Students/Youths and Elections – The Barometer for Development (2)

(By Salami Ismail)

An inclusive democratic society needs to ensure that its youth participate in all its affairs, that young people’s views are included in development policies and that they develop leadership skills. In many African countries, youth have either remained marginalised or have not played a role in the political process. This is due to institutional and policy constraints of the state and the society. To overcome the obstacles to youth participation in fundamental political and democratic processes, it requires carefully conceived strategy and concerted efforts to achieve meaningful change.

Read the first part here>>>>http://risenetworks.org/2014/06/24/studentsyouths-and-elections-the-barometer-for-development-1/

Factors Militating Against the Nigerian Youths in the Socio-Political Development of Nigeria

Some of the challenges affecting the youths today include: illiteracy, unemployment, poverty, lack of social security, social economic and political exclusion, poor mentoring and capacity building. But I shall consider few of these.

[1] – Poverty and Unemployment: The National Bureau of Statistics [NBS] asserted that 54% of Nigerian youths were unemployed in 2012; and of this, females stood at 51.9% compared to their male counterpart with 48.1%. The population of youths aged between 15 and 35 years in Nigeria is estimated to be 64 million. The dilemma of the African continent is the continued inability to provide the appropriate political and economic frameworks for enhancing the productivity of its youthful population. The high levels of poverty and unemployment in Nigeria in the midst of stupendous oil wealth have resulted in a large and growing proportion of the youth population seeing violence as a solution to their problems. Many unemployed young persons are easily attracted to militias rampaging across the country and to other series of violent activities, such as oil bunkering, bank robberies, terrorism, cyber-crime, kidnappings, among others, by the immediate prospects of highly rewarding employment. The recent, being the rise in “baby making” factories across the country. They see this as one form of employment – a way of escaping poverty and hunger in the face of deeply frustrating economic and social crises. In the words of Augustine Ikelegbe:

“A motley crowd of unemployed, frustrated and desperate youths, with poor social incentives and blocked aspirations, under girds much of the popular and criminal violence associated with uprisings, protests and rebel movements in Africa. In the Niger Delta and elsewhere in Nigeria, militias and armed groups are largely made up of school drop-outs and unemployed youths, as well as a sprinkling of the underclass and artisans. Youths involvement in militias, armed gangs and cults suggests that violence can be a form of “empowerment”, the outcome of the search for new forms of identity and integration, a form of employment and an opportunity for looting and accumulation”.

The recent news of about 23 Nigerian unemployed graduates who ended their lives untimely in their quest for the Nigeria Immigration Service [NIS] job is still fresh in the memory. A situation where over 500,000 applicants are seeking to fill 4,556 vacant positions speaks volume about the state of unemployment in Nigeria. Recall that a similar thing happened in 2008, when NIS and the Nigerian Prisons Service jointly conducted this kind of interview that led to the death of 17 Nigerian youths from stampedes and exhaustion. Several youths have lost their lives and are still losing their lives in the hands of Boko Haram with its bombings of schools, public structures, parks, killing and maiming of corps members and school children, abduction and kidnapping of school children, thereby reducing the number of youths in spite of being tagged the “leaders of tomorrow”.

[2] – Health: The health of the youth deserves special consideration. The prevalence of HIV and other killer disease needs to be addressed to safeguard the youth for socio-political development. About 3.1 million people are living with HIV in Nigeria and about 300,000 new infections occur annually with people aged 15 – 24, contributing 60% of the infections. HIV is the leading cause of death among the youth. Nigerian Government must take steps to mitigate the spread of HIV/AIDS amongst them.

[3] – High Cost of Electioneering: another major challenge facing the Nigerian youth is the high cost of running for elective offices in the country. As at today, the total cost of running for the least elective office, office of the Councillor, in most of the political parties, is largely unaffordable by majority of the Nigerian youths, not to mention other higher elective posts like the States House of Assembly, the House of Representatives, the Senate and so on.

WAY FORWARD

[1] – Greater participation of youth in Governance, Policy Formulation and Implementation:

This entails the active and meaningful involvement of the youths in all aspects of their own, and their communities’ development, including their empowerment to contributing meaningfully to decisions on social, economic and political development. Though, most African countries have government ministries and departments with the clear mandate of addressing youth issues, this has not really affect their participation in governance and electoral processes. Any country’s democracy that fails to include the youths who are over half of its population has failed to meet the basic criteria that qualifies the state to a democratic state. As pointed out by Mourtada Deme:

“An inclusive democratic society needs to ensure that its youth participate in all its affairs, that young people’s views are included in development policies and that they develop leadership skills. In many African countries, youth have either remained marginalised or have not played a role in the political process. This is due to institutional and policy constraints of the state and the society. To overcome the obstacles to youth participation in fundamental political and democratic processes, it requires carefully conceived strategy and concerted efforts to achieve meaningful change”.

