Youth-Next: Lessons from France

By Opeyemi Oriniowo

In the rave of the moment, let me congratulate the President of France, Emmanuel Macron on his landslide victory at the polls on May 7th 2017. I have read a good number of opinion pieces on what his victory means for France and the global political landscape, as well as seen first-hand the euphoria his candidacy and victory elicited amongst Nigeria’s youth.  In an attempt to comprehend the former and as expected of most opinion articles, they all attempt to lay agreeable foundations as to the process of his candidacy, structure and demography of the French elections. They only diverged at the bricks-laying junction where each writer approached the Macron phenomenon from their angles of perception which I will say is always heavily influenced by their beliefs, aspirations, bias and fears.

Just like them and relative to my context, I will make my own attempt as the title of this article already portrays.

So, here is a 39 year old centrist independent candidate, now the youngest president of France who not only stopped his country from being eclipsed by the far-right populists movement but also proved that the anti-establishment wave that engineered the victories of the Brexit in the U.K. and the Donald Trump phenomenon In the U.S. can be stopped in its tracks.  Despite his former membership of left-wing socialist party and brief stint as Finance Minister under President Francois Hollande, whose party fielded a different candidate, Macron had to resign and break away from these ideological dogmas to create a new movement that is refusing to throw the baby away with the bath water and is neither right nor left wing.

In the context of France, where only two intellectual blocks have traditional dominated the political space with an electorate that has traditionally been conditioned to be colour-blind, so things as either black or white without room for the in-betweens.   It therefore takes the conscious awareness of the limitations of Intellectual dogma, persistent audacity of hope and confidence in the clarity of your message to break-away.  This, I argue can only be found in a demography that is a product of the status quo, old enough to understand its workings but young enough to dare a new pathway and follow it through.  The youth of every nation is the bedrock for progressive change.

While it can be somewhat a paradox and also make sense that despite Emmanuel Macron being the only candidate at the polls under 40, he still struggled with the youth vote of France. On the positive side, this can mean the youth electorate are sophisticated, and issue-based, and are not swayed by his Swagger. However, it could also translate that the people that should have easily identified with him leaned more towards the reactionary populist highway, paved with emotional pitch and clichés, and rooted in fear, uncertainty, ambiguity and separatism. Although this portrays a new pattern of youth vote and speaks to rising despair amongst youth in the global North when compared with the youth voting pattern in the last U.S. elections and the 64% of youth that voted for Britain to stay in the EU. Fortunately, the final run-off of the presidential election had 56% of the youth population with Macron and 44% with Le Pen (Daily Independent).

The reason for this rising hopelessness might not be far-fetched from the fact that youth unemployment in France is at its peak, almost double that of UK and three times that of Germany. The youth are starting to go wary. The essence of this narration is to pontificate on the potentially catastrophic consequence of a complacent youth who have been driven to derision and losing their most important ability to think outside the box.

In the absence of a crystal ball, this foretells doom for the future of France and while Macron has his work cut out for him, I will say his most important achievement yet is to re-create a better environment that nurtures more of youth who dare to dream like him.

On another note, when I attempt to make meaning of what has happened in France in comparison to my dear country, Nigeria, I come to the conclusion that,  It is either Nigeria’s youth are the most hopeless hopefuls whose resilience to ‘bullshit’ (pardon my French) is unrivalled or I predict a social explosion any time from now.

There has never being a greater time for Nigeria’s youth to rise above parochialism, organise ourselves and aggregate our collective interests. While I do not nurse any jaundiced views on the contextual similarities of our nation state and that of France, I think we can all agree that we share the same fate of disconnect between us and the status quo. The system as it is has never really worked for us. Youth un-employment with its attendant problems has always being the order of the day since the advent of the 4th republic. The not so long ago declared economic recession is hypocritical of the government and an insult to our intelligence because it is only postured to the elite controlled GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and its trickle down facade. The Nigerian ‘youth-economy’ has always being in free-fall and it seems it can only be redeemed for us by us.

From Abia to Abakaliki, Maiduguri to Markudi , Sokoto to Osogbo, Anambra to Calabar, Jos to Lagos , Nigeria’s youth will eventually and are starting to realise that what binds us together is greater than what separates us. We must all begin to refuse to be used to fuel narrow ethnic and religious sentiment that is at cross-purpose with our collective destiny.

Like France, we are due for our own version of ‘En Marche’ movement, a new paradigm shift that will be championed on the back of Nigeria’s youth who account for 63% of Nigeria’s electorate. We will root in accountability, good governance, youth inclusion and engagement beyond the tokenism the present status quo offers.

Make no mistake, we will not achieve this by wailing, or the sheer audacity of its declaration but through consistent advocacy and nation-wide mobilization.

Nigeria’s Youth Arise!


Opeyemi Oriniowo is a Development Practitioner and Analyst focusing on Poverty and Inequality. He was selected among the Young Global Leaders of Sustainability in 2015 by the New Union for the Development of Green Economy, Netherlands. He is the Team Lead of the Research, Strategy and Policy Unit of YouthNext-Ng. (Visit for more Info.)


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One Response to Youth-Next: Lessons from France

  1. Femi Diipo May 27, 2017 at 6:35 pm

    The Nigerian Youth really need to wake up and challenge this dogmatic status quo. I’m optimistic that the youths will rise to this challenge as it is already in motion in some parts of the country. There’s still a long way to go though. Inspiring


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