• Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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Exclusion fuels anger of young Nigerians, voter apathy, erodes patriotism – Edidi

Exclusion fuels anger of young Nigerians, voter apathy, erodes patriotism – Edidi

Abdulmumin Edidi, the Representative of Lagos Central Senatorial District and chairman of the Committee on Works and Housing, in the Nigerian Youth Parliament, in this interview with BusinessDay’s David Ijaseun discusses the significance of youth involvement in Nigerian politics and the consequences of neglecting or discouraging their participation. Excerpts:

Since the establishment of the Nigerian Youth Parliament (NYP) under President Musa Yar ‘Adua, how has it fared in promoting youth participation in politics?

The Nigerian Youth Parliament, established by President Musa Yar ‘Adua in 2008, plays a significant role in promoting youth participation in politics. It serves as a platform for young Nigerians to voice their opinions on government policies and advocate for issues important to their development.

For instance, some Nigerian Youth Parliament alumni have achieved remarkable political success. Luke Onofiok, the pioneer speaker of the NYP, became the youngest Speaker in Akwa-Ibom State House of Assembly, and later Chairman, House of Reps Committee on Judiciary at the 9th Assembly.

Likewise, Abdullahi Maibasira, the second speaker of the Parliament emerged as the youngest youth leader of the PDP, and then National Financial Secretary of the same PDP, and most recently Abubakar Saddiq Buhari who is a member of the ongoing 5th Session of the Nigerian Youth Parliament, and was appointed as Commissioner for Communications in Kwara State.

Strengthening the parliament would not only produce more leaders but also bridge the gap between youth and government, fostering better communication and sharing of accurate information.

How was your journey to becoming a member of NYP?

My journey to becoming a member of NYP has been an interesting one. As a student at King’s College, I was trained to pursue excellence in all areas, which continues to motivate me.

I started by representing my department, Civil Engineering, at the Yaba College of Technology on the students’ representative council, serving in various committees for three terms. I then became a Student Member of the Yabatech Governing Council, advocating for the rights of over 20,000 students and contributing to policy processes.

I also had engagements with the National Youth Council of Nigeria and vied for a position in the Commonwealth Youth Council. In 2020, my regional and global activities led to my nomination as the representative of Lagos Central Senatorial District in the Nigerian Youth Parliament, and I was inaugurated in 2021.

Since becoming a member of the NYP, in what ways have you seen it advocating for causes and solutions to some of Nigeria’s problems?

On the positive side, we have successfully drafted policy documents on drug and substance abuse control and national youth security. In addition, we elected the first female Speaker, supporting increased women’s participation in governance.

However, the significance of the parliament to the government seems to have diminished over time. There has been a lack of capacity building, implementation of promised programs, and communication between the National Assembly and the Youth Parliament. Also, many join the parliament for personal gains rather than fulfilling its actual mandate.

To address these issues, it is crucial to inform President Tinubu about the Youth Parliament’s status and institutionalise it separately from the Ministry of Youth and Sports. Standardising the recruitment process and ensuring proper inauguration are also important steps. The National Assembly should consider the Youth Parliament’s recommendations during plenary sessions, and the government should recognize its potential in bridging the gap between young people and governance, then investing accordingly.

What are your thoughts on youth inclusion in politics and its importance to the development of a nation like Nigeria?

Youth inclusion is very important for any nation that has a large youth population, especially Nigeria where over 60 percent of the population is below 35 years and projected to have the world’s youngest population by 2050.

I often tell people; in Nigeria, several youths don’t even believe the country belongs to them, because they don’t feel much connection to the nation, with the exception of perhaps a few. This makes it very important to include young people in the politics of the nation, and by politics, I mean bridging the gap between young people, the various institutions in the country, the policies, and the government.

What challenges do Nigerian youths face when it comes to participating in politics, and how can they overcome them?

The challenges in youth participation include lack of knowledge, misinformation, monetisation of politics, hegemony, and insufficient government investment in youth structures. To address these challenges, young people must be intentional and hold themselves accountable through their youth structures. Electoral processes should be affordable and transparent, focusing on track records and competence rather than financial influence.

In your opinion, what are the potential consequences of neglecting or not encouraging youth’s involvement in politics?

The greatest enemy of democracy is a lack of patriotism. It is dangerous and it can force a total collapse of the country. Like I said earlier, a lot of young people today think everything the government does is designed against them, especially with the alarming rate of fake news in the public space today. Most of the consequences are the things we already see today.

Take for instance the voting apathy in the 2023 general elections and what happened during the EndSARS protest; where a very just cause degenerated into arguing painfully about how many people died or didn’t.

If platforms like the Youth Parliament were well funded and optimized, then you can imagine the level of youth engagement, consciousness and gaps that can be bridged. If nothing is done, with the current situation of things, then the level of resentment young people bear would increase, the level of patriotism would decrease further, voter and political apathy would increase, and in some cases, you would see revolutionary voting against the ruling class.

What specific initiatives has the Nigerian Youth Parliament undertaken to encourage youth participation in politics and amplify their voices?

From the history of the Parliament, either in the 2nd or 3rd session, a motion was moved and passed to the National Assembly calling for reduction in the age required to contest elective office, which eventually became Not-Too-Young-To-Run Law.

Also, in the run-up to the 2023 general election, an open letter was sent by one of our colleges to major Political Parties asking that they reduce the cost of nomination forms for elective offices.

Similarly, during our last sitting, a motion was moved and passed to the President calling for the establishment of a National Youth Advisory Council to allow for youth input on all national issues. Although I personally consider that unnecessary because it’s more like duplicating the purpose of the parliament itself. Nonetheless, it is part of the efforts made so far.

In Lagos Central Senatorial District which I represent, we currently have an advocacy program on Drug Abuse in public schools, webinars where youth are enlightened on how to access government opportunities and programs and share all available government opportunities with our youth. We also have an occasional Youth hangout which brings youth across the constituency together in a social-sport atmosphere to network and learn about government processes. There is a lot more that we do.

I recently appealed for the provision of a Youth Centre and Stadium in Eti-Osa LGA which the Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwoolu has consented to and prioritised, to promote youth development.

Read also: The power of youth partnerships: Driving positive change through collaboration

What steps can be taken to ensure that young people have a meaningful role in decision-making processes?

Youth participation in politics should be a priority of every government. It fuels passion, drives development and ensures that young people are included not only in planning but also in building our future.

The management of tertiary institutions should view student unions as collaborative platforms for student and institutional progress, rather than sources of unnecessary protests. In addition, the Youth Parliament and Youth Councils should be included in government committees, programs, and agendas to ensure youth input in policies and programs.

However, it is crucial for these youth structures, particularly the Youth Parliament, to be allowed to thrive and engage extensively with the youth population. This will ensure that the Youth Parliament accurately represents the aspirations of Nigerian youth. The government needs to let the Youth Parliament breathe.