Nigeria’s New Age Classification according to the National Youth Policy, 2019.
Old Classification: 18- 35 Years and New Classification: 15 – 29 years
Nigeria’s New Age Classification according to the National Youth Policy, 2019.
Old Classification: 18- 35 Years and New Classification: 15 – 29 years
Nigeria is no stranger to the power of youth movements; from the nationalist movement for independence to the pro-democracy movement when young voices spoke beyond the confines of their University classrooms as many marched the streets demanding for the end of military rule, to the recent #NotTooYoungToRun movement demanding youth political inclusion. For the youth in Nigeria, the resonating hope is amplified in the undying spirit to organize that travels down generations, taking different forms but achieving its purpose; to build voices for change. That was the goal of the Campaign and Movement Building training, connecting 36 young Nigerians who today are building their communities by picking one challenge and winning.
For young Farida Muhammad Ishaq in Jigawa State in Northern Nigeria, the issue of young people as political thugs was a major challenge in her community, she organized a town hall meeting and brought in youth leaders from the different restive youth groups to engage. The truth is that sometimes we overestimate the power of a true and open conversation and even appreciating that sometimes ignorance is our major challenge. Sitting under the same roof, sharing in a meal of pastries and soda, these youths became converted agents of peace as they realized that they shared the same reality and the same opportunity to become much more. From that town hall meeting, we have a young man from this meeting who is contested for a legislative seat in the 2019 elections to fight bad governance which has robbed his fellow youth of education, employment and basic amenities. Barely six hours drive from Jigawa is an almost similar story as young Sanusi Mabera in Sokoto State confronted with a political crisis as political parties who were at war with each other recruited the youth in the community to champion the unrest. For Sanusi, he had one goal; to change this status quo and using his negotiation and organizing skills he convened a meeting with these youths leading the unrest. From that meeting, the resolution was to change the approach with engaging political parties by making concrete demands for youth political representation rather than becoming the easy thugs recruited for electoral violence.
Skeptics will always ask why now? Why have you been silent for so long and now you want to speak? Abdulrahman Zubairu in Katsina State was no stranger to this question, he almost bought that narrative and until he found his voice to ask back; If not now, when? So, when he took the stage to address over a hundred youth on why he cared about his community after being away for so long and why they should care too he knew that the moment was now. Quite Shy and reserved, this young man learnt that the best way to get people to take action was to connect to their emotions through public narrative and leverage on the power of the ‘story of us’! In his local government Funtua, the registration of voters was going slow with members of the community frustrated with the process. Abdulrahman saw a problem and had an idea; to organize a team of young volunteers to provide support to INEC during the CVR in his LGA at no cost. Connecting to their story and building relationships he sought the commitments of his peers and partners. They officially wrote to INEC to offer their services and request for more computers to Funtua, in Katsina state. This was beginning of his movement of young volunteers; the checklist movement who worked tirelessly supporting INEC to register a total of 5,000 new voters. Today Funtua local government is one of the LGAs with the largest number of registered voters in Katsina state.
Quite a distance from Katsina, down in the eastern part of Nigeria in Ebonyi state is young Samson Abanni part of the youth CAMB youth cohort learning from the program that the “Now” question is more than just a rhetoric but a realization that only intentional actions will bring the desired change. However, for this to happen, we always need champions of democracy who are ready to act. This was his realization. He had learnt about campaigns and movement building and knew that he had to begin this change in his community. Building on the theory of ‘People, Power and Change, this dark skinned, gentle eye young man brought together local community youth to discuss organizing for social change. He believed that if the youth in his community, even if just a few youths understood the power in the resources they had, they will achieve together the change they wanted to see. But first they must as a collective learn to turn their passion into action and from that single meeting, today his community enjoys the services of two new organizations led by these youths advocating for affordable and quality health care and education.
Passion and action rhyme so beautifully that we can begin to make people care if we deploy them effectively. Adefemi Adeleke Soneye knew this and in Ogun state, he knew that if he wanted people to care about elections he needed to show them how to care. In somewhat naivety, he marched the streets of the market in his community with few friends talking about the power of the PVC and the difference a vote can make. This won the hearts of the members of his community who complained to him that they experienced some difficulties in collecting their Permanent Voters Card (PVC). He also caught the attention of INEC in the state and meeting with INEC he committed to provide assistance to members of his community who needed to collect their PVC. Through the election period, he deployed a volunteer every 3 days in a week stationed to provide assistance to registered voters to collect their PVCs from INECs office. For him, it was not about having everyone collect their PVC but having a reasonable number of citizens who cared enough to show up and collect their PVC to vote.
