By Muhammad Bashir Shuaib
The numerous election-related activities, such as voter registration, campaigning, and voting, are referred to as the electioneering process. It is an essential component of any democracy because it enables the people to elect their leaders and hold them responsible for their deeds. Therefore, it is crucial for the smooth operation and credibility of a democratic system to ensure that the electioneering process is fair and impartial. Young people and journalists are crucial to a successful electioneering campaign. Youth involvement in politics is crucial because it contributes new viewpoints and concepts. Additionally, they can be crucial in voter education and mobilization, boosting turnout and guaranteeing that all opinions are heard. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) chief in Nigeria claims that a higher percentage of the nation’s registered voters are young people. On the other hand, journalists are vital in educating the people about the many candidates and issues up for vote. They are crucial in uncovering any fraud or irregularities that may take place throughout the election process. Journalists contribute to the fairness and transparency of the electioneering process by delivering accurate and objective reporting.
Therefore, it’s important to understand that while journalists and youth are both important throughout the campaign, their relevance is related to a few specific tasks that, if carried out correctly, will result in a peaceful and fair election. This essay, which is divided into three main sections, gives a general overview of the responsibilities that youth and journalists play in maintaining a smooth election process in a democracy and identifies several potential roadblocks to those roles’ efficacy.
Role of youths in ensuring smooth electioneering process
Youths can contribute in a number of ways to making sure the electioneering process runs well. These roles include, among others:
Voter education and engagement: Young people can be crucial in educating their peers about the value of voting and the electoral process. This can entail planning voter registration drives, hosting seminars or workshops, or disseminating election-related material on social media. Voter education activities can also be planned by youth-led organizations. A youth-led non-governmental organization in Nigeria called YVOTENAIJA advocated for broad voter registration efforts and the acquisition of permanent voter cards on May 28, 2022 through market drive in Ilorin, Kwara State, Nigeria. Such young people’s actions would support efficient electioneering by delivering top-notch information on voter education through the aforementioned channels.
Campaign and political process involvement: Young people can get involved in campaigns and the political process as volunteers or as candidates. Youth can provide fresh ideas to discussions about pressing topics by taking part in campaigns. For instance, in Nigeria, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and the Independent Electoral Commission of Nigeria (INEC) have partnered to encourage the hiring of temporary election workers and polling place agents. Young adults under 30 are required to complete a year of service following the completion of their degree or Higher National Diploma (HND). In 2010, NYSC representatives helped with the adoption of biometric voter registration by assisting with the use of modern technology. The NYSC members who are available during the election will serve as the members of the electoral bodies during the election processes. For its election day activities, the INEC now trains and deploys young individuals enrolled in the NYSC program. This position has given young people new opportunities for active participation that go beyond simply showing up on election day to cast a ballot. It has also helped to rebuild youths’ confidence in their abilities and competencies.
Social media can be used responsibly by youth to spread election-related information, engage in dialogue about the topics at hand, and encourage others to cast ballots. Youth participation in politics and awareness-building through social media can be effective strategies.
Advocating for electoral reform: Young people can also push for changes to the electoral system that would give excluded groups more voting opportunities or increase the fairness and integrity of the voting process. Youth may contribute to making future elections more inclusive and fair by speaking out in favor of these measures.
Role of Journalists in Ensuring Smooth Electioneering Process
In a number of ways, journalists are essential to maintaining a smooth electioneering process:
Reporting on elections fairly and objectively: Journalists have a duty to report on elections fairly and objectively, giving the public accurate information about the candidates and topics at stake. This makes it possible for voters to make decisions with the accurate knowledge at their disposal.
Investigating election fraud and irregularities: Journalists are crucial in identifying any fraud or irregularities that may take place throughout the voting process. Journalists can contribute to ensuring that elections are free and transparent by looking into and covering such issues.
Providing the public with accurate and pertinent information: Journalists play a role in supplying the public with accurate and pertinent information about the candidates and the issues being discussed, in addition to reporting on the election itself. This can assist voters in making knowledgeable decisions and holding elected leaders responsible.
Furthermore, in order to ensure that the news is communicated to the community’s low-literate residents and elderly people who lack education, journalistic reports and news can be brought as news by local stations. These stations will deliver the information as news in local languages and manners to ensure that the elderly who lack education are able to vote. The younger generation can assist the elderly by demonstrating how to vote, guiding them to the polls, and assisting them in casting their votes for their preferred candidates. To avoid deceiving the person he is supposed to assist through the procedure, the young person in charge of it must be trustworthy and this must be done honestly.
Collaboration between youth and journalists: Journalists can assist youth organizations in educating young people about voting and encouraging them to participate in elections. This may entail organizing conferences or workshops or working together on social media initiatives. To reveal any irregularities or fraud that may take place during the election process, young people and journalists can work together. While journalists can use their resources and expertise to research and report on such issues, youth may already be familiar with the issues as it directly affect their communities.
By working with the security forces and providing important information on regions where it appears destruction may be desired to occur, the journalist may help ensure that there will be peace during the campaign time and after the election. The youth, who comprise a major section of the population, may also perform the crucial task of informing the nearest security station when they observe mayhem that could cause the electioneering operations to be disrupted.
Challenges Faced by Youths and Journalists in Performing their Roles
In the process of fulfilling their duties and ensure a smooth electioneering process, young people and journalists may encounter the following difficulties:
Youths’ lack of political experience and education: Many young people may not have the background or education necessary to comprehend and participate in the electoral process. Due to this, it may be challenging for individuals to influence and organize their colleagues or to contribute effectively to campaigns or political organizations.
Social media can be an effective tool for including young people in the political process, but it can also serve as a conduit for the distribution of false information and propaganda. Youth must be aware of the possibility for manipulation on social media and fact-check information before spreading it.
Journalists may be subjected to political pressure or intimidation by political parties or candidates to write favorable stories about them, or they may be threatened or intimidated to keep them from covering specific topics. As a result, it could be challenging for journalists to carry out their responsibility of giving the public accurate and fair information.
Due to these difficulties, it may be difficult for young people and journalists to completely fulfill their responsibilities in ensuring a smooth electioneering process. Both groups must be aware of these difficulties and try to solve them if they are to contribute to the fairness and transparency of the electoral process.
In conclusion, the contributions of young people and journalists to a smooth election process are essential to the operation and legitimacy of any democracy. Young people infuse the political process with new ideas and vigor, and journalists give the public accurate and balanced information. In fostering transparency and justice in the electoral process and making sure that all perspectives are heard, both organizations are essential. However, they also have to deal with issues like the lack of political experience and awareness among young people, the propagation of propaganda and false information on social media, and the political pressure and intimidation experienced by journalists. Young people and media can contribute to making future elections free and fair while upholding the democratic process by cooperating and overcoming these obstacles.