Deepening Democracy And Issues Relevant To Youth’s Participation: The Role Of Editors Presented By Professor Abubakar Jika Jiddere At Workshop Organized By Nigerian Guild Of Editors ,January 21st, 2022

Deepening Democracy
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Deepening Democracy And Issues Relevant To Youth’s Participation


Today globally, democracy is considered to be the ideal form of government basically due to its inherent acceptance of the equally of all men and its openness for popular participation and inclusiveness in matters of public affairs. It also guarantees fundamental human rights and liberty to all citizens. More importantly, democracy provides the citizens the right to determine the legitimacy of government and who occupy any elective office through free fair and credible competitive elections. It equally gives the people the power to decide policies and make laws through their elected representatives. Indeed, in a democracy even the sovereignty of the state is located in the people. These features or characteristics of democracy have made it easier for it to acquire great propaganda value to the extent that almost all different political systems proclaim themselves the status of being democratic.

From its classical meaning to the contemporary period, democracy require the existence of a highly conscious, rational, politically knowledgeable and participant citizenry who seeks to realize a generally recognized and acceptable common good that would promote socio-economic and political advancement of the whole society. Concomitantly, democracy inherently reduce the gap between the ‘have’ and the ‘have not’ through conscious and rational policies that serves the general interests of the people in a society.

READ ALSO: Responsible And Responsive Conflict Sensitive Journalism: Rethinking The Role Of Editors By Umar Faruk Jibril Professor Of Mass Communication Faculty Of Communication Bayero University, Kano

In most states world over, the youth are in the majority and are the foot soldiers of the transformation of the state and society. They are the most active and productive age group. The role they play in the political, social and economic life of a society is immeasurable. The advancement in the communication technology, particularly the New Media commonly referred to as ‘Social Media’ has enhanced the youth’s participation in democratic dispensation. The social media, being a product of the Global System for Mobile Communication is largely utilized by the youth. The youth use the social media as a means of information dissemination, socialization, education, entertainment and mobilization. Through the New Media, the youth mould and shape their group perception, behaviour and reaction towards unfolding political events. Therefore, the youth can play a significant role in the democratization project of any given state.

News editors, particularly online publications must take into consideration that most of those who patronize online publications are the youth who are characteristically, radical and often take news material at first value and also react or respond to without carefully examine, analysis and clarify the facts. It is a moral responsibility that absolutely rest on editors to more professional and adhere to the ethics of their profession in publishing news, in the newspaper, radio, television and online.

What is Democracy?

In its classical meaning, democracy is a derivation of a Greek word which mean “People’s rule” or “rule of the people”.  Here, it is essentially concern with who should rule and who should decide who rules. It is on the basis of these two central questions that different scholars provide comprehensive definitions of the concept: –

Joseph Schumpeter define democracy as “a system for arriving at political decision in which individuals acquire the power to decide by means of a competitive struggle for the people’s votes”. Robbert Bobbio maintain that “Democracy refers to a cluster of rules permitting the broadest, surest, direct and indirect participation of majority of the citizens in political decisions affecting the whole community”. Bretton and Vander Wella sees democracy as “a political regime in which citizens chose in competitive elections the occupants of the top political offices of the states”. Agyman maintained that, democracy means “the ability of the people to send parking an unwanted government through majority votes. That, in a democracy, the will of the people is the basis of legitimacy of political power and authority which is primarily aimed at advancing people’s interest.

It should be noted at this juncture that Nigeria is yet to consolidated democratic regime. It is still democratizing, which is a process through which democratic project would be consolidated. Democratization is a process of political change that moves the political system of any society towards a system of government that ensures peaceful competitive political participation in an environment that guarantees political and civil liberties (Samarasinghs, 1994). Democratization can also be seen as a process that follows through these phases; the liberation phase, when the previous authoritarian regime opens up or crumbles; a transition phase; often culminating when the first competitive elections are held; and the consolidation phase, when democratic practices are expected to become more firmly established and accepted by most relevant actors (O’Donnell and Schmitter in Linz and Stepan, 1996). This final phase is essentially for establishing durable democratic regime where the political elites have also cultivated a sound democratic character, such as sportsmanship, leadership not rulership responsibility, responsive and responsible representation, integrity, transparency and accountability to the electorates.  It is not debatable that Nigeria’s democracy is very far away from these democratic characteristics and values.