Out of the 492 delegates for the 2014 National Conference, 5 slots were given to the youths and 3 slots given to the National Association of Nigerian Students [NANS]. These figures are rather too small considering the fact that about 70% of Nigeria’s population are youths! The youth, who should give momentum, drive and energy to this process, are largely alienated and marginalised. If democracy is a game of number, a government of the majority, it stands to reason that the Nigerian youths should have been given ample opportunities to contribute meaningfully towards the socio-political development of Nigeria through the National Conference. In this era of social media, many young Africans are well networked and politically aware. Africa’s youth have shown that given the opportunity, they can use latest information and communications technologies to push their political agenda. Indeed, by sheer numbers and age, Africa’s youth will impact aspirations for improved political governance and socio-economic transformation. The youths should not only be prepared for the future, they have a role to play in making decisions which affect the future of the world. Youth participation will help to address the perennial issues of social exclusion and political marginalisation. As noted by late Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi: “The youth lack political space to make their contribution to society and it is political, social and economic alienation that is leading the youth to social and economic problems”.

[2] – Domestication of the African Youth Charter:
The African Youth Charter [AYC] was endorsed on 2 July, 2006 by the African Union Heads of States and Governments meeting in Banjul, Gambia. It entered into force on 8 August, 2009. The charter is a political and legal document which serves as the strategic framework for African States, giving direction for youth empowerment and development at continental, regional and national levels. The African Youth Charter came as an institutional and legal response to youth development and empowerment in Africa. It aims to strengthen, reinforce and consolidate efforts to empower young people through meaningful youth participation and equal partnership in driving Africa’s development agenda. The policy focuses on youth participation in society and politics; youth’s role in development; commitments to young people regarding education, health, employment, eradication of poverty, the environment, peace and security, law, and culture. In other words, the African Youth Charter is the first legal framework in favour of youth development. The Charter also addresses itself towards specific groups of youth including young women and girls, and disabled young people. Some of the steps the youth leaders and youth organisations can take in their home countries regarding the Charter are:

[a] – contribute to dissemination and popularization of the Charter, and work with Ministries of youth to promote the understanding of the content of the Charter among youth at all levels through;
i – translation in local languages and large distribution;
ii – specific workshops and meetings with specific targets to facilitate popularization of the Charter;
iii – national activities or festivals for the launching of the Charter, with massive media involvement;
iv – communication and information sessions in schools and universities for students and teachers;
v – public rallies, competitions, and marches for country wide information dissemination and action;
vi – advocacy meetings with officials and decision makers.

[b] – work with parliamentarians, especially those dealing with education, youth development or any related areas, to advocate for the ratification of the Charter. To take effect, African Member States need to ratify the Charter and translate the Charter’s commitments into national laws. As of April 19, 2012, 28 Member States have ratified the Charter, 39 Member States have signed the Charter, 6 Member States are yet to sign and ratify. Nigeria signed the Charter on 2 July, 2007 and ratified it on 21 April, 2009.
There is the need for the Nigerian government to take steps to domesticate and implement the African Youth Charter. The National Assembly should align the Nigerian laws and policies with the provisions of the African Youth Charter, with the youths’ rights and responsibilities specifically being made enforceable in the constitution and other laws. In view of the huge financial implication it may entail, thus leading to the non-implementation after transformation, member States should amend their constitutions and rother related laws to impose an obligation on governing bodies to embark on time-bound progressive implementation of their duties by providing specific percentages in their national budgets to carry out such duties.

[3] – Addressing Poverty and Unemployment:
There is need for the government to address the issue of unemployment by creating jobs for the teeming youths, and also by creating an enabling environment where business can thrive; and where investors can freely operate, thus reducing the unemployment rate. More importantly, the states in Nigeria should be more committed to combating poverty and raising the overall standard of living so that the gains of development can be better spread and many more youths can be rescued from poverty and hopelessness, otherwise, the state would be creating a readily available army of ethnic militias, religious irrendentist, tribal warlords, cultist, armed bandits, international prostitutes exploited by weak politicians and disadvantaged groups, taking advantage of the desperate and hopeless situation and position of the youth.

[4] – Meaningful Youth Policy:
Nigerian youths constitute at least 65% of the estimated 165 million citizens of Nigeria. The needs and aspirations of Nigeria’s youth should be factored into national policy and planning processes if they are to achieve their long-term objectives. This therefore calls for a robust and meaningful youth policy which shall be a strategic anchor of a sustainable agenda for transformation.

[5] – Enforceability of Provisions of Chapter II of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended]:
Making the socio-economic rights as contained in the chapter II of the Constitution justifiable will help provide a better future for the Nigerian youths. Nigeria can borrow a leaf from South Africa that made these rights enforceable in its post-Apartheid constitution.

