Ahead of Nigeria’s election, 33 girls share their hopes for the next president

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Education and insecurity top the list of issues that Nigerian girls want their future president to address.

As Nigerian voters register in record numbers, we spoke to 33 girls and young women around the country to hear their hopes for the next president.

The election — to be held on 16 February 2019 — will decide who leads Africa’s largest economy and biggest population for the next four years. It is the country’s sixth election since the military handed over power to a democratically-elected civilian government in 1999.

While they are not all old enough to vote — the minimum age to vote in Nigeria is 18 — each girl is invested in the outcome of the election and the future of their country.

Concerns about the quality of education in Nigeria and the high rates of out-of-school girls came up in our conversations again and again. There are more than 10.5 million children out of school in Nigeria — and the majority of them are girls. “I hope that after this election, Nigeria will have a leader who will work hard towards ensuring that every Nigerian girl — irrespective of her tribe or religion — receives not just education, but quality education,” shares 17-year-old Ruth from Enugu State.

Nigerian education activists, including Malala Fund Gulmakai Champion Rotimi Olawale, are calling on the new administration to help every girl complete 12 years of education by expanding the Universal Basic Education Act, increasing government funding to education, and ensuring that the Child Rights Act is adopted and enforced.

The issue of insecurity is also important to Nigerian youth this election. The extremist group Boko Haram continues to hold ground in northeastern Nigeria, while conflict persists between farmers and herders in the north-west and militants in the Niger Delta continue to target oil pipelines. 20-year-old Nusaiba from Kaduna State wants the next president to “bring an end to all the killings and kidnappings in the country.” 13-year-old Anuoluwa from Kwara State hopes they will “improve the security, so my siblings and I can feel safe walking around at night.”

Here’s more from Nigerian girls and young women about the upcoming election:


 
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“The next president of Nigeria should address the issue of education first. I hope the quality of education in my country improves after the election. The next president should also improve the security in Nigeria — people are running away from their homes because of the lack of safety, which is very bad.”

— Grace, 16, Edo State


 
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“Most Nigerians are becoming aware of the power of their votes and of the voice which their votes carries. I hope that their votes really count so that after this election, the candidate of the people's choice not the politicians’ choice will emerge as the winner. I hope that after this election, Nigeria will have a leader who will work hard towards ensuring that every Nigerian girl — irrespective of her tribe or religion — receives not just education, but quality education. I also hope that Nigeria will have a leader who follow the advice Vaclav Havel described in his essay, ‘Politics, Morality and Civility’: ‘in all circumstances try to be decent, just, tolerant, and understanding; and at the same time try to resist corruption and deception.’ That is the only way we can live in the Nigeria of our dreams.”

— Ruth, 17, Enugu State


 
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“This year, I want people that are voted into power to consider the youth, because they don’t often do that. I want them to finally pave all the roads so my friends and I can skate. I want them to enforce nationwide security so I can fearlessly walk around outside my house at night. I want them to empower the roadside youth so I don’t have to move to the other side of the road when I see them coming. Other than all these, other than someone who will actually make changes, I don’t want much else.”

— Dimeji, 16, Osun State


 
 

“I hope the masses will be more enlightened so that they can vote for the right candidate who will bring an end to all the killings and kidnappings in the country. I also want the next president to give priority to Girl Child Education.”

— Nusaiba, 20, Kaduna State


 
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“The economy: I want an improvement. I am tired of everything in the store being ‘too expensive.’ I want a new president that would find new solutions to the problems we go through every day. ‘Why don’t we focus more on agriculture?’ A question I want the president to ask himself/herself. I want a president that is not doing it for himself but for everyone in the country. I want an election that would bring forth this president, my president.”

— Fayobomi, 15, Ondo State


 
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“My wish during the forthcoming election is to have security and more security. I believe that once there is security in the country, all elections will be free and fair and people will not be afraid of coming out to vote.”

