As the world marked International Youth Day (IYD) on Friday, August 12, 2022, the awareness day designated by the United Nations (UN) to draw attention to a given set of cultural and legal issues surrounding the youths, Nigerian youths are still neglected in the scheme of things.
The theme for this year’s IYD is, “Intergenerational Solidarity: Creating a World for All Ages.” This is geared toward bringing awareness to the important partnerships across all ages that are needed to advance sustainable democracy.
It is a universal truism that youths the world over have made and are still making remarkable impacts in various fields of human endeavour, including leadership. In many advanced countries, the youths are the true leaders of today and tomorrow, not that of tomorrow alone, which has remained elusive to their counterparts in Nigeria, and other developing countries.
We must build the country’s development plans on the backs of the country’s youths. The youths must own the table, not be invited to it. No doubt, the youths may lack experience but nobody learns to drive by sitting in the back seat
The challenges before Nigerian youth are huge, ranging from unemployment, poverty, crime, poor education, and non-inclusive in the political landscape, among others.
However, over the years, the challenges have not declined and there is still no sign that it is doing so soon. Nonetheless, the Nigerian youth is waxing strong every year, breaking records in different endeavours. Just recently Tobi Amusan broke the 100 metres hurdles record, winning gold at the World Athletics Championships with 12.06 seconds record time.
We also have Uwakmfon Unwana Jacob, a senior secondary school one (SSS1) student, who conquered the US, Germany, and the entire world in Mathematics competitions, just to mention but a few.
With the feats of the youth in Nigeria, we believe that time has come for the youth to take a leading position in the country’s political landscape.
We believe and affirm strongly that beyond the theoretical professions of Not Too Young to Run, Nigeria needs to move away from just youth inclusiveness to building the future around the youths.
The recent revelation by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) shows that the majority of registered voters, about 51 percent, are between 18 and 35 years old. That means that, as a block, the youth can decide the destiny of Nigeria.
We must build the country’s development plans on the backs of the country’s youths. The youths must own the table, not be invited to it. No doubt, the youths may lack experience but nobody learns to drive by sitting in the back seat.
Hence, we believe and state that opportunities and mentorship are the way to go. The private sector must get involved in the process of churning out good young leaders for Nigeria. They must be deliberate to give the youths the best tools to not only survive but to actually excel.
We applaud the private sector for making the youths the fulcrum of its employment drive, but still more needs to be done to rightly position the Nigerian youths. They should be encouraged to run for both legislative and executive positions.
With the skills they have picked up in the private sector, and also learning from the past errors and successes of our political leaders, we believe they will do very well and give Nigeria and Africa productive leadership.
We believe that the time is ripe for youth in Nigeria to start setting a new political agenda for the country. The potential of the Nigerian youths will remain a mirage if they fail to rise up against analogue leaders who are bereft of ideas on how contemporary societies and economies are managed.
We recall that most of the founding fathers of Nigeria’s independence were youth, for instance, the late Chief Anthony Enahoro was 28 years when he was elected a member of the Federal House of Assembly. Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo was in his early 40s when he became the first premier of the Western Region.
Why is it that today in Nigeria, the youths are relegated to becoming political touts to the so-called god-fathers in the political pace? This trend must change and the time is now.
If Gabriel Boric could become the president of Chile at 35, Vjosa Osmani, the president of Kosovo at 38, Carlos Alvarado, the president of Costa Rica at 38, and Jacinda Ardern, the president of New Zealand at 37, among others, who says Nigerian youths cannot progressively navigate the affairs of their country.
We advocate that the Not Too Young To Run Act that seeks to reduce the age limit for running for elective office in Nigeria should be made a reality. Nigeria must cease from money politics to create an enabling field for the youths to participate. It should be a criminal offence for any political party to sell nominations for more than N1 million.
Let all stakeholders in the Nigerian political landscape help make the 2022 International Youth Day count for the youths by sponsoring and encouraging them to take the front desk in the country’s political landscape.