Democratization means the gradual movement away from authoritarian rule to a more liberal political system or regime, in which the people possess more rights and active participation in the political process. It connotes the transition of the political system from the rule by the few to a popular system in which democracy get endured and consolidated. It consists of civil society active engagement, gender equity, freedom of the press, periodic free, fair and credible elections, adherence to the principles of the Rule of Law, active youth participation and inclusion in processes of public affairs such as legislative and executive engagements. It also means the process of institutionalization of democratic norms, values and practices. It means a point when the government is responsive, responsible and openly accountable to the people. It involves the existence of multiparty system and effective and constructive opposition parties. More importantly, it means the improvement of the quality of life of the people and reduction of the level of poverty through good governance and sustainable development. Hence, economic growth and development is a prerequisite in democratization leading to a more consolidated democratic system. These are what deeping of democracy means.

If indeed democratization is a process leading to a democratic rule, it should then be able to establish these elements; pluralism, multiparty system, free and fair elections; popular participation in the political process; rule of law, respect for human rights and equality of access by all citizens and groups to the state power and resources as well as constitutionalism. (Osaghae, 1999:7)

Therefore, for democratization to have an end result of a consolidated democratic system, economic growth and overall development which reduces unemployment, abject poverty, inflation and inequality must be in place with equal opportunity of all citizens particularly the youth to actively participate in all matters of public affairs. The youth are part of the solutions to the challenges of the contemporary world and not a burden or problem that needs to be solved. The UN World Youth Report 2003, affirms that the full and effective participation of the youth in a society and in decision making as part of its 10 priority areas of action. Democratization usually takes longer time than expected, particularly in developing countries such as Nigeria due large to the backward or low level of economic development, inequality, poverty, illiteracy to mention a few.

Abraham Lincoln sums it up when he posits that, “Development is the government of the people, by the people and for the people”. Therefore, participation of the people is central to democratic practice.

Who are the Youth?

The youth are the engine room of growth and development across the world. The population of the youth is usually higher than any other age groups. In Nigeria for instance, the youth constitute over 60 percent according to 2006 census, and being in their most productive stage of their life as citizens, they constitute a particular segment of the population that makes them the most sensitive, energetic, active and at the same time easily vulnerable. (Oduwala, 2015)

The term youth has also been defined and categorized differently across the world. The United Nations and the World Bank see the youth as a people between the ages of 15-24; The commonwealth youth program place the youth within the age bracket of 15-29. Different countries across the world have their own different and varied classifications. Kura (2008) states that defining the youth is not a simple task since there is no international consensus on what the term implies or a clear-cut indicator such as age interval to define it. Based on these differences, writers and scholars have defined the concept based on their individual conceptions. For instance, Lugman (2008:4) sees the term from the his viewpoint and refers to it as “a period of life between adolescence and adulthood in postmodern era”. The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), defines the youth from a cultural point of view that “youth are individual or persons in a particular society that are considered as youth by that society”. The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in Nigeria considers all graduates under the age of thirty (30) years as those who qualify to partake in the program. According to Kawu (2008), the youth is another common title for the persons or young people, it is a time of life when one is young, especially, the period between childhood and maturity or adulthood. He further added that around the world, the terms “youth” “adolescent” “teenage” and “young persons” are interchanged often meaning the same thing, only occasionally seen different. Similarly, the United States of America considers anyone under the age of 21 years to be a young person. (In Inokoba and Maliki, 2011: 218). The African Youth Charter sees the youth or young person as “a group to be referred to every person between the ages of 15-32. The Nigerian National Youth Policy states that the youth shall comprise all young males and females aged between 18-35 years, who are citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (NYP 2009). This is however, a little departure from the age limit stipulated by NYSC program.