— Farida, 19, Kaduna State


 
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“The 2019 elections saw the rise of six female presidential aspirants, who should be lauded for their bravery in contesting. However, they will remain aspirants because the sad reality in Nigeria is many people won’t vote for a woman presidential candidate.”

— Abigail, 19, Kebbi State


 
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“The upcoming elections in Nigeria have become a cause for much excitement and chatter among voters and candidates alike. Despite the recent rumours about possible election rigging, protests and a very violent election, we can be assured that voters will flock to the polls and elect a leader. We can only hope that the leader that is elected is the best leader we can possibly elect. That the leader is one who will make terrorist groups, this heart-wrenching economic situation, unpaid government workers, dilapidated public schools and hospitals, and unemployed young people a thing of the past.”

— Naomi, 16, Anambra State


 
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“I have high hopes that the election will be free and fair. I hope the winner is able to tackle insurgents in the north-east.”

— Amila, 15, Taraba State


“I expect to see from the new president changes like fixing our roads, increase in workers’ salaries, improved standard of living and security of lives and property.”

— Murewa, 11, Osun State


 
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“I will vote on the day of election for a president who will bring sanity to our educational system. An honest, trustworthy and selfless president that will fight corruption. My dream for the new government is to see that we have good health care system in Nigeria.”

— Maimuna, 20, Kaduna State


 
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“I think this year’s election should be seen as an opportunity to change our country from the present case to a brand new phase. I want someone who will improve the security, so my siblings and I can feel safe walking around at night. Someone who will ensure improved electricity so we can peacefully watch our TV shows. Someone who will care about the feelings of the people and not that of his family alone. I want, after this election, a leader who will change Nigeria.”

— Anuoluwa, 13, Kwara State


 
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“I believe that we will have progress in the forthcoming election compared to the last one we did in 2015. I hope the next president will address the issues of school dropouts, child abuse and cultism in Nigeria. I want the next government to provide good roads and have good security in local communities like mine. I hope that people will not be bribed and be allowed to vote freely.”

— Titilayo, 13, Kogi State


 
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“I think this year’s general election isn’t just a competition between parties but also between the individuals running. The choice of who one votes for isn’t just about the party they belong to but it’s really about the Nigeria they want to see. Everyone is really expecting this election to be a game changer and so am I. I want to see a Nigeria where the youth are represented, to a reasonable extent, in the government. I want to see a Nigeria where leaders care about the oaths they take on their inauguration and be fair and transparent in their dealings.”

— Omoikhefe, 16, Edo State


 
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“My wish is that we will have a free, fair and violent free election. I want a government that will eradicate child and women trafficking as well as provide security in our schools and improve the educational system of Nigeria.”

— Sakina, 21, Kaduna State


 
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“2019 has brought one of Nigeria’s four year traditions: where we vote for those who we think worthy of such power into respective positions. However, it is easier said than done as the corruption has sown its deep roots in the electoral system.”

— Dieko, 16, Lagos State


 
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“I have no preference for any party or person. All I want is a president who has integrity, who is just and has the interest of Nigerians at heart. Above all, they should give priority to the Education of the Girl Child by making all primary and secondary schools free and secure.”  

— Amina, 21, Kaduna State


 
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“The 2019 election has been the hottest topic for a while now and I could not be so surprised if this election turns out like the numerous others we have had. The major problem of Nigeria is underdevelopment, which stems from a lot of other things and this is what future leaders should focus on tackling.”

— Shalom, 16, Lagos State


 
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“Election periods can get very tense with people worrying about their personal safety and even the safety of their votes. Nigeria's educational system needs serious attention and the incessant ASUU (Academic Staff Union of Universities) strikes need to stop because it affects myself and over a million other students. Our security system should be improved and economic diversification should be put in place. This is why it's so important that we Nigerians don't sell our votes so we can vote in the right persons who won't pay lip service, but take his/her word as their bond.”