[6] – Orientation and Education:
The youths could also be empowered through orientation and education to enable them understand and appreciate their roles, rights and duties in the society. They must perform their civic responsibilities so as to ensure the success of the electoral process. Some provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) do not encourage Nigerian youths to be actively involved in the democratic process. For instance, as provided in the Constitution, the minimum age requirements for office of the President is 40 years, office of the Governor – 35 years, Senator – 35 years and House of Representatives – 30 years, are capable of discouraging active youth participation in our democratic processes. As earlier discussed, the Nigerian youth, like their African counterparts, were the driving force towards the attainment of independence of various African countries; spear-headed and resisted colonialism and pioneered the road towards independence; and on the attainment of independence, it was the youth that largely led their country towards a developmental foundation. More importantly, a good number of these leaders were below 30 years at independence and post-independence. It is suggested that these could be reviewed downward in order to encourage youth participation in the political process. In the alternative, I will like to join my voice with the Nigerian Youth Coalition Against electoral Violence, by proposing 30% affirmative action for youths in appointment to political positions in the country. The youths constitute the largest proportion of the country’s active population, and their participation in governance would promote socio-political and economic development in the country.

[7] – Training of Youth on Election Matters:
There is the need for adequate training of the youth on election matters to enable them understand their roles during elections. In the 2011 general elections, the youths through the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme were mobilized to serve in all constituencies to ensure strict observance of electoral processes in order to prevent all forms of electoral frauds and manipulations. This resulted in the fair conduct and reporting of electoral registration and release of valid results which against all odds posed by zoning system brought victory to the President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.

[8] – Insecurity:
Government must also address the issue of insecurity in the country which is daily de-populating our youths. The present security challenges and internal uprising across the country are arguably products of poverty and increasing unemployment. The result of this is the participation of youths in criminal and other social vices, who ordinarily should be genuine tools for the socio-political development of any nation. If the situation continues, it portends serious danger to the national security of the country. The youths in any nation are, and must remain, the focus for development and growth. The international standards set for youth survival, health, education, protection from crime, strife, civil disturbance, physical and sexual abuse, drugs, prostitution and vagaries of the modern society must be met at all cost as a matter of economic and political priority and expediency. It is only by doing this that the nigerian youth of today can favourably compete in the world of tomorrow.

[9] – Youth Empowerment:
There is the need for youth empowerment through participatory and youth oriented skill acquisition and employment generation scheme. The youth must be ready to key into the various Youth Empowerment programmes which the Nigerian government has over the years initiated, among which are: National Directorate of Employment (NDE) established to provide employment for Nigerian Youths or retired persons; Youth Empowerment Scheme (YES) to empower the youth with the National Information Technology (NIT) skills and prepare them for global competitiveness; Youth Empowerment Network (YEN) established to give youth a real chance to find decent productive jobs anywhere they find themselves; National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) to address the perennial problems of youth unemployment; the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agencies of Nigeria (SMEDAN) established by the SMEDAN Act of 2003 to promote and efficient micro, small and medium enterprises sector that will enhance sustainable development; the Nigerian Youth Parliament (NYP) to mentor the Nigerian youth towards appreciating the political landscape; Amnesty Programme of the Federal Government to re-integrate the Niger Delta militants into socio-economic sector of the nation and to help checkmate some of the security challenges associated with this group.

[10] – Private Sector Contribution:
There is the need for legislative frameworks in Nigeria that define the duties of the private sector towards the youth development in Nigeria. This should include measures such as contribution to National Youth Fund, investment in capacity building, and employment plans, among others. The numerous companies operating in this country must be asked to come up with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in their areas of operation to complement the efforts of the government.

[11] – Education Curriculum:
The education curriculum at all levels should be tailored along contemporary issues. Tertiary institutions must train to meet the needs of Africa and the society. The curriculum should be made to be compatible with the contemporary issues in Africa and must be designed in a way to address the problems of the youth.

CONCLUSION.
It is clear from the above discussion that the Nigerian Students’ Movement is as relevant as any other group in the Nigerian society for the socio-political development of the nation. They the duty to mobilise the people, sensitize and educate them to participate in the political, economic and social activities of the country. In as much as they have a greater stake than the present members of the ruling class in whatever happens, the Nigerian youth and students cannot afford to sit on the fence and watch things, as, ultimately, the mantle of the nation’s leadership will fall on them. Nigerian students should, following Samora Machel, endeavour to “transform science and knowledge from instruments of crime against the people to instruments of their liberation, to transform ideas from instruments of mystification into instruments of enlightenment”. This is the task before the Nigerian youth and students.

I am pleased that this write up is unique in the sense that it is purely a youth-inspired write up to discuss young people. It is for the youth, and of the youth. I sincerely hope the youth and students will critically but soberly reflect, discuss, engage, and chart a new course for the future of the Nigerian youth. The future is ours, and it is time to claim and possess it.

GOD bless NIGERIA!!!
GOD bless NIGERIANS!!!
LONG LIVE the NIGERIAN STUDENT MOVEMENT!!!

Salami Ismail wrote in via rosy4sama@yahoo.com

(Source: abusidiqu)

“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”

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