STRENGTHENING YOUTH CAPACITY FOR POLITICAL PARTICIPATION IN NIGERIA: BEING A LECTURE DELIVERED BY COMRADE AKEEM TEMITOPE AKILO, AT THE ONLINE PLATFORM OF NATIONAL YOUTH COUNCIL OF NIGERIA (NYCN), IJEBU NORTH LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA OF OGUN STATE, ON JUNE 12, 2020 - THE NEW DAWN ONLINE

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Saturday, June 13, 2020

STRENGTHENING YOUTH CAPACITY FOR POLITICAL PARTICIPATION IN NIGERIA: BEING A LECTURE DELIVERED BY COMRADE AKEEM TEMITOPE AKILO, AT THE ONLINE PLATFORM OF NATIONAL YOUTH COUNCIL OF NIGERIA (NYCN), IJEBU NORTH LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA OF OGUN STATE, ON JUNE 12, 2020


BRIEF PROFILE OF COMRADE AKEEM TEMITOPE AKILO

Comrade Akeem Temitope Akilo, a human rights activist, astute politician and a public communicator of high repute, born on 24th January, 1979 into the reputable Akilo family of Oru-Ijebu in Ijebu North Local Government Area of Ogun state, by a military veteran, late Mr. Azeez Akilo and Mrs. Adesola Akilo (Nee Odugbesan).

Akilo is presently working with Nigerian Railway Corporation, as Traffic and Commercial Officer (TCO), in the Department of Operating And Commercial (O & C). 

He was formerly the Administrative Officer (A.O), Ogun State Chapter of Peoples Democratic Party, and subsequently the Personal Assistant (P.A) To The State Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), between year 2014-- 2016.

Comrade Akilo has fondly calls attended Ojodu Abiodun Community Primary School, Ojodu, In Ifo Local Government Area of Ogun state, Moslem Comprehensive High School, Imepe Ijebu Ode for his Secondary School education. He proceeded to Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye where he studied Guidance and Counseling/Education. 

On completion of his University Education, he undergone his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in Adiaha-Obong Girls Secondary School, Ikot-Imo, Ikot Edibon, Nsit Ubium Local Government Area, Akwa-Ibom State in year 2010.

While he was in University, he was a member of "The Activist Forum" (A-Forum), a revolutionary organization of student-activists who fight for the emancipation and actualisation of students and youth's freedom on campus under the tutelage of Comrade Femi Nuberu, Comrade Femi Osun, Dr. (Comr.) Olumide Onafeso, Comrade Femi Onanuga (CFO), the incumbent Transition Chairman, Ogun Waterside L.G.A, Dr. (Mrs) Josephine "Joe" Obiajulu Okei-Odumakin and a host of other national cadres of activist organizations.

As a student-activist, he was the; 
- OOU SUG Candidate for P.R.O, National Association of Nigerian Student (NANS) (Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo & Ekiti) ZONE-D 2008 Convention.

- Aspirant, Welfare Director, OOU SUG 2008 Election.

- Aspirant, General Secretary, OOU SUG 2007 Election.

- General Secretary, Petition Electoral Committee (PECO), Nigerian Universities Education Students Association (NUESA) OOU Chapter, 2008.

- Member, Students Representative Council, Student Union Government Olabisi Onabanjo University (SRC SUG OOU) 2005/2006 Parliamentary Session.

In the social circle, Comrade Akilo is a member and the Publicity Secretary, Egbe Obayori Okunrin Akile Ijebu "Kuye" (Traditional Age Grade of Ijebu Sons Born In The Year 1977, 1978 & 1979), with the royal proclamation by Alaiyeluwa, Oba (Dr.) Sikiru Kayode Adetona, CFR, J.P, Ogbagba ll, Awujale & The Paramount Ruler of Ijebuland.

He is also a member of;
- Lions Club International, IJEBU ODE LIONS CLUB, Region 5, District 404/A1, Nigeria.

He has served his Community, Oru-Ijebu in the following capacities; 
- Member Sub-Committee, Oru People’s Day 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 respectively.

- Member, Sub-Committee, Installation of "The Oloru of Oru-Ijebu", Oba Abdur-Rasaki Olufemi Adebanjo, Yangunshe 1, on 23rd Sept., 2013.

Akilo, an advocate of social justice, a member of the All Progressive Congress (APC), a core grassrooter, dogged fighter and a go-getter. He is a practicing Muslim, a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama'at Nigeria.

