This study sought to assess undergraduate youths’ attitudes toward democratic values and the implications for social studies education in Nigeria. The youths of Nigeria have been confirmed to constitute the majority of citizens and the decision-making group in the society. The lack of a democratic mindset has been identified as the major impediment to democratic consolidation in Nigeria.
Thus, both elites and youths have been observed to have surprisingly low commitment to basic democratic symbols and values. Youths must understand democratic values in order to aid, guide, and direct their actions in carrying out their civic responsibilities.
And that having democratic values is not only necessary for youths to participate in democracy, but also necessary for them to participate well and positively. To carry out this study, nine research questions were posed in order to investigate youth attitudes toward some selected democratic values. The descriptive method was used in the study’s survey research design. Six hundred subjects were chosen from Edo State’s four universities.
1.1 The Study’s Background
Citizens are the heart and soul of democracy, so people must be actively and informed participants in defining and maintaining their democracy at all levels of government. Youths in any society, including Nigeria, are a potential force to be reckoned with.
They make up a sizable proportion of the decision-making groups in society. Nigerian youths constitute the majority of citizens who make decisions in our democracy. Youths must not be bystanders, but rather the driving force behind democracy, and their participation must extend beyond elections to a continuous engagement with the process of democratic governance.
In agreement with this assertion, NERDC (2005) stated, “The role of youths as electorates does not end with voting.” To strengthen democracy, youths must be constantly engaged in the political process. As a result, youths must ensure that government policies truly represent the best interests of the people, rather than those of a few rulers. NOA (2006) stated, “For democracy to succeed, citizens must be active, not passive, because the success or failure of the government is their collective responsibility.”
Citizens must ensure that the government of their choice is shaped by them. Individually, collectively, and through various civil society organizations, youths can become mobilized and involved in citizenship and governance by joining political parties and running for elective office, where they can influence government policies and programs.
To effectively participate in democratic activities, youths must understand democratic values, which will aid, guide, and direct their actions in carrying out their civic responsibilities. According to NOA (2006), “for democracy to be sustained, citizens must possess the necessary skills, demonstrate the values, and exhibit the behaviors that accord democracy.”
That is, democracy can only be nurtured and sustained if democratic values are embedded in citizens’ minds and actions (NOA, 2006). According to Ojo in Iyoha, Aghayere, and Oviasuyi (2003), “it is necessary at the level of both elites and youths that attitude and behavior supportive of democratic consolidation be appropriately developed.” Thus, it is clear that democratic values are not only required for youths to participate in democracy, but also for them to participate well and positively.
According to CIVITAS (1991) and Avaro (2001), democratic values are “the fundamental beliefs and constitutional principles that guide the democratic government established in a particular society.” They are the ethos that govern the extent, level, and involvement of democratic participants. CIVITAS and Avaro went on to identify and itemize as fundamental beliefs life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, the common good, justice, equality, diversity, truth, popular sovereignty, and patriotism.
And, as constitutional principles, the rule of law, separation of powers, representative government, checks and balances, individual rights, religious freedom, federalism, and civil control of the military comprise the American core democratic values. The majority of the core democratic values identified by CIVTAS and Avaro were derived from speeches given by American presidents, most notably Thomas Jefferson.
It should be noted that in Nigeria, there is no unanimous agreement on what constitutes our democratic values, nor is there a single document that contains such values, as in the case of the United States and other older democracies. Extracted from our constitution, speeches of past leaders and governments, and writings in some available literature can be used to distill our democratic values.
A thorough search and comparison of findings with the core democratic values of the United States. The researcher concludes that the following values are important: happiness, freedom, equality (one-man-one-vote), justice, tolerance of diversity, unity (national integration), national loyalty (as opposed to sectional loyalty), rule of law, separation of powers, checks and balances, transparency, patriotism, dignity of the human person, representative government, self-reliance, due process, electoral credibility
(citizens vote must count), common good (acting in the best interests), popular While the values listed below, such as honesty, discipline, integrity, labor dignity, humaneness, mutual respect, orderliness, and so on, should be regarded solely as democratic or civic values or traits that enable democracy (FGN, 1999; Ojo in Iyoha et al, 2003; NERDC, 2005 & Nnamdi, 2009).
As a result, the decision of youths to participate or not depends on their awareness, adherence, and internationalization of these democratic values, which has serious implications for democracy and the general polity. And it is determined in turn by the factors of or interactions between political culture, civic or citizenship education, and the political experiences of the society in question.
According to Ojo in Iyoha et al. (2003), “the lack of development of democratic attitude (values) is one major impediment to democratic consolidation in Nigeria.” As a result, it is an impediment to youths’ positive participation in our democracy.” However, Nigerian youths have made significant contributions to the growth and development of their various communities and the country as a whole.