Stipulating the youth unique characteristics, Kawu (2008:3) mentions “activeness and restlessness, sociability, gregariousness, energetic, tirelessness, curiousness, development, adventurous, risk bearing, creativeness, emotionally unstable, fantasy seeking or utopian world seekers, hero worshiping among others. He went further to assert that the problem of the youth is how they can manage these characteristics or qualities for the positive societal development (particularly under a democratic dispensation) Ogundo Wele (2001) suggests that the youth is a special demographic group identified through age and distinctive features of social position of its members as well as through social psychological traits determined by one age and social status. “Youth are estimated to be over 60% of the world population (World Youth Report, 2001). In Nigeria, the youth are estimated to be over 140 million of the projected population of 200,000,000. (National Population Commission, 2021). To Apam, the youth constitute about 60% of the population of Nigeria, and have made significant contributions to Nigeria’s national development in all fields. Therefore, the youth are demographically significant, essential and dynamic part of the world human resources. They make tremendous contributions to society at all levels as actors, players, partners and strategic catalysts (Kura, 2008).

Concomitantly, there has been a gradual increase in global awareness and recognition about the vital role of the youth in the achievement or actualization of the goals of the Sustainable Development. It is on this note that the United Nations in 1985, drew the attention of the world to the important role of the youth in world affairs by declaring that year the International Youth Year for Development and Peace (Kura, 2008). Isma’il (2001) makes it clear that the youth are recognized not only as future leaders, but also as actors and foundation of our society, with a direct stake in the development process of our great nation (in Kura, 2008). It is on the recognition and active participation of the youth in the development objectives of Nigeria that president Muhammadu Buhari signed the “Not Too Young to Run bill into Law on 31st May, 2018. How realisable, remain unanswered.

The not Too young to run, is Nigeria’s largest youth movement open campaign that seeks to promote the rights of young people running for public offices. The campaign which started in 2016 sought to reduce legal age candidacy for the political positions, to encourage more young people to actively participate and make contributions in the socio-economic and political development of Nigeria. The campaign was spearheaded by a coalition of over 40 youth-based organizations, civil society groups and Non-governmental Organization (NGOs). They lobbied the federal law makers (National Assembly) to actualise the objectives of the campaign. They demanded the legislators to amend some sections of the constitution of the Fedeeral Republic of Nigeria that will lower the minimum age for candidates to become eligible to contest any political office and to also encourage the wider populace to support youth active participation in politics. Finally, the law brought down the age qualification for the President from 40 to 30; House of Representative from membership 30-25 as well as the membership of State House of Assembly. However, the law did not change the age qualification for the office of the governor and the senate, both are retained at 35 years contrary to the demands of the ‘Not Too Young to Run’ Campaign. The reason provided by the legislators for not changing the age qualification of the senate was that, the Senate President and the President have to be within the same range. Because, in the event that the President and the Vice President are unable to serve for whatever reason, the Senate President will take over as acting president. While this argument may seem valid, many analyst argue that the senators are afraid of a young person who may contest and have the full backing of the youth, who are in the numerical majority in Nigeria. Unfortunately, the youth are either not properly organized or been manipulated by the politicians to the extent that they are or cannot adequately put their strength to use as key players in Nigeria’s political landscape. The youth are as stated above highly vulnerable. They are sharply divided along various lines. They belong to different political parties and most often fight the battle of the politicians or the political parties they belong. They are also divided along ethnic, religious and geopolitical lines.

The most significant challenge to the youth in actualisation of their objectives in the campaign of ‘Not Too Young to Run’ is their week financial base. Despite the signing of the bill into law by the president, the youth are still not financially competent to face the financial political giants, who more often recruit the youth as thugs to intimidate their political rivals and perpetrate electoral frauds and misconducts to achieve their political goals and at the end reject the youth. At best the youth are kept busy with their youth leaders in some cases fight in the process of sharing what the politician’s handover the leftover from the moneys they realise or looted from the public treasury. As stated earlier, the youth do not have the financial capability to face the big political giants, for instance, almost all the political parties deliberately put a high price for the party intent form as well as the form for contesting in the party primary elections not to talk of the forms from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Indeed, very negligible few youth would be able to mobilize the money needed to buy these forms. This situation has left the youth in serious dilemma, while they are allowed by law to run for the presidency, they are also financially handicap to actualize their dreams.

