This blog is part of the series: The Road to Nigeria's 2011 Elections
Nigerian youth, 18 and older, must believe in the future of their country and believe in the nation's elections process. This was the message on World Youth Day on August 12, 2010, in Abuja, as youth gathered in different venues around the country to take stock of their role in the future of Nigeria. On the heels of returning from President Obama's African Young Leaders Forum (AYLF), the three Nigerian participants -- Taiwo, Ruth and Bako -- joined me on World Youth Day to discuss the Nigerian 2011 elections to encourage young Nigerians to take part in the development of their country on the FEEEDS™ pillars (Food Security, Education, Environment-Energy, Economics, Democracy, and Self-Help) which starts first with participation in and belief in the election process. Many of the 70 young people, 18-35 years old, who gathered for the discussion, noted their concern about fraud and vote rigging and wanting their votes and their voices to make a difference and count. Many recounted their past experience as voters in Nigeria's 2007 election when they believed their votes did not count and wanted to know what would be different in 2011. Nigeria today has nearly 45 million young people with estimates that by 2025 that number will reach 62 million.
The three Obama AYLF participants, in discussing the importance of the FEEEDS™ pillars, stressed that the 2011 election is where young Nigerians must start to change the path of the nation by voting for leaders who put the nation first over self interest. The Food security, Education, Democracy and Self-help aspects of FEEEDs™ where highlighted as the first steps in building a Nigeria that provides access to basic education for all (primary schools have a deficit of girls 10-14 years) and adequate and available food. In addition, the sheer size of Nigeria's population (152 million, with a current growth rate of 2.5 %) makes the emphasis on entrepreneurial discovery the route that many Nigerian youth must take not only to secure their futures, but also because entrepreneurship can provide a vehicle to give something back to the nation on FEEEDS™.
Obama AYLF participants Taiwo, Bako, and Ruth outlined their backgrounds and how each used their entrepreneurial skills to address one of the FEEED™ pillars. Ruth focuses on education (particularly for girls), Taiwo on the environment (with his waste management company), and Bako's Foundation also emphasizes education and poverty alleviation. The outcome of the Youth Leadership Discussion on the 2011 election was that Nigerian Youth must begin to believe that their votes will not only count, but be counted freely and fairly. The deliverable from the roundtable held at the Abuja Ken Namani Leadership Center was a message for the Government of Nigeria and the Independent National Election Commission (INEC): Make the 2011 election a time to show Nigeria's youth that their forthright desire to be heard and have a credible and issue-oriented election will become the order of the day.