best position for her for a start is VP, with a specific role of bringing in her expertise in driving the economy. Some of us would not want her hard-earned credibility to be rubbished by pin-heads who call themselves arrow heads in the Nigerian political terrain.
Kemi Adeloye Anthony Akabogu brought in some interesting perspectives! …My idea too, that Oby may not be able to feature on a first-line run as presidential candidate; not because she is not qualified but the traditional values and culture in our polity.

The north see the women as no more than the paper you write on and trash and so, most unlikely to vote for a woman-presidential candidate. The behaviour down south still largely, relegate the women to the secondary level in power games by way of anointing, which is highly noticeable in the south-west; and might, someday, be elevated to the substantive capacities as governors, having gone through the ‘pupilage’ or “grooming”, that Tony Akabogu mentioned.

Arugha Etuwewe We need people of proven integrity, or at least without any known scandal, and ensure we get it. In this regard, I will go for Donald Duke/Oby Ezekwesili. Nuhu Ribadu generates too much animosity. He should be behind the scenes fighting the good fight behind Donald/Oby.
The zoning formula hasn’t helped us at all so maybe, we should discard it and fight for quality and proven skills. Let us think outside the box, start a popular campaign for good governance, and get Nigerians behind it. (na grassroot politics be dat) And that’s how Obama won both elections against formidable opposition. If Barack can, YES WE CAN too!

Madunagu EmekaIn 1999, one of the greatest mistakes made by the civil society was not pushing its members into government. After fighting for democracy, civil society sat back and allowed criminals and murderers to take the stage. That is why civil society keeps returning to the trenches to fight. Imagine if Gani had gone to the Senate. If Oshiomhole had become Edo governor or gone to the Senate. Things would be different today. So, civil society must go beyond campaigning and fighting and take the bull by the horns.
Otokinie Oliver Wokoma Let me point out that the names of some of those candidates mentioned only ring a bell in the cities. Apart from the 1st  Republic, those who had a chance to rule were household names. Obansanjo – because he was former president, Yaradua – because of his late brother and GEJ – because he was president already. Therefore, if a popular candidate does not arise, the godfathers will just anoint another stooge to rule us. That is why I am trusting God to cause a shaking so that such a person will be revealed.
Pamela Braide I live in Calabar. Donald Duke made it possible for government secondary school students to spend nothing beyond 2k on books no matter the level. Below SS1 was about 1k or so…. Quality books from the best publishers… Because of that, my organization was able to double our scholarship recipients… The water board project that was a mirage… came to fruition… not only do i have clean pipe borne water in my house, but same obtains at my grandad’s hotel outside calabar in Ugep. Roads? The road to my house was named River Ediba!..but now it’s a highway! He did uncountable roads. When other governors would go for OBJ’s televised progress report, they will call roads they’ve done by name, but Donald would only state the number of kilometers of roads done. As for the tourism, what I love the most is the data collection. The state knows how many hotel beds were available in 2000 and every year after that. You can measure progress or regression and PLAN. Questionaires are filled and data extracted from parks and airports to track the actuall number of visitors to calabar in December. 

Donald Duke has done so much.  Its a lot to enumerate, but he is a very driven man; ruthless to an extent, but very proud about quality. As for beautification, the government led by example; they keep public spaces and government areas clean and planted. So citizens in turn, plant flowers or whatever because they want to, not because there’s a fine or punishment. The clean-up of the town is also extremely cheap in comparison to results because he was able to choose competent hands and get the buy in of the people. Cross Rivers State is clean because people choose to join in…. not compelled!

zamaka Agbasi If Donald Duke would go, I’d vote for him, and would campaign for him too. Been to Calabar twice, and LOVED EVERYTHING about Calabar and both experiences. Donald Duke is definitely my candidate.
Kemi Adeloye Donald Duke can’t get anywhere in presidential campaigns! …The workings of Nigerian politics, at this time, and even at some other future ones, may not support the quick succession of two south-south candidates. Aside from that; my major worry about Donald Duke was and still is, his revelations about the elections rigging template of the PDP,… ONLY AFTER he left office!