The Youth and the Media

 It is not a matter for debate that today, the world over, the youth are more attracted to the New Media than the Traditional Media (Radio, News Paper and Television). The technological explosion of the new mobile application, such as the social media networks, blogs and forum, bookmaking sites, media sharing and microblogging, within the new media (social media) platform, has transformed how people particularly the youth engage, sell, buy, create and live in the digital age (Africa Practice, 2014). The utilization of these platforms by the youth has gained massive recognition in recent time, leading to changes in the ways political mobilization and participation are conducted. The new media has brought to the fore the issue of accountability to the citizens by the government. The powerful impact of the youth votes can make or mar a politician’s political campaign” (Samsudin and Soon, 2006). For instance, young voters played a dominant role in the election of Barack Obama in 2008, by helping to secure over 60 percent of the youth votes for his election as the first black president of the United States of America (Boussios, 2014). Similarly, in Nigeria the space created by the internet explosion has triggered wide opportunity for engaging the public in discussion concerning different issues, making Vivian and Elizabeth to conclude that:

In the recent past, the internet has changed not only people’s relationship by creating new platforms for social engagement, but also youth’s ability to contribute in the development process in the society by creating a space for more diverse political opinions…..and heightened level of audience participation (Vivian and Elizabeth, 2015:10).

While the new media has created a wider opportunity for youth engagement in the political processes, the challenges of the youth believing in unedited news has posed a serious threat in the political systems, there is high tendency for the youth to take whatever is posted in the social media at first value. It is necessary for editors to critically weigh what is published on their outfits. We shall return to this.

Who is an Editor?

Key Editors

  1. Editor

An editor is one who takes all important decisions connected with the publication of news and expression of opinions on vital national and international issues and events. He coordinates the editorial department (editing and reporting). Every newspaper is required by law to print the name of the editor on every issue. This pins responsibility on the editor for what goes to print. If a newspaper violates the laws of the state, the person responsible can easily be identified, located and booked. Some people hold the opinion that an editor is responsible solely to his/her conscience and to the readers. Therefore, any interference on the editorial policy or on the discharge of the duties of an editor is considered an assault on the freedom of the press. There has been agreement or rather disagreement between editors and the proprietors of media outfits. Some times this could lead to the stepping down of editors.

  1. News Editor

News editor is in charge of the newsroom and his major responsibility is in the selection of news, stories. He/she allocates tasks to news team and instructs reporters on the news angles which are to be highlighted in reports. The news editor is directly answerable to the chief editor. The news editor in consultation with the chief reporter will decide what news stories should be covered and in what detail. As the final authority on the news, he/she has the power to stop the printing of a newspaper in order to accommodate an important fast-breaking news story. The editor must scan all incoming news and issues directions for appropriate editing.

  1. Chief Sub-Editor

The senior sub-editor or the chief sub-editor is the captain of the editorial section of the news desk. It is he’s/her’s responsibility to see that copies are distributed among the sub-editors and to ensure that copies are edited properly, attractive and meaningful headlines are given and copies are free from libels. The edited copies are handed over to the printing section before the cut-off time.

  1. Sub-Editor/Copy Editor

The sub-editor also known as copy editor has been described as the midwife to the story and the unsung hero of a newspaper. He/she should have a lawyer’s analytical approach and quick-mindedness which enables him/her to understand a story quickly and come to the core of the matter. A sub-editor has to give appropriate headlines and, where necessary, revise and condones the material to suit the available space.