For some communities, the challenge is getting the young people to think differently, to dream and aspire to be more. No matter how homogenous or heterogeneous our communities are the moment the element of hope is lost, we lose the young generation who are the present and the future. Mustapha Saeed knew this, Joy Ehiozie Eghaghe knew this also. In Gombe and Delta State respectively these young minds needed to convene the youth in their community to begin a conversation on youth affirmative action and the youth leadership. Joy explained that she needed to have decision makers in the room also to create an opportunity for young people to demand answers. For Mustapha, his focus was on being able to have a representation of different youth groups to ensure diversity. Mustapha had indicated that one of his challenges was getting young people with different opinions to understand each other, he had to focus on relationship building as a tool to unite these diverse groups to care enough to work together for the development of his society.
But do we care enough as a people? Each day when we walk the streets with our minds focused on our fault lines when our stories are no different from the next person. What will our stories be when it is finally written? Are we part of the solution or enablers of the problem? The Campaign and Movement Building workshop did not only reveal the potential in young people as agents of change when given the right orientation, resources and platforms to take action but also reveals that in our differences we have common threats as a people and must continue to organize our communities for social change.
Today, this most populous black Nation is enriched with the wealth of its youthful population with young people learning to organize and lead movements to make a difference. The question goes beyond the readiness of young people to assume leadership role but rather on learning the best possible way to amplify the activities of young organizers who have taken the initiative to change Nigeria one community at a time.
You may read this and ask yourself; to what end? Well, firstly, we need to tell our stories. This is the age of the youth as we see an increase in the youth movement and the rise in the voices of young people advocating for change, people need to know that targeted actions can actually begin the process of change.
Secondly, from an Institutional point of view, YIAGA AFRICAs findings in social movement study highlight the opportunity to revamp our failing system by building youth leadership founded in values, passion and knowledge. Young people need to know that they have the power to create change and the best way to have the youth believe this is to show them and let them take the lead. In addition, youth affirmative action is a progressive policy decision that can ensure competent young Nigerians have space at the decision-making table in Nigeria. The support from Ford Foundation did elevate the discourse on youth affirmative action with the work of our dedicated cohort of 34 youths from the different states in Nigeria and West Africa. The work continues until we build a generation of young leaders with the requisite capacity and competence to answer the leadership question in Nigeria and Africa.
The Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development on 24 May 2019 launched the Revised National Youth Policy, 2019 with youth stakeholders in Akure, Ondo state. The review which was long overdue – the 2009 Policy states that it should be reviewed periodically (every 5 years) was due for review in 2014. However, due to various challenges, the Policy Review process was not completed till 2019 (an additional five years after the last review was to have taken place).
In the 2019 Policy Foreword, the Minister of Youth and Sports Development Barr. Solomon Selcap Dalung, quickly points out that, ‘A major thrust of the current review is regarding the age bracket for the classification of youth from existing grading of 18 – 35 years to 15 – 29 years. The review is informed by practical empirical analysis and the need to promote the appropriate targeting of desired beneficiaries of intervention programmes for the youth rather than adults masquerading as youth.’
As part of the revision of the National Youth Policy, the Ministry held regional consultations with youth groups and stakeholders supported by the United National Population Fund (UNFPA). The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry acknowledged the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) for its encouragement and support and for the recruitment of two notable consultants: Professors Alfred Adegoke and Adesegun Fatusi who facilitated the review process to a successful end.
This age classification sets Nigeria apart from other countries on the continent that align with the age classification in the African Youth Charter of 18 -35 years. Questions have been raised over the consultation process that led to the review of the Policy especially with regards to the age classification.
That aside, the Ministry still has a lot of work to do in disseminating the Policy in order to ensure there is acceptance and ownership as well as ensuring the implementation of the Policy using strong monitoring and evaluation mechanisms. One of the criticisms that have been leveled at the Ministry is a lack of monitoring and evaluation mechanisms on the last Policy prior to the review process that birthed the revised Policy.
