Bayero University Kano came alive with unbridled excitement on the 19th of July 2018 as YIAGA Africa took the initiative, YouthAffirmativeAction, to its grounds for the first of its debates. Supported by the Ford Foundation, the initiative had been birthed from April 2018, with the goal to get youths more included into the governmental and development of the country. With youths making up over 60% of the Nigerian population, it is underwhelming to know that such a high number is less represented in governmental issues. This spurred the need for the initiative. Townhall meetings were organized in different geo-political zones, and debates slated in tertiary institutions. We wanted the youths to speak for themselves—are they really prepared and capable of taking their own futures in their hands?
With BUK as the starting point, the debate was crucial. But the students attended in impressive numbers, even before the programme began in full swing. The hall was full, and in time, the programme began with the welcome remarks from Ibrahim Faruk, the Senior Program Officer from YIAGA Africa, who welcomed the audience, giving insights to what is expected of the programme. In time, the Dean of the Faculty of Communications, Professor Umaru Pate made the first special remarks. He congratulated the students for their impressive turnout, highlighting that this shows they are enthusiastic about governance and youth development issues in the country, and how to bring about the much needed change that has to be done to revamp the sector. After all, it is true that if one expects a re-modification of something, he/she must be ready to be fully inducted to it, and moved by the cause to do such.
As the debates were prompted to begin, The Executive Director, Organization for Community Civic Engagement (OCCEN), Dr Abdulrazaq Alkali, made the second special remarks. He advised the audience on the need to stay united, because the debates were initiated for one cause and one cause alone—to create conversations about youth involvement in governance, general politics and overall, participation in leadership roles within Nigeria. “We are all in this together, and we want to make a difference, so even if some of the debaters are from Kaduna State University, which is the opposing team, we should stay united on what the message is about—true governance.”
The hum in the room became excited as the Moderator, Efe Ozugha of YIAGA Africa introduced the debaters to the stage. The teams were sectioned into #TEAMKANO of the host school, Bayero University Kano and #TEAMKADUNA of the visiting school, Kaduna State University. Consisting each of a male and female, it was very noticeable that the gender balance had been effected, and the need for both genders to give insights in respective personalities, acute professionalism, and also with heart. The Judges took their place and the audience waited in anticipation. It was clear that the topic: “Competent Youths are Unavailable for Competitive Politics in Nigeria” was albeit a sensitive one, but also an important opening for discourse and interaction, especially with the 2019 elections close by, and the recent victorious signing of the #NotTooYoungTooRun Bill into Law. After the rules were given, the debates began in full force.
As the speakers from Bayero University stressed their points against the motion, one could not avoid seeing the fire that bristled with their words. The lady especially, took the centre stage, quickly taking over the crowd as they cheered her confidence and eloquence on. She mentioned that youths were not efficiently ready to take over full power, because with power comes responsibility, and if majority of the youths were not yet responsible, how will they effectively change the status quo for good? It was also impressive to see how the male speaker stated same, saying with the recent infamous news coming from the youths in the media, it speaks bad of the cause because it makes it clear that maybe, truly, youths are not ready to run and take responsibility of the governance and true leadership in Nigeria.
But as the speakers of the visiting school of Kaduna State University emerged, they stressed that this was the time for youths to actually take charge of the future. It was necessary now, because the conversation was boiling; youths are being given the chance to make a chance, with the signing of the#NotTooYoungToRun Bill, the uproar of youths being encouraged in developing careers such as politics, high-tech and information, the natural youthful drive for new things, and most especially, the need to make and change Nigeria to be the best and arrive at its full potential. They gave examples of already succeeding young people effecting change and putting Nigeria on the global mark for excellent endeavours, innovation and development. It was clear that the onus lies on the youths to support each other, because, “it takes a village”
After the concluding points were made by both teams, the Judges took time to deliberate the teams to select the winner, while the audience engaged in asking questions and giving personal insights to topic shared. Women in the audience took a major part, giving their views and even projecting solutions! It was a thrilling interaction, and soon the results were ready, and the winning school emerged as Kaduna State University. All the debaters were awarded certificates of participation, and the winners were given a special certificate for their emergence as victors. Kaduna State University will represent the North West Zone in the Final Debates which will hold in Abuja on an upcoming date.
Overall, the debates were exciting and evergreen true of how youths in Nigeria were all united on the same front—creating the awareness for young people to effectively be a part of governance and leadership in Nigeria, and encouraging them to achieve their full potential to fulfill that cause.