The Purpose of Editing

The various steps involved in the editing process are briefly explained below. It is based on Floyd K. Baskete et al in their book the Art of Editing. Since editing is carried out by sub-editors at the desk, the following are basically their responsibilities.

  1. Ensure Accuracy

Good reporting is a key ingredient in ensuring accuracy. But all those who edit the story too, share this responsibility. Sub-editors ensure accuracy by checking and rechecking the facts and if needed they would seek clarifications from the reporters about the information in a story. Carelessness can lead to blunders and embracing mistakes. This can greatly tarnish the reputation of a newspaper or a news outfit.

  1. Trimming Unnecessary Word

Unnecessary words, adjectives and adverbs should be trimmed. If an event is very interesting, it is sufficient to say it is interesting. Meaningless phrases should be trimmed. For example, the following phrases could be replaced with the words given in brackets: a great number of times (often), a small number of (few), at regular intervals of time (regularly), made an investigation (investigated), placed its seal of approval (approved) etc.

  1. Protecting and Polishing the Language:

Editing involves polishing the language. An editor should have a thorough knowledge of the grammar and language usages. He/she plays a major role in protecting the language against abuse. People at the desk should know how to spell, to make certain a story, its written in proper language, to reorganize and clarify passages and protect the meaning of words. Clear writing, correct spelling and grammar contribute to better communication of ideas.

  1. Correcting Inconsistencies:

Inconsistencies within the story should be detected. Inconsistencies can confuse the readers. For instance, if you say that the B52F misses which was launched in November 2021 did not get to its target, but the B52F which was launched in December 2021 got to its target: the sub-editor should be able to detect the inconsistency in the statement. The B52F cannot be launched twice, so the correct thing to write is that, B52FS got to its target. Again, to say that, the most despicable crime in the word, is to be changed to “one of the most despicable crimes in the world….”

  1. Making the Story Conform to Style

Making the story conform to style. The word style in newspaper jargon refers to the consistency provided by rules of usage in a newspaper. Newspaper adheres to rules of style to avoid inconsistencies that would annoy the readers. Adherence to style that would be absent, for instance, if goodbye were used in one story and goodby on the text.

  1. Eliminating Libellous Statements

Libel is a written defamation. The sub-editor must know the libel laws of the country. Libellous defamatory statements should be eliminated. It is the duty of the sub-editor to ensure that the stories are free from such libellous statements.

  1. Eliminating Passages in Poor Taste.

Some papers have policies banning profanity of any types. For example, reputed news papers by convention will not publish the victims names and their identities in a story on rape.

  1. Make the Story Readable and Complete

A story that is readable and complete has the following characteristics.

  1. It is precise
  2. It is clear
  3. It has a pace appropriate to the content
  4. It uses transitional devices that lead the reader from one thought to the next.
  5. It appeals to the readers senses.
  6. Writing Attractive Headlines

A copy editors first task is to correct and refine copy. A second task is to write headline that attracts readers attention, summarises the story, depicts the mood of the story and helps the tone of the newspaper.

  1. Editing Pictures and Designing Pages

An important step in the editing process as the packaging of news stories in a page. Designing the page helps the reader to read faster and more of what is written. The packaging or designing of a newspaper is considered as important as its contents.

Quality of writing primarily depends upon a reporter, but a sub-editor can improve writing. Good editing complement good writing. Occasionally, good editing can save mediocre writing. Poor editing can make it worse or destroy it. It is said that “an excellent staff without a copydesk might produce a fair newspaper. A mediocre staff with a competent copydesk can produce an acceptable newspaper. But an excellent staff, backed by an excellent desk, guaranties an excellent newspaper.

