*Says He Wanted To Discourage Political Apathy Among Students
A Senior Lecturer in the Department of Political Science at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State, Dr Michael Ugwueze has spoken up on his viral post where he informed his students that he shall use their Permanent Voters Card (PVCs) as continuous assessment.
The post which went viral last week sparked diverse reactions from a cross-section of the society and it comes on the heels of recently intensified campaigns and enlightenments to eligible members of the public to get their Voters Card ahead of next year’s general elections.
In an interview with PunchNg, Ugwueze gave reasons why he made the decision. According to him, over the years, he has observed that Nigerian youths are mostly apathetic towards politics and stay away from participating in the political process to the detriment of the country’s democracy.
He said: “My engagement with my students convinced me that youths are generally apathetic towards politics is Nigeria. In fact, it seems they are simply convinced it is not for them but for the ‘old people’. Sometimes, I ask final year students or postgraduate students, who are well above 18 years of age, if they have ever voted in an election, and their response is always surprising. Most of them do not even have PVCs. When you ask them why, they will tell you they already know who will win the election because their votes won’t count”
He continued “But as a Political Science lecturer, I cannot be teaching enlightened people who still reason this way in the 21st century. So, I realised I had to find a way to make my students do the needful and perform their civic responsibility. Getting a PVC and voting during elections is part of one’s civic responsibility. As somebody that teaches politics, I should be able to, one way or the order, force students, somehow, to perform that civic responsibility. And the first step is for them to have PVC. After that, we will deal with whether or not they will vote. So, that was what informed my decision.”
Responding to how the development would be welcomed by the University authorities, the political scientist stated that he is yet to receive a contrary directive, and further informed that other departments in the University have taken similar steps to encourage students to get their PVCs. “I found out that some of my colleagues in the Department of Local Government Administration and Public Administration have copied it and they are also directing their students to get their PVCs. So far, I have not received any contrary command from the (university) authorities. I believe I am in the right because my students are all above age 20; it is almost impossible to find anybody below age 18 in final year.”
He further noted that the increased awareness and surge in political consciousness amongst youths presently can be traced to the #EndSARS protests which for the first time signified that Nigerian youths can stand in unity for a common purpose and agenda. He said the youth see glimpse of hope and believe they can rewrite the narrative through the 2023 polls coupled with the new introductions to the recently signed 2022 Electoral Act.
“I think they see a ray of hope that their votes will count in the coming elections. The signed 2022 Electoral Act has a number of amendments that can encourage one to participate, given that one’s vote will count. But you cannot divorce social media from what is happening. The social media have given the youths a voice. We can see what happened during the #EndSARS protests – how these youths almost shut down the economy. You know there are some old men among the Nigerian elite who feel that Nigerian youths cannot fight for a common purpose. But the protests were an eye-opener. For now, with what we are doing, for instance, one is hopeful that our youths will begin to develop the right interest in politics. As far as the 2023 general elections are concerned, we can see that the tempo is rising. The politicians are trying to measure up on social media, trying to present themselves as a simple persons. This is happening because they are seeing that the youths are not indeed happy with the way things are going in this country. When we continue to aggregate this kind of awareness, more youths will get interested in political affairs.”
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