This research work sought to assess the attitude of undergraduate youths toward democratic values and the implication these would have on social studies education in Nigeria. The youths of Nigeria has been confirmed to form the bulk of the citizens which is the decision making group in the society. The lack of a democratic attitude of mind has been identified as the major obstacle that has mar democratic consolidation in Nigeria. Thus, both elites and youths have been observed to surprisingly shown weak commitment to the basic symbols and values of democracy. The youths must possess a good grapse of democratic values which will aid, guide and direct their conducts in the discharge of their civic responsibilities. And that the possession of democratic values is not only essential for youths to participate in democracy but is essential for them to participate well and positively. In order to carry out this study, nine research questions were raised to investigate the attitude of youths to some selected democratic values. The survey research design, using the descriptive method was employed in the study. Six hundred subjects were selected from the four universities in Edo State.
- Background of the study
Citizens are the hearts and soul of democracy and hence there must be active and informed involvement of the people at all levels of governance as willing participants in defining and maintaining their democracy. The youths of any society are a potential force to reckon with in that society, Nigeria not exempted. They constitute a large chunks of the decision making groups in the society. The Nigerian youths form the bulk of the citizens which is the decision making groups in our democracy. Youths must not be unlookers but the driving force behind democracy and their participation must not be limited to elections only, but a continuing engagement with the process of democratic governance. In line with this assertion, NERDC (2005) agreed that, The role of the youths as electorates does not just stop at voting. The youths must constantly engage in the political process in order to strengthen democracy. Thus, the youths must ensure that government policies truly represent people’s best interest and not those of a handful of rulers. Corroborating the above assertion, NOA (2006) posited that, For democracy to succeed, citizens must be active, not passive, because the success or failure of the government is their collective responsibility.
The citizens must ensure that they shape the government of their choosing. The youths can individually, collectively and through various civil society groups get mobilized and involved in citizenship and governance by joining political parties and contesting elective offices wherein they can influence government policies and programmes. To participate well in democratic activities, the youths must possess a good grapse of democratic values which will aid, guide and direct their conducts in the discharge of their civic responsibilities. In line with this, NOA(2006) asserts that: “For democracy to be sustained, it is essential that citizenry possess the requisite skills, demonstrate the values, and display the behaviours that accord democracy”. That is democracy is nurtured and sustained only when democratic values are rooted in the minds and actions of citizens (NOA, 2006). Ojo in Iyoha, Aghayere and Oviasuyi (2003) advanced that “it is required at the level of both elites and the youths that attitude and behaviour supportive of democratic consolidation be appropriately developed”. Thus, it is crystally clear that the possession of democratic values is not only essential for youths to participate in democracy but are essential for them to participate well and positively. CIVITAS (1991) and Avaro (2001) defined democratic values “as the fundamental beliefs and constitutional principles which guide the democratic government put in place in a particular society”. They are ethos that regulate the extend, level and involvement of participants in a democracy. CIVITAS and Avaro went ahead to identify and itemize life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, the common good, justice, equality, diversity, truth, popular sovereignty and patriotism as fundamental beliefs. And rule of law, separation of powers, representative government, check and balances, individual rights, freedom of religion, federalism and civil control of military as constitutional principles, both making up the American core democratic values. Most of these core democratic values identified by CIVTAS and Avaro were derived from the speeches of American presidents, chiefly by Thomas Jefferson.
Here in Nigeria, it need to be pointed out that there is no unanimous agreement as to what constitute our democratic values or that there is no single document that contain such values as in the case of the U.S and other older democracies. What we can distill as our democratic values are excerpts from our constitution, speeches of past leaders and governments and writings contained in some available literature. A thorough search and comparison of findings with that of the U.S core democratic values. The researcher concludes that the following values of happy life, freedom, equality(one-man-one vote), justice, toleration of diversity, unity(national integration), national loyalty(as against sectional loyalty), rule of law, separation of powers, checks and balances, transparency, patriotism, dignity of human person, representative government, self-reliance, due process, electoral credibility(citizens vote must count), common good(acting in the best interest), popular consent, supremacy of the people, toleration of opposition and legitimacy are Nigeria’s core democratic values. While the underlisted values of honesty, discipline, integrity, dignity of labour, humaneness, mutual respect, orderliness etc. should remain simply as democratic values or civic values or traits that make democracy possible (FGN, 1999; Ojo in Iyoha et al, 2003; NERDC, 2005 & Nnamdi, 2009). So the decision of the youths to participate or not to participate depends on their awareness adherence and internationalization of these democratic values and this has serious consequences on democracy and the general polity. And it is in turn determined by the factors of or the interplay of political culture, civic or citizenship education and the political experiences of the society in question. Ojo in Iyoha, et al (2003) advanced that “the lack of development of democratic attitude (values) is one major obstacle that has mar democratic consolidation in Nigeria. Thus, it is the obstacle to youths positive participation in our democracy”.
