On Sunrise daily — A current affairs discussion program aired last Friday 09/10/15 on Channels TV, the presenters and their guests were talking about the partial ministerial list and their concerns about the candidates on that list. The candidates on the partial list comprised of former leaders in various aspects of governance of the country in the past administration. It lacked candidates who conform to what I feel is the public’s expectation of “change” and above all, it lacked youthfulness. One of the guests on the show, Professor Christopher Ogbogbo, a professor of History pointed out that “since 1960, we have been recycling the same group of people”. He compared our leaders of the past who were in their youthful age to our current leaders who are mostly in their 50’s and above. He also pointed out that most of our leaders today were indeed the same youths who lead us in the past. This shows us clearly that our youths have indeed being neglected from governance for a very long period.
Pearl S. Buck, a Nobel prize winning writer and novelist once wrote “The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible, and achieve it, generation after generation”. Due to the nature of our traditions and the reality of the economic situations we experience in our society today, I would like to define the Nigerian youth as any body between the ages of 13 to 35. Tradition was factored into this definition because in most parts in Nigeria, an adult of 35 years old is considered to be relatively young. Due to the harsh realities of living in Nigeria, or a recession hit world at the moment, you can find adults as old as 35 years still living with their parents. Many of these youths are graduates looking for something meaningful to engage themselves in. Pastor Poju oyemade of the covenant christian centre beautifully described this condition as a state of “Learned helplessness”. But despite these short-comings, the Nigerian youth has time and again shown their tenacity to strive and survive in the mist of all the hardships faced in the economy. We have seen local businesses and start-ups spring up from the sheer will and determination of the Nigerian youth especially without support from the Government. The Nigerian youth have also continuously proved their effectiveness in the driving of political campaigns be it on the streets or via social media. So, why have the youths been continually ignored from administration to administration? Why have they been shut out of politics? Is there a lack of confidence in the capabilities of the youths? or Is there a lack of political will to engage the youths in any meaningful decision making process? Perhaps, this is yet another consequence of the long term effect of corruption.
In Roger hart’s ladder of participation, Tokenism in my opinion was best used to describe the current state of the Nigerian youth in relation to their leaders. Tokenism is where young people (Nigerian youths in this example) appear to be given a voice, but in fact have little or no choice about what they do or how they participate. I chose tokenism because there are various youth groups especially political ones that claim to represent the Nigerian youth, but all they do is “sit on a discussion panel with no substantive preparation and no consultation with their peers”.
Representing the youth in the governance of Nigeria is no small challenge. it involves figuring out the needs and priorities of the different age groups according to their regions and making sure that their concerns are continually addressed in an efficient manner. Local governments should be legally obligated or empowered to support the youths in their constituency. They should ensure that youths are involved in the decision making processes at that level. This will positively empower the youths by improving their self-esteem and reducing depression thereby encouraging a greater commitment to the community. At this level, the energy, creativity, unique perspectives and propensity for action of the youths should be channelled towards driving real change in the communities.
Most policies made by the government directly affect the youths, so they know first hand the effects of these policies. At the very least, If the Nigerian youths are involved in the decision making process of the government, these policies would be greatly improved upon and the reception of such policies would be positive.
Let me to conclude with these words from Koffi Anan “Young people should be at the forefront of global change and innovation. Empowered , they can be key agents for development and peace. If, however, they are left on society’s margin, all of us will be impoverished. Lets ensure that all young people have every opportunity to participate fully in the lives of their societies.”