Comrade Akilo is happily married to Mrs. Nasirat Temitope Akilo and blessed with kids.

LECTURE DELIVERY:

★ INTRODUCTION
Youths are the foundation, powerhouse, future hope and leaders of nation. But their potentiality has been ignored or undermined. Youth capacity strengthening often refers to developing the skills, competencies and ability of 
youth in developing societies. The youth capacity strengthening initiatives offered by the government target persons aged 15-35 years. 

The exclusionary tendencies of youth policies by the government have denied them chances to engage in capacity development for  political participation and also put them to tight regulations. Some of the policies have constrained and denied young people their rights which are necessary to their transition instead of promoting their well being and capacity development.

Although youth capacity development initiatives are increasingly acknowledged for their influence, little can be told about 
the factors that influence a young person’s decision to participate or not to participate.

With over 1.8 billion youth in the world, young people are key agents in building democratic cultures and societies. During their youth, young  people establish their identity as individuals while beginning to interact independently with the broader community. As community members, youths are entitled to rights (to vote, to a fair trial, etc.) and they hold obligations (to pay taxes etc.), but their ability to claim rights and fulfil obligations depends on their knowledge and skills related to active citizenship and the opportunities they are given to practice their civic engagement. Active citizenship is consequently identified as one of the most important activities for a sound transition to adulthood.

Politics is typically regarded as a space for politically experienced men, and while women are often disadvantaged in accumulating experience to run for office, young people are systematically marginalized because of their young age, limited opportunities, and projected lack of experience. The youths are marginalised from democratic and civic participation by virtue of attitudes towards them, labelling and stereotyping them as being irresponsible, inexperienced, lazy, rebellious, etc.

As the increased political participation of women benefits society as a whole, the presence of young people in decision-making positions benefits all citizens and not just youth. While young people often play central and catalyzing roles in movements for democracy around the world, they are less engaged than older generations in voting and party activism. Together, these trends have inspired many international organizations to study the lack of youth political participation and train youth activists to become political leaders.  

Recognizing the potential of youth, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) developed its first-ever Youth Strategy (2014–2017), called “Empowered Youth, Sustainable Future”, in line with the UN System-Wide Action Plan on Youth (2013) which calls on young generations to become more involved and more committed in development processes. 2013 also saw the publication of the “Enhancing Youth Political Participation throughout the Electoral Cycle: A Good Practice Guide“, 

UNDP’s first review of programming strategies for youth political participation beyond the ballot box. In 2016, to further boost the implementation of UNDP’s Youth Strategy and respond to both the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and United Nations Security Council Resolution 2250 on youth, peace and security, UNDP launched a Youth Global Programme for Sustainable Development and Peace – Youth-GPS (2016–2020). 

In 2016, as a joint initiative of a number of partners including UNDP and IPU, the “Not Too Young To Run” global campaign was launched to elevate the promotion of young people’s right to run for public office and address the wide-spread issue of age discrimination.

In North East Kenya, where approximately 90 percent of youth are unemployed, a youth development program known as "Yes Youth Can! North Eastern Region" (YYC NER) worked to increase youth participation through the creation of local civic groups, called bunges. Each bunge created its own constitution, developed its own work plan, and had a core leadership team of local youth.

★EVOLUTION OF NIGERIAN YOUTHS IN GOVERNMENT

Historically, Nigerian youths has been at the forefront of the nation's affairs. In one of his publication, "Oludayo Tade, University of Ibadan, in July 11, 2018, published as follows;

"In pre-colonial Nigeria, young people acted as the vanguard by providing security of their societies and serving to check or remove tyrannical rulers.

The post-colonial environment gave rise to young people in military uniform taking over government through a series of coup. These post-colonial coup beneficiaries were mostly under 40. They included Aguiyi Ironsi (42), Yakubu Gowon (31) , Murtala Muhammed (37) and Olusegun Obasanjo (38).

Student activists such as the late Segun Okeowo led the National Union of Nigerian Students to fight for welfare of students and protest against draconian policies during the famous “Ali must go protest” staged nationwide against “bad” education policy. This was the peak of active youth involvement in ensuring good governance. The current leadership of the students’ movement have lost the ideology of the early years and have been co-opted by the ruling class in Nigeria.

The signing into law of the not-too-young to run bill has been widely applauded as a step aimed at democratising the political space. But the facts contradict this.