…Now, the issue is: If you were a part and parcel of a criminal conduct but kept quiet because you and your party benefited from it; why should we now rest hope on you to come near any position of responsibility that may allow you, an even more deadly opportunity, to wreak more havoc on the polity, by possible ‘allocation’ of positions while the people will be deceived into participating in a charade called elections?

I listened to and watched Donald Duke, explain the clinical details of how INEC RECS would pay “courtesy visits” to governors and “ask for support”, which were then “promptly provided”, with State Commissioners of Police factored in to deliver a Total Knock Out on political opponents, in sexed-up results, and the emergence of impostors.

The qualification for the Office of the Nigerian President should only get better; its beyond being a ‘fine boy’ or some other mundane reasons. You must be above board in almost all ramifications and untainted.

Its about time we held our leaders to the highest standards of probity and accountability. We’ve been trampled upon for too long in this clime. .. David Petraeus; the immediate past CIA Director, just resigned over marital infidelity, which, some argued, was his private affair; and should not have affected his run-away credentials in his military and intelligence service career in the United States. …Our own Barth Nnaji, good and great guy in his area of specialization; had to go for “conflict of interest”!

One thing however, is that, I admire his courage to come clean of the unacceptable conduct that came to his knowledge; its part of integrity to own up to one’s mistakes. He has my respect for that.

…But to entrust him with the responsibility of the highest office in the land after such indiscretion and behaviour not synonymous with good conscience and public good, will just not cut! ..Donald Duke? …No please!!!

Adaeze Ifechukwu Goziem-Ibonye Kemi Adeloye, I do agree with your analysis but I do not believe that we are close in another 15yrs to have public or private officials that would resign for morality, accountability and responsibility reasons. Adultery, (small bribery), deceit, lies etc are seen as small and nothing in our current generation. That’s why when a governor, or public servant performs one tenth of his duties, people call him a saint. He is seen as very very good, tried and tested to vie for office, well we will make do with what we have.
Kemi Adeloye While my vote will unequivocally be for a Nuhu Ribadu /Oby Ezekwesili; Aminu Tambuwal/ Oby Ezekwesili Joint Ticket; there is an interesting perspective in narrowing down to Aminu Tambuwal in particular. Which is: that he was chosen, by the popular votes and support of his colleagues, in defiance of the ‘status quo’ arrangement in the “family affair” party’s policy of zoning. He commands so much respect and has thus far been removed from any dirt of financial malfeasance; yes, the usual “banana peel”, that has swept away many National Assembly leaders.
When Aminu Tambuwal talks, you can feel the confidence in the young, but politically mature man who has always left no one in doubt as to his clear understanding of the facts of whatever issue he was discussing. In his near-absolute understanding of the yearnings of the people; his gusto is intimidating; his charm is arresting; his mien in unassuming, in telling those who should know, what is expected of them. He will go places BUT must NOT be naïve, NOT to know that he is a ‘marked man’, for his courage to dare where the angels don’t tread!

However, my concern is: Given the manner of his emergence against his party’s zoning arrangement, which GEJ also benefited from; am afraid that two major challenges may arise:

• The interest of the incumbent GEJ …with lots of money and the behind-the-scene intimidation of other contestants by the all-powerful presidency;

• OBJ’s unending belief in the ‘policy of allocation’ than election. …Pls let us not underestimate the power that OBJ wields, which may have to be factored in, in any strategy of promoting Aminu Tambuwal. I therefore, can forsee the ‘payback time’ for Aminu Tambuwal on the Speakership arrangement originally meant for Lola Akande, who is now the House Majority Leader, that was jettisoned.

Dayo Olaide Kemi Adeloye, what 2 or 3 major development might possibly throw the spanner in Aminu Waziri Tambuwal‘s fine posturing? Although the OBJ factor, as you have put it, may be significant today, but is it a constant factor that would remain strong and influential in the next 12 months? These are just innocent reflections o.
Idowu Adewole GbengaThe issue of 2015 presidential election will be determined by many factors. (1) S/E are clamouring for presidency. (2). Northerners are also want to clinch the top post. (3). GEJ still wants to recontest. (4). Baba Obasanjo will influence where pendulum swing to.

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