In general an editor is someone or a person that takes significant decisions on what is fit to print, publish or broadcast. He heads the editorial team with sense of precision, value judgment, good verbale and visual skills an eagle eye to spot errors in a copy. He is the ultimate gate keeper of news, features, opinions, images, expressions, impression on vital issues intended for publication for the general public. He is the coordinator of all editorial activities, resources and personnel. He is also the diplomatic liaison officer between the medium he/she represents and the target audience the medium is intended to responsibly serve. The editor essentially edit to ensure or take care of the following:

  1. For safety
  2. For language
  3. For taste
  4. For policy
  5. For style
  6. For embellishment (make story more interesting)
  7. For balance
  8. For accuracy
  9. For objectivity
  10. For fairness and
  11. For space

Editing Assumes Three Forms

  1. Light Editing

This may involve checking spelling; grammars; punctuations; capitalization; consistency; trigger words, correcting incorrect language; verification of facts, information and claims; cross-referencing.

  1. Medium Editing

They include changing the copy’s texts to ensure sequencing, coherence, clarity, lack of ambiguities, correcting incorrect statements.

  1. Heavy Editing

This may include in addition to the two above additions and detections with a view to expanding or contracting the copy and ensuring smooth flow. It sometimes means a complete rewrite of the copy to conform with all the nuances and standards of the medium and make the copy fit for consumption by the general public.

Sub-editors make sure print and online articles are accurate before they are published. They work on publications such as newspapers, magazines and websites. It is significant for the editors especially online publications which the youth mostly patronize (social or the New Media). This is very important especially in a democratizing societies characterized by so many challenges. The youth are highly vulnerable and easily gullible. Editors must always be careful of what is published in all forms of media outfits.

As stated earlier, the social or New Media is largely patronized by the youth and they seem to accept whatever is published online to the extent that they easily fall victims of scams. It is the responsibility of editors to filter what political item can cause instability and what cannot. The editors can as well encourage youth political participation by way of enhancing political communication among the youth in all their publications particularly in the New Media. For instance, the campaign of “Not Too Young To Run” can be promoted by editors through various programmes and publications. “The Media is said to be to society what water is to fish.” Democracy cannot be consolidated without the media, and this makes the editors vital and central to the process of deeping democracy and youth active participation and engagement.

Editors must know that, what is been published can make or mark the democratic process especially in a multicultural or heterogeneous state such as Nigeria. Editors must also know sensitive issues that are likely to endanger democratization and peaceful coexistence of the different identities in the Nigerian polity. As professional’s in the business of communication, editors have the responsibility of enhancing or deeperming of the democratic project through youth participation and engagement. Editors must avoid by all means, the publication or broadcasting inciting news materials that can potentially lead to conflict and violence. This is possible through indept editing of whatever that has relationship with politics and youth engagement or participation. The principle of verification of information and data to authenticate their originality and genuinety before publishing must always inform and guide editors activities and publications. The media is the only fastest means of communication between the government and the governed. The general public largely depend on the media in the society as most immediate and effective means of communication, englightment, education, entertainment among others.


Democratic consolidation or deepening democracy are products of democratization which is the process that guarantees equality of all citizens and is open to popular participation and inclusiveness particularly of the youth in matters of public affairs. It guarantees fundamental human rights and liberty to all citizens. One of such liberties, is the freedom of the press which is the bridge between the government and the governed.

“The media is to society what water is to fish”. Without the media communication in contemporary society would be very difficult if not outrightly in possible. Therefore, the relevance or significance of the media cannot be over emphasized. It can make or mar the political stability of any state and indeed, the international system.

Youth participation in the democratic project has been considered by the United Nations (UN) as part of its ten (10) priority areas of action. And that all states are enjoined to provide the needed space and opportunity for the active participation of the youth in their political landscape. In this regards, the media can play significant role that can enhance and facilitate the active participation of the youth. Specifically, through the New Media or social media which the youth largely patronize. However, news editors are required to ensure that whatever they post or publish in all their media outfits meets the basic requirements of the ethics of their profession. They must avoid whatever that is likely to inflamate the political atmosphere and consequently degenerate into protracted conflict and violence. As such the editors must know their responsibilities in the process of publishing any news material.

Finally, on the path of the youth, it is important to know that, not all what is posted on the social media or the printed in newspaper and what are broadcasted in the radio and televisions are genuine. The youth should accept everything at first value, unless they are verified.


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Author: Imoh Robert

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