Youths in Nigeria are advocating a review of the National Youth Policy, with a view to including the teeming youth population in the affairs of government.
Though, globalisation and social consciousness has enhanced the capacity of Nigerian Youths, their ability to effectively utilise these assets to drive national transformation would depend on the leadership opportunities available to them.
This was perhaps the reason for centering this year’s international youth day celebration in Nigeria on advocacy for inclusion of youths in governance.
According to an independent research by the British Council, by 2030; “Youth not oil, will be Nigeria’s greatest asset”.
However, the way Nigeria defines the Youth and their place in its leadership is fundamental to youth political representation and inclusion.
The concept of youths as leaders of tomorrow has constricted the very important social category, which are the youths to the political fringe and reduced their demographic majority to political minority.
The Nigerian Youth is easily a demographic majority considering an estimated population of 68 million. Put in context, this is twice the population of Ghana; more than the population of South Africa and bigger than the population of the United Kingdom.
If the Nigerian Youth population were to be a nation, it would be the fourth largest country in Africa and 19th in the world.
However, despite the foregoing, the Nigerian Youth has since the nation’s return to democratic rule in 1999 been kept on the wings and fringes of leadership.
This is why the convener of the “not too young to run campaign” Samson Itodo wants effective youth participation and not representation in governance.
Bequeath that power to them
“When you talk about participation it is not window dressing, it is not even about representation, there is a difference between participation and representation. What young people want is to bequeath that power to them to be able to influence decision whether at the political party level, whether at the executive or in the national assembly, whether at the local government or State level and that is what young people seek”.
The President of the National Youth Council of Nigeria Ikenga Ugochinyere says opening up the political space will go a long way to ensure active youth involvement in government affairs.
“The first thing is to open the political space, there are young people out there who have the resources to run for an election. If the limits set b y the electoral act on election campaign funding is also enforced, it will help to ensure that there is equal participation and space for young people in the Democratic process, ”he said.
Since democracy signifies the representation of people in government and is also a game of numbers, the Nigerian Youth should not be seen as a mere representation of tomorrow’s leadership, but a distinct social category of people who are educated, competent and prepared for the task of today’s leadership.