The New Age Classification has no doubt raised a lot of eyebrows and questions. In understanding the New Age Classification, it is important to note that the United Nations (UN), for statistical consistency across regions, defines ‘youth’, as those persons between the ages of 15 and 24 years, without prejudice to other definitions by Member States. Similarly, the Minimum Age Convention (1973) sets the general minimum age for admission to employment or work at 15 years. The New Age Classification is also closely tied to the Not Too Young To Run Act (age reduction) which was signed into law in May 2018 and reduced the age criteria for running for the office of President from 40 to 35 years; House of Representatives 30 to 25 years and State Assemblies 30 to 25 years respectively.
The new age classification for Nigerian youth has raised many questions that have not been answered. Firstly, young people between the age of 30 – 35 years have been ‘disenfranchised’ from the youth constituency and wonder which classification they currently fall under. Closely related to this is the question of youth participation in the electoral cycle – as the new age classification reduces the age category of registered voters (probably weakening the youth vote) but does not reduce the age of eligibility to register to vote in line with the new Policy reality.
The Ministry of Youth and Sports Development which oversees the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) also raises questions on the eligibility age of participating in the scheme which is for youth. This raises a question if the age for participating in the scheme ought to be reduced in line with the New Age Classification as well. The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN) and the Nigerian Youth Parliament (NYP) must also adopt the New Age Classification. Furthermore, political parties and their youth wings and leaders must adopt this classification from the Ministry.
Beyond the New Age Classification, the National Youth Policy, 2019 has 5 strategic thrusts and policy benchmarks, 23 objectives, an implementation framework, monitoring and evaluation systems but notably excludes a periodic review of the Policy.
Conclusively, the National Youth Policy represents a declaration and commitment to the priorities, directions and practical supports that a country intends to provide for the development of its young men and women. It is a concrete and bold step to put the development and participation of youth at the centre of national development efforts. It is indicative of the readiness of the Government and people of Nigeria to meet the needs and aspirations of the youth as well as seek a solution to their problems.
Ibrahim Faruk is a Senior Program Officer with YIAGA AFRICA’s Youth Program. He can be reached via [email protected] He tweets via @IbrhmFaruk
The National Youth Policy represents a declaration and commitment to the priorities, directions and practical supports that a country intends to provide for the development of its young men and women. It is a concrete and bold step to put the development and participation of youth at the centre of national development efforts. It is indicative of the readiness of the Government and people of Nigeria to meet the needs and aspirations of the youth as well as seek a solution to their problems.
It sets guidelines and provides the framework for all stakeholders to
empower the youth to realise their potentialities and take advantage of the opportunities available to make positive contributions to the well-being of their communities across the entire country.
Election is a process which comprises of 3 basic phases; pre-election, election day and the post-election. However, the trend of election in Nigeria is that, the average electorate have restrained themselves to voting alone after which they show low or no concern in engaging with the elected until another election year. This style has created a huge lacuna and made greedy politicians take undue advantage of the electorates.
George Santayana a writer and philosopher said, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Should the docility of electorate continue in the previous pattern of ignorance, sentiments of ethnicity, religiosity and stomach infrastructure; then issues of underdevelopment as well as absence of the dividends of democracy will not elude every sphere of our dear country. The extent to which electorates engage with their representatives in Nigeria is highly very poor.
In emerging democracies, citizens must organize and engage government in order to shape appropriate accountability relationships. Therefore, for electorate to be beneficial of a workable social justice and improved human well-being, an environment of gender equality, zero corruption, equal health care, laws respected and reliable livelihoods; a dogged commitment for a sustainable electoral system is required as this is the only legitimate process of deciding leaders who are expected to represent citizens at every level. In the National Democratic Institute publication “Putting Elections To Work For Accountability” it captures that; Quality elections matter a great deal, but only insofar as they put citizens in the driver’s seat when it comes to steering the work of government. For this reason, elections should be treated as opportunities that not only allow citizens to choose leaders, but that can also begin to position citizens as informed, organized and active participants in policy making.
