Resting on the already established protocol, I wish to commence by expressing how happy I am that we are discussing Youth Political Participation in our dear nation at this time... a critical era in our nationhood!
Who are Youths?
Just as the Nigerian National Youth Policy (2009) defines youth as persons between 18-35 years, the African Youth Charter declares that "Youth or young people
shall refer to every person between the ages of 15 and 35 years".
But the United Nations defines 'youth' as persons between the ages of 15 and 24... a more realistic definition if you ask me.
Generally, Youth age refers to the time of life between being a child and an adult"...
Being a youth is having the appearance, freshness, vigor, spirit, etc., characteristic of one who is young.
I disagree with any notion that there's no or little Youth Political Participation in Nigeria.
The campaign rallies, thuggery and e-thuggery; praise singing and other dirty sides of politics are being carried out by youths.
Ordinarily, youth participation is the active engagement of young people throughout their own communities.
Youth political participation captures the involving of youth in responsible, challenging action that meets genuine needs of the people with opportunities for planning and/or decision-making affecting others in the democratization process.
Thus, meaningful youth political participation involves recognizing and nurturing the strengths, interests, and abilities of young people through the provision of real opportunities for youth to become involved in political decisions that affect them at individual and systemic levels.
A basic concept of participation however, is that people are free to involve themselves in social and developmental processes and that self-involvement is active, voluntary and informed.
In Nigeria, we have had the good, the bad and the ugly side of youth being politically in charge of our affairs.
When these "young" nationalists refused to let go of power as they grew older, no thanks to the indolence of the succeeding youth age... They redefined youth to mean any Nigerian who's "youth at heart"
...old men and women started taking positions and choices of the young; 60 years and above began to appear as Youth Leaders.
These political Maradonas who redefined youth to meet their urge to "fix our resources" gave us the bad taste of youth participation.
Next in the unfortunate trend is the ugly taste of youth participation... A reality represented by majority of today's youth.
The youth of today feeling forsaken in decision making got lost in the democratization process... They took the back seat, doing the dirty jobs!
Though, the platform for youth to get involved continued to increase but the inherent opportunities cannot be seen to be amplifying the voice of youth in the society.
Instead of creating a new niche, today's youth prefer to play "follow follow" behind the old "youths" and complain.
Instead of exacting selves via the Social Media, youth of today prefer gossiping, watching porn or being an e-thug online.
These characteristics do not define all youth but describes the majority of young people of today.
Yes, there are conscious and right thinking young Nigerians. On their shoulders rest our only hope of survival!
These few have always thought, spoken and taken actions to get the Nigerian Youth into MEANINGFUL participation in the politics of our great country.
Hence, this colloquium which aims to xray youth political participation in Nigeria: challenges, prospects and next steps.
The challenges hindering our meaningful participation in politics can be summarized into:
Firstly, Limitation by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria... Imagine when one cannot become a commissioner or governor until the age of 30 or 35 respectively.
We had a case in Anambra State, where a hardworking and sound young man missed being a commissioner just because of age.
Secondly, Lack of Sincere Leaders... The cross is youth to carry but presence of sincere leaders makes the journey easier for the youth.
With pride I recommend all leaders to take after the governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano... With over 50% of his aides as young people, he has the sincerity the Nigerian Youth need to ascend.
Obiano has not only given the youth the platform to excel but has made Anambra a model State in Africa.
Let all youth-based CSOs, leaders and interested youths alike take a tour of Anambra State and feel what our society miss by relegating the participation of young citizens in decision making.
Thirdly, Lack of Focus, Direction and Indifference of the Youth... This indicts you and I.
Bulk of the cake of blame belongs to the Nigerian Youth who allow selves to be weighed down by scary challenges; those who lack focus; and others who play "I don't care" attitude.
This set of young people lack the foresight to see the great potentials in youth political participation.
They lack the conviction as declared in the African Youth Charter that "Africa’s greatest resource is its youthful population and that through their active and full participation, Africans can surmount the difficulties that lie ahead".
So, I ask... What are solutions to these challenges, how do we move forward, what are the next steps?
Aside the voluminous and well publicised wayforwad for the youth, here's an outline of the "A-B-C" to taking charge as young Nigerians:
1. Increased engagement with the Legislature to amend the Constitution to takeout the age barrier;
2. Better electoral process and behaviour to get the sincere leaders in place... In this we must stop being induced to support a candidate!;
3. Self assessment... Look inwards and change yourself. Understand your age... At 35 years, we are already old!;
5. Create alternatives, build a niche for yourself... If you can't be a youth or woman leader, develop an office like Social Media and be the leader... Social Media leader!;
6. Change what interests you... Your hobbies, way of life, challenger and role models should represent the right ideals;
7. Be prepared for takeover; if you are not, then get tutored immediately after takeover;
8. Know that "The Inside is never as perceived outside"... Don't pull down a leader if you can't pull up another or put up a better leadership!
9. Apply PAVE approach... Be Patriotic! Advocate for good governance! Volunteer frequently and Empower your being!
10. Ultimately, take sincere leaders as your mentors and role models. I sincerely recommend the Anambra State Governor... The first leader in Africa to have over 50% of his aides as youths in this age.
Summarily, there are various models of youth political participation which can be followed when attempting to get young people involved with decision making or acting for change.
Young people will actively engage with society when presented with three specific dimensions; firstly they must have something to Challenge them.
Following this, they must feel they have the Capacity to make a difference.
Finally, they must be able to Connect with others in order to tackle the issue effectively.
Our problems as a nation pose huge CHALLENGE for all young people; your age naturally gifts you the CAPACITY and today you are seated amongst like minds to get the all important CONNECT.
Thank you... May you be influenced to conquer!
SSA to Anambra State Governor,
Chief Willie Obiano on Social Media