The passing of the Not Too Young To Run bill into law in December 2018 opened a new vista of opportunities for Nigerian youths whose interest in political office was corralled by age, finance, and other artificial barriers in past elections.1“’Not Too Young to Run’ – Nigeria’s Youth and Politics,” Westminster Foundation for Democracy, 2019, While there might not have been a significant change in the electoral landscape regarding youth candidacy, there has been renewed vigor amongst Nigerian youths in the buildup to the 2023 elections. The credit for this goes deservedly to the numerous Nigerian civil society organizations that are committed to ensuring the participation of youths (men and women) in the electoral process.2“Youth Candidacy in Nigeria’s 2023 elections,” YIAGA Africa, 2023,

Nigerian CSOs have played active roles in the enthronement and continued sustenance of the country’s growing democracy. This has been done through voters’ education and the observation of the country’s periodic elections since the return to democratic rule in 1999. These roles have been carried over into the forthcoming 2023 elections. CSOs have embarked on sensitization programs on voter education and amplified citizens’ voices for multiple extensions of the permanent voter’s card (PVC) registration process, and collection of PVCs by registered voters. In some cases, they collaborate or partner with public agencies, such as the National Orientation Agency (NOA), on voter education campaigns and have trained thousands of youth election observers to monitor and report on elections.3“YIAGA Africa set to train 3800 citizen observers nationwide,” YIAGA Africa, 2023, In addition to the noteworthy contributions of CSOs, the mobilization of Nigerian youth by music celebrities through their platforms, music concerts, and live talk shows on social media shows how these celebrities, as individual civil society actors, can influence high voter registration turnout and interest in the elections.4Vanessa Obioha and Iyke Bede, “How ENDSARS and Celebrities would possibly influence the 2023 elections,” ThisDay Live, 2023,

Understanding the motivating factors for increased youth participation in the 2023 elections is also crucial. The ripple effects of the 2020 EndSARS protests and the mass migration of some Nigerian youths abroad have also instigated youth participation in the current electioneering process. With a bulging youth population, the current elections are crucial for Nigerian youths. The voter’s registration data showed that of the ten million newly registered voters, 84 percent are mainly young people aged 18-34 years, 40 percent of these number are youths with tertiary education, and a significant number of these are newly registered voters.5Festus Iyorah, “How Nigerian Youths are Galvanizing for the Presidential Vote,” Aljazeera, Feb. 13, 2023, The ages of the four leading presidential contestants—Atiku Abubakar, 76 years; Rabiu Kwakwanso, 66 years; Peter Obi, 61 years; and Bola Ahmed Tinubu, 70 years—stand in stark contrast to the median age of the Nigerian youth.

In terms of political candidacy, Nigerian youths have not been adequately represented in the current electioneering process. Youth candidacy has declined from 34 percent in the 2019 election to 28.6 percent in the 2023 elections. For the House of Representatives, there was a decline in youth candidacy from 27.4 percent in 2019 to 21.6 percent in 2023. Similarly, candidacy for the elections in the State Houses of Assembly also dropped from 41.8 percent in 2019 to 35.6 percent in 2023.6“Youth Candidacy in Nigeria’s 2023 elections,” YIAGA Africa, 2023, The same trend equally applies to female candidates. For instance, none of the three leading presidential candidates feature female running mates or vice-presidential candidates. Overall, only 11 percent of the youth candidates in the elections are female, with the leading political parties—the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)—having the lowest number of female youth candidates, with 9 and 5, respectively.

However, other marginal political parties, such as the African Democratic Congress (ADC), the Action Alliance, (AA), and the Allied People’s Movement have an astonishingly high number of female candidates, with 62 for the African Democratic Congress, 58 for the Action Alliance, and 54 for the Allied People’s Movement.7Ibid. While the decline in youth candidacy is evident, the level of young female candidacy is even worse. The party primaries failed to meet the test of fairness and equity and, in cases where parties granted concessions to women, there were not backed by concrete steps to secure the emergence of young female candidates. This reinforces the urgency of political reforms in addition to legal and constitutional provisions to safeguard the participation of women in Nigerian politics.8Ibid.

Undoubtedly, the 2023 general elections are crucial for Nigeria. The elections not only present an opportunity for political change, but the outcomes would also impact Nigeria’s youth population, including the extent to which their voices are heard and their interests represented. Nigerian youths have shown their zeal for the elections in their huge turnout in voter registration, Permanent Voters Card (PVC) collection, and mobilization of other youths in the electoral process. These gains should enhance increased voter turnout. Going forward, the INEC should work to ensure that voter registration and PVC collection become a continuous exercise outside of election periods to capture a larger number of otherwise disenfranchised voters.

In contrast to the level of participation by women in the 2015 and 2019 elections, women’s involvement in the 2023 elections has sharply declined. In the 2023 presidential elections, only one of the 18 presidential candidates is female—Ojei Chichi of the APM—compared to 28 female presidential candidates in 2019. And in the governorship elections, APC’s Aisha Binani of Adamawa State is the only female gubernatorial candidate in the 36 states of the Nigerian Federation. This stands in contrast to 335 female candidates that contested for both the governorship and deputy governorship positions in 2019.9“No Country without Women: What data tells us about women’s participation in Government as of February 2020,” YIAGA Africa, 2020, For state legislative assemblies, less than 10 percent of the 15,336 candidates are women. These statistics show the grim realities of the low level of women participation in the quest for political offices, especially because women are half of the country’s 200 million population.10Rahma Jimoh, “Nigerian Women decry poor representation in Nigerian Politics,” Aljazeera, Feb. 16, 2023, Reversing the current trend of low women’s participation in seeking political office in the 2023 elections calls for greater advocacy for political representation, with youth and civil society engaging the new government to increase women’s representation on political offices, irrespective of the sociocultural beliefs and attitudes that limit their participation in politics.