The law reduces the age for contesting for president from 40 to 35; governor from 35 to 30; senator from 35 to 30; House of Representatives membership from 30 to 25 and State House of Assembly membership from 30 to 25.

But President Buhari has asked Nigeria’s young people to wait until 2023 before contesting any elections. This is clearly a cynical political strategy designed to capture the vote of young people but leaving the status quo intact".

★FACTORS MILITATING AGAINST YOUTHS CAPACITY BUILDING AND STRENGTHENING

It is pity, in Nigeria youths are disappearing from their communities and from the nation for serving the developed countries often leaving back only children, disables and elderly people in the home. This has suffered rural economy due to implication on farming. It is a very serious issue to the nation. Since there is little or no choice for youth to engage in own country, they ultimately leave. They are not able to start enterprises because they lack entrepreneurial knowledge, courage and technical skill. Low risk taking ability, limited exposure and insufficient capital has added to these problems.

Culturally, Nigeria is a multitribal system in which every tribe wants to excel or suppress the other, so they are not on the same level playgrounds. Every person in politics is regionalized and people are capitalizing on that. Once leadership is zoned in the country, one cannot expect to get the best, but Nigerians are trying to live with what they presently have. There are more than 300 different tribal groups in Nigeria, all of which belong to the political definition “Nigerian” but are distinct from one another in terms of cultural practices. This has been a major  disparity militating against the emancipation of youths, as well as potentials for participation in government. 

The former Minister of Communication, Adebayo Shittu, has once described the young politicians as inconsequential. That may be true given that the candidates have yet to connect with the real voters. And being young may not be an asset to leadership unless aspiring young leaders have the capacity and capability to govern.

The youths lack structures and the money, both of which remain strong factors in deciding politics in Nigeria. For example, the Young Democratic Party (YDP) lacks the structure to change the political equation in Nigeria. The below highlighted disparities had been widely acknowledged as the factors militating against youths capacity building and strengthening in our society;

1. There is a serious lack of conducive environment for young people’s participation in politics.

2. Lack of good practices by the governments, political parties, and civil society organizationans to increase young people's participation in politics and governance.

3. Youths Unemployment in Nigeria.
The National Population Commission (NPoC, 2013) states about half of the population is made up of youth, defined as individuals between 15 and 34 years of age. Unfortunately, as the youth population grows, so does the unemployment rate.  

4. Poor Public Intervention Programs
Poor Public policies directed at addressing youth unemployment have faced different challenges including finance, the absence of good administration and implementation, inconsistent policies, unimpressive responses from would-be trainees, and unqualified resource personnel handling the training programs.  For example, the National Accelerated Poverty Reduction Program (NAPEP) was too big for its meager budgetary allocation over the years. Many of the available funds for the program went to overhead and administrative costs in offices spread over the entire country, limiting its impact. Similarly, the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) had no openings of its own to engage unemployed youth, providing only vocational training to young school leavers. There have been insufficient funds to provide start-off capital for the youth who complete their training.

5. Lack of innovative alternative methods (marches, sit-ins…) to formal political participation by young people choose to bring about change and be heard.

★YOUTHS CAPACITY BUILDING AND STRENGTHENING

Capacity building (or capacity development) is the process by which individuals and organizations obtain, improve, and retain the skills, knowledge, tools, equipment and other resources needed to do their jobs competently or to a greater capacity. Capacity building and capacity development are often used interchangeably.

The youth can be a creative force, a dynamic source of innovations, and they have undoubtedly, throughout history, participated, contributed, and even catalyzed important changes in political systems, power-sharing dynamics and economic opportunities. 

However, youths are often faced with lots of problems among which are poverty, barriers to education, multiple forms of discrimination and limited employment prospects and opportunities.

Opportunities for youth to engage in governance and participate in political and decision-making processes depend largely on the political, socioeconomic, and cultural contexts where social norms in this part of the world result in multiple forms of discrimination against youth.

It is a known fact that political office seekers/holders often beckon on the power of the youth to attain their goals. More often, youths are used in negative ways in political participation by politician in Nigeria. This is not far fetched from the above mentioned problems like poverty, inadequate employment provision among others.

Based on the established facts above, and the indispensable position that youth occupy in the society, there is urgent need to "Strengthening Youths Capacity For Political Participation In Nigeria".

In order to achieve a proactive and meaningful youth participation in politics, the following measures should be put in place;

1. Affordable and accessible quality education for the youth: our youth should be given affordable education not devoid of quality with a curriculum that is problem solving oriented in our society. Our educational curriculum should be of our immediate society oriented thereby capable of providing solutions to our problems.

