It is a glaring fact to all and sundry that the forthcoming 2023 general elections have the highest number of youths actively participating in them since the return of democracy in Nigeria in 1999. The youth have organized rallies, townhall meetings, interviews and other political events to be able to reach the grassroot members of the public. Many have said that the youth have decided to tow this path because of the government’s response to the weeks-long protests in October 2020 particularly at the Lekki Toll Gate.
As the countdown to the 2023 general elections continues, Nigerian youth are calling on political candidates at all levels to run issue-based campaigns and share their plans to transform the country for inclusive growth through job creation and healthcare strengthening. The Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) projected that the rate of unemployment in Nigeria in 2023 has reached 37 percent, many of which are youth. The state of healthcare in the country is also cause for concern as patients’ out-of-pocket healthcare expenditure is more than 70 percent.
The ONE Campaign launches “Vote Your Future 2.0.”
Fortunately, the youth’s call to these candidates coincides with the ONE Campaign’s launching of “Vote Your Future 2.0,” which is a non-partisan governance campaign aimed at uniting citizens across the country in the run-up to the 2023 general elections. ONE collaborated with UNICEF’s U-Report in 2019 to survey 170,000 Nigerians in every state to determine the issues that were most important to them. More than half of the respondents wanted the government to address the issue of job creation to lift Nigerians out of extreme poverty, as well as the accessibility and affordability of healthcare.
Also, in 2020, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) found in a survey of Nigerian youth that the priorities of young people across Nigeria have not changed. Most of them still demand decent jobs and improvement in healthcare. This is not surprising. According to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigeria’s combined unemployment and underemployment rate was 56 percent in 2020. That is more than 100 million unemployed or underemployed people. In spite of this, experts have estimated that between two to three million people will enter the Nigerian workforce annually between now and 2030.
Nigeria fairs poorly in employment and healthcare in Africa.
According to the 2022 Multidimensional Poverty Index survey carried out by the NBS, 63 percent of people living within Nigeria (about 133 million people) are multidimensionally poor. To lift a significant part of these people out of poverty, creating decent jobs will ensure more economic productivity and go a long way in addressing the issue. The issue of poverty is intertwined with others that people have raised, such as corruption, insecurity, etc. If the issue of insecurity is solved, for instance, farmers will be able to go back to their farms in states such as Benue, Plateau and others ravaged with bandit kidnappings and murder.
Reports have similarly shown that Nigeria has one of the worst health indicators in Africa. This drags down the socio-economic indicators of the entire African continent due to its huge population. According to USAID, Nigeria has one of the fastest growing populations globally. With 5.5 live births per woman and a population growth rate of 3.2 percent annually, it is estimated to reach 440 million people by 2050. To help address the high mortality rates, USAID supports increased access to quality family planning and reproductive health services, immunizations, polio eradication, malaria prevention and maternal health services.
USAID highlights health burdens of Nigeria in comparison with global standards.
The agency stated that Nigeria has the second largest number of people living with HIV globally and accounts for nine percent of the global HIV burden. The US Government, through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), currently assists more than 600,000 Nigerians with life-saving HIV therapy, which is 90 percent of the people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. More than one million children orphaned and made vulnerable by HIV receive care and support through these programs. Nigeria still has the highest burden of malaria globally which remains the top cause of child illness and death. From all these, it is imperative that the next administration must address unemployment and healthcare issues as top priorities.