It is imperative that electorates must take drastic steps and move from sentimental and cheap political activities of engaging representatives with trivial issues of marriages of their wards, naming ceremonies and the likes of their village festivals which keep us down making us fodder for the rapacious cannons of the exploiters to more developmental issues that will drive infrastructural and human developments in the nation at large. This means shifting the balance of power, so citizens have more influence as influencing positive change requires exploiting entry points across the entire political cycle. Youth involvement should go beyond rallies, thuggery and been used for vote mobilization.
As the nation prepares towards the democracy day which will mark the beginning of a new era for newly and returning elected officials; my clarion call for caution to the electorate will be to develop a progressive agenda setting for all newly electorate without any form of sentiments. Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) need to see this act as a shared agenda thereby assisting in ensuring that adequate knowledge building for citizens especially at the rural areas who are mostly at the receiving end of selling their votes amongst other electoral malpractices.
Accordingly, to help rescue electorate in Nigeria from the brink of helplessness and hopelessness, the religious institutions who are the gate keepers of the nation’s moral conscience need to take conscious efforts in developing citizens’ who are most vulnerable on voter education to be immune to the ravages of corrupt political leaders who make conscious efforts to disfranchise electorate from informed choices.
Electorate must understand their inherent political rights which implies a responsibilities from the Elects this includes the need to make politicians realize that, the bases for their election or reelection is premise to accountability and developments in relation to needs and the absence of such guarantees a removal. Such informed decisions will not just drive developments but translate the mind set of politicians.
Moses is an election expert and Program Officer at YIAGA AFRICA
He tweets @moluwaseyi12
As part of its effort to inculcate democratic values in the new generation of Nigerian Citizens, YIAGA AFRICA has conducted a comprehensive democratic discourse with secondary school students in Bauchi, Kogi and Nasarawa states, for the 6th edition of its Democracy Summer Camp. A total of 18 schools participated with support from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).
During the camp, YIAGA AFRICA’s Senior Program Officer, Ibrahim Faruk, said through the Democracy Summer Camp, YIAGA AFRICA continues to build an engaging community to stir issues on democratic participation and active citizenship among teenagers across various levels of education, for the purposes of peer learning, solidarity and intergenerational dialogue.
According to him, “the camp is important for the high school teenagers as young people who are in the transitional stage of both physical and psychological development, and thus will begin early to imbibe the right mindset of integrity and patriotism as young Nigerian citizens”. The core topics of discussion included the role of an active citizen in government, peace and conflict resolution and youth radicalization, he said.
In the three states, Bauchi, Kogi and Nasarawa, students were immersed in democratic knowledge through lectures pertaining to governance and civic education, pop quizzes, debates and break out sessions. The students were taught that their voices and opinions are important because young Nigerian citizens are key actors of democracy. All students in the three states interacted and brainstormed on ideas for their group presentations, while the debate competition was the penultimate segment of the two-day young citizens’ engagement program across the three states. “A youth who is 18 years old is eligible to vote and is also eligible to be voted for,” proposed a student from Government College, Keffi in the final debate session of YIAGA AFRICA’s Democracy Summer Camp 2019.
The debate covered the central questions—“What are the arms of government? Why are elections important? As students and from your experiences, which human rights do you think are the most abused and what recommendations would you make? What is good governance? Who is an active citizen?”
Citizens’ engagement such as this, which YIAGA AFRICA has organized with dedicated support from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) prevents Youth Radicalization and encourages Peace and Conflict Resolution —two topics the facilitator educated the students on. The summer camp has become an annual tradition of YIAGA AFRICA, who has organized it for teenagers in highschool since 2013, with National Endowment for Democracy (NED).
In Bauchi, seven schools participated in the summer camp including Bakari Dukku Secondary School, Climax International Secondary School, Dolphin Maria Secondary School, Government Girls’ College, Bauchi, International Secondary School, Jibril Model Secondary School, and Sa’adu Zungur Secondary School. All schools in Bauchi were housed by Sunshine International School (SIS). In Nasarawa, the participants were students from Federal Government College (FGC) Keffi (which housed all the participating schools), ECWA High School, Danset International School and Government College Keffi.
While In Kogi state, St. Monica’s College, Kabba housed the six other participating schools: Wise Virgin College/Group of Schools, St Augustine’s College, Kabba, Local Government Comprehensive Secondary School, Kabba, Government Science Secondary School (GSSS), Okedayo, Bishop Mc Calla Comprehensive High School, and Christ Anglican Secondary School.
