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It is Youth O’clock, The Bell has Rung

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By Bello Shehu Maude

It is the actual time for the Youths of the federation to respect time in order to meet it’s standards of development and progress in our country. Nigerian Youths have been playing a vital role in our society and the world at large seeing them making great impact in several sectors of development especially Health, Education, Security and Economic, nationally and internationally.

The History of Nigeria’s development cannot be read fully without mentioning the contributions of it’s Youthful past leaders who happened to be patriotic citizens that led the country in all it’s developmental stages. Taking into consideration Yakubu Gowon’s oil boom and the integration of Nigeria into a single entity with the great legacy of National Youth Service Corp Scheme to promote unity in diversity, Murtala/Obasanjo’s Foreign Policy, Local Government Reform and Rural Recognition as a tool of rapid development. Buhari/Idiagbon regime and its Rule of Law, IBB with his infrastructural development and Modern Economic policies, to mention a few.

A long term enchanted phrase of “Youths are the leaders of tomorrow” should be substituted with a popular assumption of it’s time for the Youths to deliver their potentiality in governing the affairs of their generations thereby leaving a legacy for younger ones to appreciate their sacrifices.

They say the youths are the leaders of tomorrow, yet when I was not born, General Obasanjo, General Muhammadu Buhari were one time the rulers of Nigeria in a Military Regime. Now, over four decades after, they are Alpha and Omega of the Fourth Republic Democratic Dispensation game of Political Power; and so have many in their generation been – they were in leadership yesterday, are there today, and are also likely to remain there in the future; as such, how much of a tomorrow, as leaders, do the Nigerian youths really have?” Could this be a tomorrow that was used up yesterday? Or Could this be an arrangement of the elites to relinquish power to only their relatives and children as we are seeing the successful plans of making the country’s leadership a hereditary in nature.

The playbook of political power and participation can no longer remain the same. It is clear that the youths of Nigeria are intent on no longer being bystanders in the affairs of governance and how their country is being run, particularly within the purview of the sustained failing of an older citizenry or power elite that has been described as a “Wasted Generation” (Soyinka: 1986). Contrary to the earlier aphorism, the youths no longer want to be leaders of tomorrow, but those of today.

You can testify to the above assertion through the Nigerian historic Bill of Not Too Young To Run, champion by the Youths of the federation

The signing into law of the Not Too Young To Run legislation addressed a major impediment to youth participation in politics. Nigeria has witnessed a new wave of competent
and credible young women and men aspiring to run for office in 2019 General Elections. For the first time in Nigeria’s post independence history, young people between the ages of 25-30 were legally empowered to contest for various seats across the federation. It was a positive action towards closing the representation gap.

YIAGA Africa was quoted to have commended 2019 General Elections in Nigeria as one of the most contested elections since the transition to democracy in 1999 with 91 registered political parties, 73 Presidential candidates, 1,904 candidates for the Senate, 4,680 for the House of Representatives, 1,066 for the Governorship 14, 583 for the State Assemblies.

In total, Ten candidates (14%) of the Presidential seat were aged between 35–40 years.1,515 youth candidates, representing 23% of all the candidates, contested for seats in the National Assembly.

The data received from the Independent National Electoral Commission shows that 12 members elected in the 9th Assembly are under the age of 35 at the time of the election, APGA has one youth representative, APC has 10 youth representatives while SDP) has one respectively.

Across the 991 seats in 36 State Houses of Assembly, 62 members between the ages of 31 to 35 were elected and also 22 direct beneficiaries of the Not Too Young To Run Act in the State Houses of Assembly between the ages of 25 – 30 who will sit and legislate at the state level. Indeed, Youths are coming up compared to the 2015 General Election.

Despite the reduction of age as a chance of vying for political seats, the majority of the youths who contested in the previous election were sidelined by political parties with little or no youth actively participating in the two strongest parties we have in Nigeria.

In spite of having a National Youth Policy that lays out a very bold vision for harnessing the potentials of youths, and signposts how strategy could be built for empowering the demography to make far-reaching contributions to national development, no concrete role has been designed for youths to attain political power.

Linked to poverty is the unfortunate situation of youth unemployment, seeing many lacking access to the opportunities for providing meaningfully for themselves, and those who depend on them. As much as many youths are not trained enough to have skills that make them employable, others are yet routinely offloaded from tertiary institutions into non-existent labour markets, which were destroyed by the poor economic policies of the government. This has served as the basis for many in the political elite to consider youths as only being suitable for roles as political enforcers, purveyors of violence and other nefarious purposes.

Moreover, the commercialisation of politics, which is now regarded as a business with anticipated returns and no longer primarily about public service, has put the political selection process at the discretion of prebendalism, merchants of power, the godfathers, who wield near absolute control over political party machineries and processes. This has been an enduring form of restriction, requiring aspirants to tow the line of approval of these godfathers, as the main route to endorsement and political participation.

Essentially, as already reiterated, the youths can be a creative force championing innovation in politics and governance in society, but when they are alienated from politics and the decision-making process, they can equally be made to lend their skills and energies to illicit acts, such as electoral brigandage and violence destroying their future at the cost of ignorance.

Everyone in the community, both young and old, must play their role and give youths chance to deliver!

The YOUTHS should be considered to build the future they want to see in nation building, governing the country for future generations to accept their sacrifices and appreciate them, the way we are appreciating Gowon, Murtala, Buhari in uniform and also IBB as military junta.

There is need for Youths as the backbone of any development to unite themselves, tolerate each others view, shun old junks incapacitated leaders and make an arrangement for monetary contributions to champion the Youthful agenda for their socio-economic and political well being in the future.

Let the drum of change start echoing in the garden of peace and unity designed by Nigerian Youths to salvage the country from the menace of insecurity bedeviling our generation artificially created by the old junky ideas of conflipreneures of the federation.

Let Nigeria have the President who can travel from Abuja to Maiduguri back to Sokoto and directly make an arrangement of being in Oyo, Osun and Bayelsa within an emergency assignment to address the peaceful coexistence of the country. We need a healthier President to deliver this assignment and It’s indeed Youth O’clock.

Bello Shehu Maude is a Developmental Journalist, An Advocate of Good Governance and Youth Inclusiveness in Politics. belloshehumaude@gmail.com

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