2. Vocational training and skill development: government, individual and corporate bodies should foster more on skill acquisition and development for the youth rather than putting unnecessary attention on certificates. More vocational and skill acquisition centres should be established as well as upgrading the existing ones.

3. Civic/Citizenship education: there is need for value orientation for our youths through a sound civic education which should not be limited to the four walls of the classroom. The love for the country as well readiness for selfless service should be instilled in the youth for a better and productive political participation.

4. Employment creation for youth: there should be a collaborative efforts among individuals, corporate bodies and government to make adequate provision for employment for the youth. When youths are employed, they will have a genuine and legitimate source(s) of income which could make them contribute meaningfully to the development of the society as well debar them from activities that are capable of causing havoc and chaos in the society. It is often said that "an idle hand is a devil's workshop".

5. Financial education: general education, vocational education and employment provision are not enough to liberate the youth but with addition of a functional financial education that is line with current financial reality of the country. If youth are given proper financial education, with the little that they may have, they could be more productive if their resources are judiciously utilised.

6. Mentorships: Mentoring provides intensive, personalized guidance and builds knowledge and skills. By learning from those with expertise and experience, mentees can gain confidence and build personal and professional networks. A good example of political mentorship is that of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Youth should subject themselves to genuine and selfless mentor with good intention of moulding and creating good present and future leaders rather than building bunch of bad followers.

7. The youths should be ready to channel their activism through formal political institutions to occupy the political space and influence government policies.

8. Identification and  selection  of youth  and youth Group, establish an innovation hub at respective community, capacity building activities; Training Of Trainer (TOT) on developing apps, mobile repairing, plumbing, Organic farming, production, processing and marketing techniques, TOT on quality assurance/organic certification process in case of agriculture, identification of suitable enterprise for each group.

9. Training on Conflict management mediation through reconciliation.

10. The youths should come up with innovative alternative ideas to  bring about change and be heard through the following;
i. Position papers based on evidence

ii. Lobbying and caucusing to get issues incorporated in key government statements, budgets, policies etc

iii.  Mobilization through sports, Music and drama (that most youth are interested in) can be viable entry point to bring about change and ensuring young people are heard.

iv. Creation of Platforms such as the NYCN, Omo Iwoye General Assembly, Ijaw Youth Council, Ijebu Igbo Youth Congress, Arewa Youth Congress etc.

★ROLE OF NGO’S IN YOUTHS CAPACITY BUILDING & STRENGTHENING

Non Government Organization or better known as NGO play a very important role in not only developing the underprivileged group of people. They only provide the way through which the society is benefitted as a whole. Organizations play an important role in implementing the policies or programme through which a deprived section of society is benefitted.

Community capacity building plays an important role in the development of the youths group of society. Community capacity building (CCB), also referred to as capacity strengthening. The term community capacity building emerged in the lexicon of international development during the 1990s. 

The role and influence of NGOs in relation to capacity development is incontestably important role. Non Government Organization or better known as NGO play a very important role in not only developing the underprivileged group of people. They only provide the way through which the society is benefitted as a whole. 

The UNDP defines youths capacity building as a long-term continual process of development that involves all stakeholders; including ministries, local authorities, non-governmental organizations, professionals, community members, academics and more. Capacity building uses a country's 
human, scientific, technological, organizational, and institutional and resource capabilities. 

Conclusively, with all the above narration, it is obviously obvious that youths are brilliantly stakeholder in the Nigeria project.  We should be upright to become catalyst for change because we are  greatest asset to build this nation.
The argument has always been that young people are not matured nor experienced enough to handle a political office or complex system like governance, of course, they maybe right with this assumption. But, the youths themselves must stand up to demonstrate the will and zeal that they are up to the task and  disprove erroneous believes of the oldies.

Power grabbing is not an easy task in Nigeria. I want to urge the young people to set out an issue based ideology, align with the current political structure, play a major role and be part of the system as a partner in progress not as a tool for any politician.

The old politicians have now devised a new method of division, they have resorted into shopping for young people who are influential on new media, fill their pockets with some cash, gifts, so that they can serve as their mouthpiece to spread falsehood and propaganda on social media, in doing this for them, other young people will naturally attack them to repel their falsehood, then the fight, emotional distress and division amongst the youths goes on and on. In all, its a calculated attempt to divert the attentions of the young people from being their competitors for leadership.

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