The principals and school representatives in the three states also gave opening speeches to kick off the 2-day activities. Vice Principal (Academics) of Federal Government College, gave an opening remark on the importance of democracy and the need to inculcate the habit of “practicing and advocating for true democracy in young citizens, who will proceed to become more active in electoral processes,” he stated.
The students who participated in the Democracy Summer Camp had no trouble assimilating how young citizens should play their part in Nation Building. This was very evident in the debate sessions and group presentations as the student representatives delivered well-informed ideas.
Through the Democracy Summer Camp, YIAGA AFRICA continues to build an engaging community to stir issues on democratic participation and active citizenship among teenagers across various levels of education, for the purposes of peer learning, solidarity and intergenerational dialogue.
“Unarguably, Nigeria needs a new leadership paradigm that puts the people first. This leadership model must be driven by the philosophy of results and impact as well as accountability and transparency. Through ‘The Convergence’, the ‘Not Too Young To Run Movement’ and YIAGA AFRICA are mobilizing a new breed of visionary public leaders to sanitize electoral politics, obtain political power through the ballot and provide accountable, responsive and innovative leadership”. These are the words of YIAGA AFRICA’s Executive Director, Samson Itodo contained in a statement released ahead of the largest gathering of young elected lawmakers tagged convergence 2.0 in Abuja.
In what was described as the largest gathering of young elected legislators in the history of Nigeria, the Convergence 2.0 tagged Leadership, Power and Politics saw close to 300 newly elected lawmakers within the ages of 25 and 40 converge in Abuja for an empowerment, exposure and capacity building conference. The two-day event organized by YIAGA AFRICA and the Not Too Young To Run movement as part of their support of youth inclusion witnessed a keynote speech delivered by Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, Speaker, House of Representatives who spoke extensively on the challenge of leadership in Nigeria and role of the newly elected legislators in changing the narrative.
In a lengthy speech delivered in the conference held on Tuesday and Wednesday, Honorable Dogara expressed his delight over the wave of youth representation Nigeria is about to witness, saying, Ngeria has never been in short supply of those who tell truth to power, but finding those opportune, such as the newly elected young legislators to execute the clarion call of nation-building. He further said, he refuses to see the Nigerian Youth as merely a representation of tomorrow’s leadership but a distinct social category of people who are educated, competent and prepared for the task of today’s leadership.
According to Dogara, “It is because of this and many other important factors that spurred the 8th National Assembly to pass the ‘Not Too Young To Run’ Bill into Law. While there was cynicism from certain quarters as to the commitment of lawmakers to the passage of the bill, but as legislators we were never in doubt as to the importance of the bill and how much youth energy will drive governance in our country”.
He said, “the Not Too Young To Run Law is not so much about the exclusion of any particular class from the political space, rather it is designed to offer a platform for our youth population to build synergy with other segments of society for national development”. He thus reminded that the coming of young lawmakers wouldn’t have come at a better time with the fact that the Nigerian youth demographic at an estimated population of 78 million would be the fourth largest country in Africa and 19th in the world if it were a country.
In her welcome address on behalf of the Not Too Young To Run movement, YIAGA AFRICA Programs Manager who is also a founding member of the movement, Cynthia Mbamalu said the movement in the past years the power of organizing and speaking with a unified voice. Ms Mbamalu recalled how the team along thousands of Nigerian youths across Nigeria organized, marched the streets of Nigeria to demand for age reduction in the constitution.
According to her, “Let us not take for granted this new wave of youth political participation. This time we must show power not by using force but by the intentionality in every action we take, in every word we speak and in every decision, we make towards achieving our goal.”
“As we meet, discuss and learn in these three days, we must remember that politics is a difficult venture. We must remember that winning elections is a hard and tedious job. But we must never forget that in this room we have; people who have fought against the storm of oppressive political party system and won, people who have been told that they will never emerge as winners of an election but they won, people who have been told that they were young and naïve to get involved or dream of contesting for an office and they contested and won; people who have been told that they were women and politics was not for women, and they ran, won and made a difference”, she said.
