By Bukar Bolori
The European Union has charged Nigerian youths to go beyond just obtaining their voters card but actively participate in the upcoming 2023 general elections in the country, insisting that it is only by doing this that they influence who rule over them for the next four years.
The head of the European Union (EU) delegation to Nigeria and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Ambassador Samuela Isopi while describing the 2023 polls as a critical time young people in the country has another opportunity to be part of the decision making process by not only determining political office holders but putting themselves up for election.
Isopi, who was represented by Winifred Achu, at a policy dialogue themed “Youths Perspective for Building and Sustaining a Prosperous Nigeria” organised by the Agents for Citizen-driven Transformation (ACT), Managing Conflict in Nigeria (MCN) and Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (RoLAC) Programmes in Abuja on Tuesday, noted that youths make up 65 percent of Nigeria’s total population, and 50 percent of registered voters.
She said: “Now is the time for youths to influence the outcome of the 2023 elections for their benefits and their country at large. Today is the tomorrow our leaders have always spoken about, when we say that youths are future of tomorrow. The timing for this dialogue could not have been better, as Nigeria prepares for 2023 general elections, we are at a critical point for young people in Nigeria.”
National Chairman, Interplay Advisory Council, Yabagi Sani, in his remarks said youths must not sit and wait for power to be handed to them, hence they have to earn it by participating actively and meaningfully in political processes.
He said: “Power isn’t given on a platter of gold, you have to work for it, you have to earn it. There is no free lunch, nobody will give it to you. The grim statistics on poor participating cannot change unless youths change it.”
He added that: “If you youths are mainstreamed in the politics of Nigeria, I’m sure the economy of Nigeria will be much better than it is today, which is what is responsible for the huge unemployment population that we have. But all hope is not lost, we now have a new opportunity to change the scenario and they are very much aware of that, they are the largest population of the voting community.”
Sani however urged the youth to ensure that they shun violence and refuse to be lured by money.
A representative from Centre for Environmental Sustainability and Development Awareness (CESDA), Ibrahim Faruk noted that by 2030, Nigeria’s greatest resource would not be oil, but her young population.
Faruk while decrying that there is still a huge gap in terms of youths inclusion and representation despite available policies and laws, recalled that in 2019, Nigeria only had 0.06 percent of youths representation.
He however said that the 2023 polls is another opportunity, insisting that: ” Participation goes beyond coming out to vote every once a year, it involves decision making process, the concept of associating age with wisdom should stop becsue young people are also creative and innovative.”
He warned that youths find other ways to express themselves when denied the opportunity.
Also speaking, Constance Onyemachi, a representative from Women and Girls with Albinism Network, decried that 27 million persons living with disability are still marginalised and suffer discrimination despite laws in the country.
She said: “27 million persons with disability is a huge number to be excluded, they have continued to face discrimination especially when it comes to participation is electoral process. Women with disability face double jeopardy as they are seen as people who are not capable of holding political offices.”
Onyemachi, therefore urged the INEC and all stakeholders involved in the election to take into consideration the specific needs of different persons with disability so that they are not left out in the process.
The Component Manager, Civil Society Engagement, Oluwatoyosi Giwa explained that the aim of the dialogue is to provide a platform for young Nigerians with whom MCN, ACT and RoLAC could engaged across conflict management, civil society strengthening and justice reform interventions, to share their perspectives on critical issues that should inform the government’s policy agenda, in the lead up to the 2023 Nigeria elections.