President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday joined the Nigerian youth in marking the International Youth Day 2020 but was silent on his own promise to enhance the inclusion of young people in governance.
In his speech in commemoration of the occasion, Mr Buhari instead dwelt on how his government has created a N75 billion Nigerian Youth Investment Fund (NYIF) for their economic empowerment.
“We recently established a N75 billion Nigerian Youth Investment Fund (NYIF), as part of our commitment to creating opportunities for the youth of Nigeria. On this occasion of International Youth Day, I urge all our young people to take advantage of these opportunities,” he wrote on Wednesday evening.
According to the United Nations, the theme of International Youth Day 2020 is “Youth Engagement for Global Action.”
As a result, discussions organised to commemorate the event, centred on the reliance on youth for a global change, particularly in the political space.
Mr Buhari however failed to mention this in his statement on Wednesday. This might be connected to his failure to deliver on one of his promises to the age group, one year into his second term.
Acknowledging the efforts of the youth towards his reelection in 2019, President Buhari had assured them of consideration for appointment in his cabinet.
He made the promise at a dinner with the All Progressives Congress (APC) Women and Youths Presidential Campaign team to celebrate his re-election in Abuja last year.
Young people also had high hopes of greater visibility in government, particularly with Mr Buhari’s signing of the ‘Not Too Young To Run’ bill a year earlier.
The bill passed by the National Assembly in 2018 reduced the age qualification for president from 40 to 30; 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.
According to the new youth policy in Nigeria, youth include citizens aged 18 to 29 years. However, the African youth charter recognises youth as people between 18 and 35.
Nevertheless, no cabinet minister of Mr Buhari is below 35 years in age.
The youngest, Sadiya Umar Farouq, who is the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, is 45 years old.
The Minister of Youths and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, and the Senior Special Assistant to Mr Buhari on Youth and Student Affairs, Nasir Adhama, are 54 and 43 years old respectively.
His picks for the two offices are perceived to best reflect Mr Buhari’s attitude to his promise of youth inclusion in his government.
Speaking on the situation, a campaigner for youth inclusion and Executive Director of Brain Builders Youth Development Initiative, Abideen Olasupo, challenged young professionals, technocrats, and visionary youth to take over the political sphere.
“We cannot continue to have the same category of leaders recycling themselves,” he told PREMIUM TIMES in an interview.
“I have led campaigns at regional and continental level advocating for young people to be involved in governance but one question they always asked us is about the generation of youth that we have today.
“Any time they bring up this conversation, we give them the analysis of thousands of young persons who have been making meaningful contributions in their respective fields and asking for platforms.
“I do not share the sentiments that they have locked the gate against us, that we have not been invited or carried along. Let us force our way to the table and get a seat and that’s what the #NotTooYoungToRun campaign has been able to achieve,” he said.
Mr Olasupo said it is not enough to be appointing youth as special assistants.
“They need to be part of ministerial and presidential committees. They need to be at the level of decision making,” he said.
The Executive Director of Develop Africa Now Initiative, Samuel Akindele, also condemned the president’s silence on inclusion of youth in governance.
“It is sad that participation of youth in governance has not been encouraging despite having the highest percentage of the country’s population.”
According to him, the approval of NYIF is a welcomed development but there must be a structure to ensure that the money is used effectively for the purpose.
“To enable Nigerian youths participate in active politics, the government must ensure inclusion, reduce the cost of running political campaigns and the lawmakers should pass a bill to allow running of independent candidacy,” Mr Akindele advised.
Several political figures across the country have reposed their confidence in the youth and their ability to activate the desired change in governance.
Former Senate President Bukola Saraki, in his message to Nigerian youth, said Nigeria can only fulfill its potential when its youth is educated and equipped to participate in its governance processes.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar said the survival of humanity rests largely on the youth, promising to offer his shoulders for the youth to climb as “leaders of today.
“The theme of this year’s celebration “Youth Engagement for Global Action” gives a critical picture of what the world perceives about the stake of young people globally.
“This global picture, which has been on my mind, informed my decision of 40% youth inclusion in my 2019 presidential campaign; a promise I am committed to keeping for the futuristic benefit of our great nation,” he said.
Also, the speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, in his address, said the youth are the future of the country.
“In my travels across the country, I’m greatly impressed by their Innovation, resilience and brilliance,” he acknowledged.
“I do encourage you to continue to reach for the stars, never wavering from the certainty that you have the power to reinvent the world,” Mr Gbajabiamila said.
For Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, this year’s celebration of the International Youth Day affords the opportunity to appreciate the role and importance of the youths in nation building and development.
Mr Abiodun reiterated the state’s commitment to the youth, focusing on key areas, including job creation for the youths and ensuring that they occupy important positions in the administration.
“We believe that giving them opportunities will help maximise their contributions to the development of our dear State,” he said in a statement signed by his spokesperson, Kunle Somorin.
In a similar vein, Lagos State Commissioner for Youth and Social Development, Segun Dawodu, said the ministry inaugurated the 4th Legislative Assembly of the Lagos State Youth Parliament and 6th Children Parliament as training platforms for inclusive and participatory governance.
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