“We are making history and together, we will change Nigeria one issue at a time, one community at a time, one constituency at a time. Together, we will build a nation where peace and justice shall reign:, she enthused.
While giving her goodwill message, British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Her Excellency Catriona Laing, urged the newly elected young legislators to make the laws and policies which will affect education, health, the economy, security, women, PWDs. She also reminded the freshers that somebody championed the law which made it possible for them to run for office thus the responsibility is on the shoulders of young lawmakers is to ensure that integrity, fairness, inclusion and accountability becomes the hallmarks of their tenure.
She said the young legislators now hold a special place in Nigeria’s history; but they need to decide whether they are contented of just being the first “young group of representatives”, or you would rather be the first wave of change that brought a new dimension to Nigerian politics.
“You might have needed support in order to contest the 2019 elections but, come 2023, be prepared to run on your own record of achievements. There will be days when you feel discouraged or you feel things are not changing quickly enough. The challenges facing Nigeria did not materialise overnight, so neither will the solutions. Be determined to be part of the change, however incremental it is”, she said.
On his own part, United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Stuart Symington urged elected lawmakers at the state and national levels to be instruments of change by promoting justice for all and inclusive government. While making his speech on the second day of the conference, Ambassador Symington said, every democracy and electoral official derives strength from citizens and this can only be maximized when there is synergy between them.
“My suggestion is that these elected officials should lift their reach beyond their supporters and engage with the people because they ran the race not for themselves, their friends and family but for their country”, he said.
He also urged office holders to make sure that in a few years from now, every Nigerian would be able to read “because it is hard to ask citizens to read between the lines and know what really matters when they can’t read at all.”
Amongst the array of speakers is also YIAGA AFRICA Board Member, Ezenwa Nwagwu who said, the conference will provide fresh lawmakers with skills that would help them to do the work better and differently and to make a difference in parliament. He maintained that the group would follow up on the young parliamentarians, keep tabs on them to build values of good governance.
The conference also created opportunities for the fresh legislators to interact and learn from the experiences of an array of highly respected and seasoned speakers that headlined the conference. The speakers included Senator Abdul-Aziz Nyako and Honourable Tony Nwulu who sponsored the Not Too Young bill at the Senate and House of Representatives respectively.
Other speakers that graced the conference included Hon. Nnenna Ukeje; Hon. Tony Nwulu; Hon. Raphael Igbokwe (Chair, Young Parliamentarians Forum); Hon. Luke Onofiok, (Speaker, Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly); Hon. Desmond Elliot; Eugenia Abu; Udo Jude Ilo; Oladayo Olaide; Catriona Liang (British High Commissioner to Nigeria); W. Stuart Symington, (US Ambassador to Nigeria) amongst others.
Sessions held during the conference included, Stakeholder engagement, maximizing the use of social media and Strategic Communication led my media strategist and broadcast executive, Eugenia Abu. Participants also engaged in legislative clinics with highly experienced speakers in the field to better understand the role of legislators and they can effectively discharge their duties.
British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Her Excellency Catriona Laing has urged young elected legislators to make laws that will affect education, health, the economy, security, women and People Living with Disabilities. The British envoy said this while giving a goodwill message at the largest gathering of young elected legislators tagged Convergence 2.0.
During her remark at the event which kicked off on Tuesday, she urged the newly elected young legislators to remember that somebody championed the law which made it possible for you to run for office, thus the responsibility is on your shoulder to ensure that integrity, fairness, inclusion and accountability become the hallmarks of your tenure.
At the high powered conference organised by YIAGA AFRICA and the Not Too Young To Run with the support of the United Kingdom Agency for International Development, H.E Laing said, “I am extremely proud to be here this morning, looking at nearly 300 young political representatives, reflecting the wave of energy and exuberance that has entered the Nigerian political space. Last December when UKaid supported the original Convergence, there were over 400 candidates. Approximately 75% of that first cohort was elected, which is a remarkable feat”.
According to her, “this is why the UK has been a proud supporter of this movement, and we will continue to support you as long as you are prepared to lead. Your growth as political representatives will determine how much progress is made in all areas of life in Nigeria. So you now have a responsibility to engage in the state and federal legislatures on issues which affect the people who voted for you.”
