YOUTH IN POLITICS: WHAT SHOULD BE OUR FOCUS by Elekwachi Chimezie Lekwas
The new sexy phrase when it comes to politics is “youth participation in politics.” This sounds really cool and for me as a young person I find it attractive and a worthy adventure. Nigerian youths of today have been criticized as not taking the footsteps of the early Nigerian leaders such as Murtala Mohammed, Nnamdi Azikwe, Gowon just to mention a few who were in their 20s and 30s when they were in the forefront of Nigerian politics. When this kind of comparison is made I feel guilty and I know this might apply to many more youths. This often spurs me to action to make a difference when it comes to youth participation in politics especially in the area of good governance, community development and entrepreneurship.
Although youth participation in politics sounds so cool it should have a focus, what then should be the focus of the youths who would want to participate in politics? If the truth be said youth in politics cannot be business as usual. This means that there should be an outlook, milestones to be set and indicators identified to show the direction and for progress monitoring. This would enable everyone to know where we are and what remains and what new directions can we head to. In summary what should be the focus of youth participation in politics?
To do this, let’s look at some of the major problems.
West Africa has a population of about 250 million people and Nigeria has about 190 million of this very large population according to the latest UN projection. Nigerian population is estimated to be about 60% youths. Despite the large population opportunities for youth participation in politics is scarce. Little wonder there is scrambling for any available opportunity both in politics and elsewhere. The Nigerian immigration job hunt of 2014 is just a typical example of how opportunities for employment are so scare making youths vulnerable to exploitation. This applies to almost every other important sector of the Nigerian nation. The situation can be perceived as bad because our government are yet to align our most valuable resource (human capital) to be productive the most marginalized is the youths.
A major weak point of our nation is the issue of ethnicity. The inter-ethnic wars that we see are just too small compared to the intra-ethnic commotion and bickering that is happening within each ethnic group. It is known that this issue of favouring ones ethnic group over the others at the altar of excellence is used by the older elite group to cause division among the ordinary citizens. We should look beyond ethnicity as youths of Nigeria and focus on excellence and see humanity as our common race.
Mind set (psyche):
The worst problem of this nation is the mind-set of the people mostly the young people. There is so much wrong thinking many people assume that it would always be impossible to make a difference in whatever sector you enter. The discouraging part is that the people who have tried are readily available to tell you why you should not try. The problem of corruption, nepotism, unemployment and un-employability among others is found in the mind-set of many youths. In fact many of the youths have also lost their confidence as the older people are often critical of our abilities and are often ready condemn than correct, criticize than critic. In our institutions of higher learning the students (youths) are treated like they are do not have rights, they are not handled like future leaders and as such they have lost confidence in themselves.
Based on the above problems listed, youth in politics is not just a sexy phrase or another cliché to use to under develop Nigeria. It’s a paradigm shift. it’s a serious call to action and important terminology that represents focus, hard/smart work, dedication, responsibility, diligence, commitment, forthrightness, integrity, trustworthiness, competence, innovation/creativity and openness to learning etc. it would not be business as usual because we must be able to represent the “youth constituency” not just a geographical space bust a “youth constituency” were the young persons are represented through giving them a voice.
We need to participate in politics to charge the single story phenomenon of African youths who are mis-conceptualized just because a few of us young Africans may have been involved in the wrong behaviour such as advance fee fraud and other forms of criminal behaviour like drug peddling etc and as such we are all branded as bad. This single story puts us (youths) at a disadvantaged position. This single story makes the older generation to lack trust in us. The gerontocracy we experience may be because the older generation do not trust our competence.
Therefore we need to showcase our competence to the general populace who do not know about our prowess, creative and positivity which is inherent in the youthful age. They do not know the impact we are making in the Nigerian sphere.
We therefore need to create more stories of positivity and excellence that the young people are putting in the Nigerian sphere: The stories of just a few can help in raising our voices:
1. Runcie Chidebe: The Executive Director of an NGO known as project Pink-Blue: This organization runs an amazing idea of creating awareness about cancer detection and treatment. He adopted the cancer navigation idea to the Nigerian contest and he has bring hope for indigent cancer patients. Imagine what such a young person could do to our health sector.
2. Adeolu Ogunrombi: His NGO YouthRise Nigeria has led in opening the frontiers of our justice sector. He advocates for improved review of our laws as it relates to handling of drug abuse his knowledge, dexterity and youthful drive in this area has led to the identification of what needs to be changed in the NDLEA Act. He is working hard to improve on the fight against drug abuse and peddling of drugs in Nigeria.
3. Rumola Adeola: The youngest Nigerian PhD holder in Law such an amazing soul a beautiful personality a grace to behold, with such grace, knowledge and youthful drive our justice sector can be transformed to dispense justice as at when due.
4. Jasper Ukachukwu: A Young graduate of Psychology but his exploits in the justices and security sector in Nigeria, African and indeed the globe is amazing. The fact that he is a knowledge entrepreneur makes him even stand out the more. Such knowledge is needed to push Nigeria to start thinking futuristically so we can be ahead of the pack when it comes to innovation.
5. Agama Prince: He is an entrepreneur his XpressAfrcia magazine puts Nigerian fashion in the global scene. He is young but his knowledge about fashion and what can be changed and enhanced is just amazing. He is an example of what it means to be an entrepreneur.
6. Adachukwu Onwudiwe: a critical thinker, library and information scientist by training. She is the brain behind The Crater Library. If there is an advocate for improved public libraries she is the one. Such a rare gem imagine what fresh ideas she can pump into our National libraries that needs innovative ideas to improve on the library services.
7. Christian Brain Okoli: He is the CEO of Blueafric Media an indigenous media company that is driving the initiative of putting African (stories) content in the cyberspace. He is a branding mogul with great ideas. Can you imagine what such young person can do to change the battered Nigerian image both within Nigeria and the international space.
8. Naza Jasmine: A social media influencer/publicist. You cannot think about major events in the south east without Naza pushing it. One of her major efforts in the area of good governance effort is the social media trend #fixsoutheastroads. Imagine what this kind of young person can do to get our government to focus right at issues of good governance.
These are just a few young people doing exploits in their chosen fields.
Finally youth in politics is not just another opportunity to eat money or to think it’s my turn to chop. It should be about the youth constituency. it’s about the neglected voice of the Nigerian youth who sees his/her current hustle as an opportunity to push for the development of our nation. Therefore the focus of youth in politics is to give a voice to youths who has up until today been marginalized in the scheme of things.