Their struggle and movement have always been self-sacrificing, with the goal of benefiting the general public rather than just themselves (Aghayere in Iyoha, et al, 2003). According to Aghayere (2007), Nigerian youths, particularly Nigerian students, are known for their active participation in nation building. Their persistent struggles and agitation against colonial exploitation and political system dominance, among other things, paved the way for the end of colonial rule and the achievement of independence.
Youths also played important roles in facilitating Nigeria’s democratization (demilitarization of Nigeria). Their selfless actions aided in the establishment of democratic rule in Nigeria, culminating in civilian rule between 1979 and 1983. The youth protest that greeted the annulment of the presidential election on June 12, 1993, should not be overlooked. NOA (2006) added to this by identifying other areas of youth positive participation in democratic governance.
These are outlined as the following activities: Meeting with political officials to express their concerns and desires, petitioning and peacefully demonstrating, voting, registering, contesting elective offices, demanding accountability from elected representatives, scrutinizing and criticizing government policies, writing articles in newspapers, boycotts, and labor union strikes are all examples of peaceful protests.
In addition, the youths worked as Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) staff, provided services or items (electoral materials) to INEC as self-employed youths, and defended their votes when results were tampered with by political warlords.
On the other hand, the majority of Nigerian youths’ actions and involvement have had a negative impact on our democracy and the polity in general. According to Ojo in Iyoha et al (2003), much of the deviance in political behavior can be traced to youths and is correctly attributed to a lack of a democratic attitude of mind. Election rigging, intolerance of political dissent, alternative or opposing viewpoints are the ultimate manifestations of a lack of a democratic mindset.
He goes on to say that “both elites and youths have surprisingly demonstrated a lack of commitment to basic symbols and values of democracy.” As a result, in our national polity, there is serious manifestation of greed, excessive ambition to gain power, thuggery, dishonesty, personalization of political/public offices, insincerity, disrespect for others, intolerance, and so on.
The disposition that forms democratic ethos is not inherited or passed down through the genetic mode; each generation of society is required to learn civic facts, explore democratic ideas and values, and connect such concepts to the responsibility of citizenship. Such a disposition must be fostered and internalized through word of mouth, study, and the power of example.
In this regard, social studies as a school subject is critical in fostering these learnings and sustaining our fledgling democracy. Nigeria’s long military rule has been marred by uncivil political behavior ranging from political apathy to electoral fraud. The result has been a lack of popular participation and the disengagement of many Nigerians, particularly young people, from political processes.
These developments point to a lack of public support for democratic values and institutions. The purpose of this research is to determine the extent to which youths are aware/unaware, have positively/negatively internalized these democratic values in the performance of civic duties, and, more importantly, the extent to which social studies education can help youths learn or unlearn these values.
As previously stated, democracy can only be nurtured and sustained when democratic values are ingrained in the minds and actions of citizens. Civic and citizenship education, which are important aspects of social studies, are critical in instilling and entrenching these important knowledge, values, and actions in citizens.
This brings to mind Kissock’s (1981) definition of social studies as “a program of study that a society uses to instill in students the knowledge, skills, values, and actions that it considers important based on the relationship human beings have with each other, their world, and themselves” (Iyamu and Onyeson, 1991). According to Kissock, social studies can be used to instill in students those desirable attitudes and actions (i.e. democratic attitudes and values) that a society considers necessary for its survival as a people.
After undergoing certain psychological awareness and social training, as well as some specific skills, youths acquire the status of citizenship in any given society (Aghayere in Iyoha, et al, 2003). The age at which this is achieved varies by society. However, Agbebaku and Agbebaku(2007) argue that “youths in Nigeria are people normally between the ages of 18 and 45 years.
” Their reasoning for selecting 18 as the lower age came from the fact that the 1999 Nigerian constitution establishes that age as the minimum acceptable voting age for Nigerians. And 45 is the age at which people still exhibit youthfulness and energy for civic activities.
As a result, for the purposes of this study, Nigerian undergraduate youths will be defined as individuals between the ages of 18 and 45 who are currently enrolled in their first degree programs at any Nigerian university.
1.2 THE PROBLEM’S STATEMENT
This study was conducted to investigate Nigerian youths’ perceptions of democratic values. The extent to which youths are aware of, understand, and/or have internalized these values is unknown based on experience with youths during elections and civic activities. This has serious implications for social studies education, our democracy, and the entire Nigerian nation.
Thus, there is concern when one considers the undemocratic attitudes, level of incivility prevalent among our youths, and the ultimate manifestation of negative behaviors such as electoral rigging; kidnapping/killing of political opponents; writing or sponsoring the publication of damaging articles in our media; tearing, removal, or defacing of posters belonging to political opponents/parties; and youths enlisting in various cult groups to be used as paupers.
