Nigeria: Is Youth Inclusion in Politics Not A Mirage?

I wish to begin my article about youth’s inclusion in politics with a statement made by Rethink Nigeria. The statement reads:

“Global explosion in knowledge and social consciousness has enhanced the capacity of Nigerian Youths. However, their ability to utilize these assets effectively to drive national transformation would depend on the leadership opportunities available to them. According to 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 the leadership of this nation is fundamental to Youth political representation and inclusion.

“The concept of Youth as leaders of tomorrow has constricted a very important social category to the political fringe and reduced a demographic majority to the political minority. This needs to change.

“The Nigerian Youth is easily a demographic majority considering an estimated population of 68 million Nigerian Youths. 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. By sheer numerical strength, it would therefore be a major country.

“In reality, youth in Nigeria are isolated and underrepresented in politics for a long period of time. This is often the case in most parts of the world, but the ratio of under-representation of youth in Nigeria is disappointingly high. They are left out from key decisionmaking processes.

“In many cases, the younger generation is more knowledgeable, equipped, and prepared to address the fast-moving issues of today than the establishment leadership.”

From the general point of view, this isolation is what forced our youths to be ending up as political thugs and stooges.

Although our pioneer leaders gave chance to the then youths to fully participate in politics and contributed their quota, the present crop of leaders have succeeded in depriving the youths of this glorious chance.

Below is an illustration that confirmed the aforementioned assertion:

Shehu Shagari – Federal Legislator at 30, Minister at 35

M.T. Mbu – Minister at 25, High Commissioner to the United Kingdom at 26

Richard Akinjide – Minister of Education at 32

Maitama Sule – Oil Minister at 29

Yakubu Gowon – Head of State at 32

Audu Ogbe – Minister at 35

More than half of the Balewa cabinet was 40 years and under.

As things stand now, youths in Nigeria have been agitating for chance to actively participate in politics. The agitation was able to record some successes, especially by the passing and signing of ‘Not Too Young to Run Bill’.

In addition, the emergence of some young minds in our national assembly such as Senator Elisha Abbo (41 year old) from Adamawa, Mansur Manu Soro (31 year old) from Bauchi, 29 year old Kwara State Assembly member, Abdulgafar Ayinla among others had lent credence to the reality of not too young to run trend.

Despite the above relative success realized, the youths still encounter some challenges in the pursuit of their political aspirations. Emmanuel Olusegun shed more light in the following words:

“It is good to mention that giving the opportunity to participate does not guarantee success or real participation – for example, despite the era of Civil Rights ending formal segregation for African Americans, there remained segregation based on the price of access. Applying this scenario to getting into political office in Nigeria is likely to produce the same result.

“To compete favorably in this “industry”, young people will need to have a substantial amount of money, and the will and ability to compete aggressively with the industry leaders that have extensive connections and experience. The “Not too Young to Run” bill is by itself not sufficient because it does not solve a lot of problems. What the country needs is a type of bill that will limit the participation of people who come into politics with stolen money.

“If the political space is fair and open, then somebody who has been employed for 10-12 years and has, for instance, managed to save N20 million ($65,402) that he can commit to an election will be sure he has a chance. But as it is in the country currently, what happens at the election is that only people who have worked usually in or connected to the government and have amassed a significant amount of money will come into the electoral race and then just buy the election.

“The first problem that young people are going to have is common to anyone who is not wealthy already – only a few people have the money to go into an electoral race either for the Senate, House of Representatives, Governorship, or the Presidency. The role of money cannot be understated, starting from the nomination ticket fee which now costs N10 million ($32,701) for the Presidential election, according to the newly passed Electoral Act No. 6 2010 (Amendment) Bill 2017.

“This amount does not include the money used to buy the delegates’ cooperation. Even if we must assume that the candidate would be able to crowdsource for election campaign funding, for the candidate to secure his or her votes on the election day, at least one paid agent per polling unit would need to be employed to observe the process. Let us assume that N5000 ($16.35) is paid to each agent for their service at the 119,973 polling units across the country, and this will add up to N600 million ($1.96 million).

“This shows how expensive Nigeria’s elections are, hence the small chance that someone in his 30s and who is an outsider to the process can raise such an amount of money. It is for this reason that the promoters of the “Not Too Young to Run” bill need to consider how to crowdsource the needed funds for the election race, as money does matter.”

On his own side, Nimi Princewill identified some of the blunders committed by the youths in politics and ultimately proffered a solution.

“The advocacy for youth inclusion in politics is constantly being dealt a huge blow by young politicians who seem to take turns in ridiculing their privileged rise to power. Power comes with its attendant responsibilities. And a quick assessment of how Nigerian youths have managed the power that accompanies public office has been far from impressive.

“While admirers of the #NotTooYoungToRun movement savored the rare emergence of a 41-year-old Senator, Elisha Ishaku Abbo, a tearful video surfaced on the internet, capturing the celebrated lawmaker repeatedly assaulting a nursing mother in an Abuja shop.

“Nigerians had barely gotten over that, when another ugly report of two young Kwara lawmakers (Ganiyu Abolarin and Razaq Owolabi) allegedly knocking off the tooth of a tenant, over rent, stole the airwaves.

“Astonishingly, a 29-year-old member of the Kwara State House of Assembly, Abdulgafar Ayinla, had earlier been arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for allegedly defrauding a client.

“Before the #NotTooYoungToRun advocacy gained prominence, 40-year-old Yahaya Bello, remarkably swirled his way to power with a promise to rewrite the narratives of youth preparedness for the rigors of governance. Well, he hasn’t been excellent at it.

“Nigerian youths are fast perfecting the art of winning elections but failing as administrators. One could be tempted to attribute the unimpressive showing of the above-mentioned youth leaders to insufficient exposure/ formal education, but skimming through their individual profiles reveal they aren’t woeful academically.

“Then, the thoughts of exuberance, unpreparedness for the real business of governance, deep-seated apathy to emotional intelligence and the untamed amplification of power drunkenness comes to mind.

“To make any significant imprint in governance, youth leaders must prepare twice as hard for what comes after the announcement of election results, then they do emerging winners of the elections.”

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