However, Nigerian youths have contributed immensely to the growth and development of their various communities and the country in general. Their struggle and move have always been a sacrificial one which outcomes are not only their selfish interest alone but for the generality of the people (Aghayere in Iyoha, et al, 2003). Aghayere (2007) further asserts that, Nigerian youths, particularly Nigerian students, have been known for their active participation in nation building. Their sustained struggles and agitation against colonial exploitation and domination of the political system, amongst others, paved the way for the termination of colonial rule and attainment of independence. The youths also played important roles of facilitating the democratization of Nigeria (demilitarization of Nigeria). Their selfless activities largely contributed to the enthronement of democratic rule that culminated in the 1979 and 1983 civilian rule in Nigeria. The youths protest that greeted the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election cannot go unmentioned. Contributing to this, NOA (2006) also identified other areas of youths positive participation in democratic governance. These it outlined to include the following activities, Meeting with political officials to express their concerns and desires, petitioning and demonstrating peacefully, voting, registering, contesting elective offices, demanding accountability from elected representatives, scrutinizing and criticizing government policies, writing articles in newspapers, boycotts and labour unions strikes. In addition to these, the youths also served as Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) staff, provided services or items (electoral materials) to INEC as self employed youths and defended their vote casted when results were hijacked by political warlords. On the other hand, most of the actions and involvement of Nigerian youths have portrayed negative influence on our democracy and the polity in general.
In line with this view, Ojo in Iyoha, et al (2003) pointed out that, Much of the deviance in political behaviour can be traced to the youths and are correctly attributed to lack of a democratic attitude of mind. The ultimate manifestation of the absence of a democratic attitude of mind is electoral rigging, intolerance of political dissent, alternative or opposing viewpoints. He asserts further that “both the elites and youths have surprisingly shown weak commitment to basic symbols and values of democracy”. Hence, there is serious manifestation of greed, inordinate ambition to win power, thuggery, dishonesty, personalization of political/public offices, insincerity, disrespect for others, intolerance etc in our national polity. The disposition that forms democratic ethos are not inherited or passed down through the genetic mode; it is required that each generation of society learn civic facts, explore democratic ideas and values and connect such concepts to the responsibility of citizenship. Such disposition must be fostered and internalized by word, study and by power of example. It is in this regard social studies as a school subject is highly imperative in fostering these learnings and to sustain our nascent democracy. The many years of military rule in Nigeria have been marred by uncivil political behaviours that ranged from political apathy to electoral fraud. The attendant effect has been lack of popular participation, and disengagement of many Nigerians, particularly youths, from political processes. These developments suggest weak civil support for democratic values and institutions.
The focus of this study is to ascertain the extent to which youths are aware/unaware, have positively/negatively internalized these democratic values in the discharge of their civic duties and more importantly, the extent to which social studies education can help to learn or unlearn these values in youths. As pointed out earlier that democracy is nurtured and sustained only when democratic values are rooted in the minds and actions of citizens. Civic and citizenship education, which are vital aspects of social studies is essential in the inculcation and entrenchment of these vital knowledge, values and actions in citizenry. This brings to mind the definition of social studies given by Kissock (1981) when he defined social studies as a programme of study which a society use to instill in students the knowledge, skills, values, and actions it considers important according to the relationship human beings have with each other, their world and themselves (Iyamu and Onyeson, 1991). To Kissock, social studies can be used to instill in learners those desirable attitudes and actions (i.e. democratic attitudes and values) that a society feels desirable to its survival as a people.
Youths acquire the status of citizenship in any particular society after undergoing certain psychological awareness and social training as well as some specific skills (Aghayere in Iyoha, et al, 2003). The age at which such is reached varies from society to society. But subscribing to the argument of Agbebaku and Agbebaku(2007) that, “youths in Nigeria are people normally between the ages of 18 to 45 years”. Their reason for the choices of 18 as the lower age was derived from the fact that the 1999 constitution of Nigeria sets that mark as the minimum acceptable voting age for Nigerians. And that of 45; it is the peak where people still demonstrate youthfulness and energy for civic activities. Therefore, for the purpose of this study, Nigerian undergraduate youths will mean persons between the ages of 18 and 45 years who are currently undergoing their first degree programmes in any Nigerian universities.