As a result, there is poor leadership and governance, a large number of electoral cases in court, a lack of basic infrastructure, unemployment, and underdevelopment.
The National Orientation Agencies have recently launched a mass mobilization campaign to raise people’s awareness of democratic values in the country. Even so, what can we say about Nigerian youths’ current perceptions of democratic values? How effective are social studies in instilling these values in young people?
1.3 THE STUDY’S OBJECTIVE
The study’s objectives are as follows:
1. Determine the extent to which they are aware of, comprehend, and have absorbed the democratic values that guide the Nigerian democratic process.
2. Determine the extent to which democratic values govern our youths’ participation in various democratic processes.
3. Determine youth attitudes toward the virtues of respect and tolerance while participating in/carrying out political activities.
4. Determine youth attitudes toward the virtues of honesty and patriotism while performing civic duties.
5. Determine youth attitudes toward transparency and due process in their civic practices.
6. Determine youth attitudes toward the provision of justice for all citizens in our democracy.
7. Determine youth attitudes toward the one-man-one-vote principle in the political process.
1.4 HYPOTHESES FOR RESEARCH
The researcher developed the following research hypotheses in order to successfully complete the study:
H0: youths’ attitudes toward virtues, respect, and tolerance while engaging in political activities are negative.
H1: youths’ attitudes toward virtues, respect, and tolerance while engaging in political activities are not negative.
H02: There is no attitude among young people toward transparency and due process in their civic practices.
H2: There is a youth attitude toward transparency and due process in their civic practices.
1.5 THE STUDY’S IMPORTANCE
This research was carried out at a critical juncture in the Nigerian state’s democratization process. The study will focus on what social studies has done as a school subject in terms of citizenship transmission – producing citizens (youths) who are civically conscious, responsible, and competent. And the reasons why the school subject is not living up to expectations.
The work will also be useful to curriculum developers in determining which subjects should be included as core, at what level they should be included, and when they should not. That social studies education in our school system previously ended in JSS III has done a great disservice to the transmission of good citizenship. And thanks to the newly introduced civic education that will be taught in our senior secondary schools (SSS).
The study will also be useful in identifying the democratic values that youths in our school system will be taught. It will also be useful in informal settings or gatherings organized by MAMSER, INEC, political parties, such as rallies, campaign grounds, sensitization programs, and so on, because there is very little work or literature on the concept of democratic values.
It will also aid in identifying the undemocratic attitudes and behaviors with which Nigerian youths are associated/engaged in our democratic process, in order to provide INEC, security agents, and political parties with adequate information and potential solutions to this heinous threat. Finally, it will help to correct many Nigerian youths’ indifference and general apathy toward the electoral process and democracy in general.
That is, to sensitize young people to be a part of the mechanism that makes and shapes the decisions and policies that determine their future, rather than living it in the hands of a few elites who are selfish and parochial in their judgments. And why is it necessary to act in this capacity in order to instill the democratic ethos that ensures electoral credibility and democratic consolidation?
1.6 STUDY SCOPE AND LIMITATIONS
The study’s scope includes undergraduate youth attitudes toward democratic values: implications for social studies. The researcher comes across a constraint that limits the scope of the study;
a) RESEARCH MATERIAL AVAILABILITY: The researcher’s research material is insufficient, limiting the scope of the study.
b) TIME: The study’s time frame does not allow for broader coverage because the researcher must balance other academic activities and examinations with the study.
c) Organizational privacy: Limited access to the selected auditing firm makes obtaining all necessary and required information about the activities difficult.
1.7 TERM DEFINITION
The following are operational definitions of the key words or concepts used in this study:
Democratic Values: Are the fundamental beliefs and constitutional principles that guide the democratic government established in a specific society. They are the ethos that governs the extent, level, and level of participation in a democracy. Rule of law, patriotism, equality, freedom, self-reliance, the common good, justice, tolerance of diversity, transparency, and so on are examples.
ATTITUDE: A firm belief or feeling about something.
UNDERGRADUATE: An undergraduate degree is a colloquial term for an academic degree obtained by completing undergraduate courses. It is typically offered at a higher education institution, such as a university.
1.8 THE STUDY’S ORGANIZATION
This research paper is divided into five chapters for easy comprehension. The first chapter is concerned with the introduction, which includes the (overview of the study), historical background, problem statement, objectives of the study, research hypotheses, significance of the study, scope and limitation of the study, definition of terms, and historical background of the study.
The second chapter emphasizes the theoretical framework on which the study is based, as well as a review of related literature. The third chapter discusses the study’s research design and methodology. The fourth chapter focuses on data collection, analysis, and presentation of findings. The study’s summary, conclusion, and recommendations are presented in Chapter 5.
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