— Mirabelle, 20, Cross River State


 
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“Of recent, the presidential elections have doubled as popularity contests. Nigerians are now being deceived by who can make the loudest empty promises. And the worst part of it all is the monotony of the selected presidents constantly emerging from specific parties. I believe that Nigerians should take the candidates of other parties into consideration, and maybe then, parties would stop seeing the country’s affairs as a battle to the death.”

— Sophia, 16, Edo State


 
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“My wish during the forthcoming election is for the citizens of Nigeria to know what is best for them and should not be carried away by material things. They should know their rights as human beings, their rights as voters and should be ready to protect their rights so that we can have the best candidates in the country.”

— Hajara, 20, Kaduna State


 
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“The major change I would really like to happen is for a change in how well youths are represented in the country as we youths are the future of this country.”

— Busola, 16, Lagos State


 
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“From the news we watch on television, all measures have been put in place to hold a peaceful election. May Allah favour us with his preferred choice.”

— Hauwa’u, 15, Bauchi State


 
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“I want Nigeria to become the great country it once was. It is time for a change and it starts with electing the best candidate that will take us to the promise land. We need to put different measures in place for Nigeria to rise to what it once was.”

— Oyindoubra, 12, Bayelsa State


 
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“People should participate actively in the elections and should not be influenced in their decisions on who to vote for. I want the next president of Nigeria to address the problem of education, especially that of girls. He or she should work on restructuring schools, employing quality teachers and empowering our youth.”

— Justina, 18, Abuja


 
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“In my opinion, the 2019 election will be a choice of moving forward or backwards. I hope people will elect their leaders based on good manifestos and not because of tribe or religious affiliations. I will want to see a government who gives priority to education especially the girl child, creating more employment opportunities for its youth. I hope to see free and fair elections.”

— Tabitha, 16, Borno State


 
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“The upcoming Nigerian election has elicited different views among Nigerians. Some with eagerness to accept a new president with new forms of change, others with unrivalled support for the incumbent, and some with so much indifference that they’re not even bothering to vote. However, one thing is certain: this election is a determining factor in Nigeria’s development and unity.”

— Anna, 16, Edo State


 
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“I hope the election goes well. I hope jobs are created and the basic human needs are met, especially in Kogi State.”

— Rukayyatu, 12, Kogi State


 
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“This election is the first I’ve ever seen where citizens are ready to participate and follow. This election is the first where not one, but two women are running for presidency. This inspires the citizens to actually take hold of our future as a nation and vote for who we believe would positively influence Nigeria in the long run.”

— Gwami, 15, Kogi State


 
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“I hope the election will be free and fair like the last one. I hope the winner is someone with integrity.”

— Amina, 14, Kaduna State


 
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“With all the tension in the polity, I curiously anticipate the results of the upcoming election, and its consequential results. I dread to think of the much likely violent happenings which may occur during the elections, and pray the best upon our country.”

— Ifeoma, 14, Delta State


 
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“I put my trust in Allah, the election will be peaceful.”

— Asiya, 11, Taraba State


 
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“The 2019 Nigerian election is set to be a memorable one in the history of Nigeria. This is due to the fact that this time, each candidate is not just campaigning with an all-encompassing vision of change for the nation but with a dream to transform a critical sector of the country. Personally, I feel this election might just decide the fate of this nation; whether it rises from the ashes or sinks deeper into the depths of despair. For the first time in what could be forever, we have Nigerians unifying, coming together for the greater good of the nation, to make their one vote count. As this election is so different from the rest, it has given us hope which is more than anyone could ask for.”

— Oluwalaonoayo, 15, Ogun State


Through Assembly, Malala Fund is helping girls around the world share their stories. Subscribe to receive our newsletter and learn about the next generation of leaders.


 
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tess Thomas is editor of Assembly, a digital publication and newsletter from Malala Fund. She loves books, cats and french fries.