She said, “You might have needed support in order to contest the 2019 elections but, come 2023, be prepared to run on your own record of achievements. There will be days when you feel discouraged or you feel things are not changing quickly enough. The challenges facing Nigeria did not materialise overnight, so neither will the solutions. Be determined to be part of the change, however incremental it is.”
Speaking further, she said, “I also want to encourage you to support each other, particularly the relatively few females among you. Nigeria will not move forward if the space for women’s engagement isn’t widened. You now hold a special place in Nigeria’s history; but you need to decide whether you are content just being the first “young group of representatives”, or you would rather be the first wave of change that brought a new dimension to Nigerian politics”.
“You have moved from “Not Too Young To Run” to being “Ready to Run”; now it’s time to contribute. Your presence here today in this inaugural group of young representatives is about Nigeria’s future; it’s about inclusion, it’s political participation. It is really about how young people will lead the way and, specifically, how you will lead the way.”, she said
“This is why the UK has been a proud supporter of this movement, and we will continue to support you as long as you are prepared to lead. Your growth as political representatives will determine how much progress is made in all areas of life in Nigeria. So you now have a responsibility to engage in the state and federal legislatures on issues which affect the people who voted for you”, she said.
“This is the beginning of a journey. International partners such as the UK can only support you, but the responsibility is yours to take Nigeria to the next level. I wish you all the very best in the years ahead”, she concluded .
WELCOME REMARK BY CYNTHIA MBAMALU ON BEHALF OF YIAGA AFRICA AND THE NOT TOO YOUNG TO RUN MOVEMENT.
I stand here in this historic moment with great joy in my heart on behalf of YIAGA AFRICA, the Not Too Young to Run movement and our partner the United Kingdom Agency for International Development to welcome you all to the largest gathering of young elected legislators; The Convergence 2.0.
The 2019 general election was referred to as an election with numbers: 84 million registered voters, 91 registered political parties, 23, 316 candidates vying for the 1558 elective seats. Of these numbers our favorite was the percentage of young voters and then young candidates! 34.7% youth candidates with the 41.8% contesting for seats in the State Assemblies and 27.4% for the House of representatives and today in this room, we have young lawmakers who we celebrate today. Today 340 days after the signing of the Not Too Young to Run Bill into law, we have 17 under 30 year old who won their election into their respective state houses of assembly. Today out of the 991 seats in the state houses of assembly, over 200 will be occupied by young elected lawmakers. This is our democracy taking shape, because we cannot talk about democracy without inclusion. This is progress made for youth, for Nigeria, and this is hope which we hold on to. As a young woman, this is also hope I hold on to believing that as I see people of my generation represent me in government that I will also see people who look like me; women represent us in Government.
Today is beyond being young, it is about Leadership, Power and Politics. Leadership, because for so long we have struggled as a people to answer the leadership question. The convergence 2.0 is about working together to set a legislative agenda that is people driven, that promote inclusion and the indices that enable sustainable development. It is about building a strong network of committed young lawmakers who support each other and speak truth to power. It is about quality and accountable leadership, providing that alternative that serves as a model for leadership. Power; because we must be reminded that the legislative arm of government is the hub of democracy and you represent the great people of Nigeria where sovereignty lies. Politics because this time we must make our voices count in government and in the political decisions taken.
So, today the Not Too Young to Run movement, welcomes you all to the Convergence 2.0, today we celebrate every young person worked hard to see the Not Too Young to Run become law, today we celebrate every young person who contested in the 2019 general election and more importantly, today we celebrate all our young elected lawmakers.
Leadership is not easy, it is a responsibility that you now have to ensure that in all you do, you are enabling your constituents and Nigerians achieve purpose. Thank you for answering the clarion call.
It is going to be a 2 day intensive program and please let us take advantage of this opportunity. May we remain committed to building a democracy that works for us and building the Nigeria of our dreams.
Welcome once again and God bless Nigeria.
The ‘Not Too Young To Run Movement’ is billed to host Nigeria’s largest gathering of young elected legislators themed Leadership, Power and Politics on May 7 – 8, 2019 in Abuja. The Convergence 2.0 is designed to inspire, empower and expose newly elected young legislators in the 2019 elections to resources and tools required for excellent public leadership and quality representation. It presents an opportunity for the newly elected young lawmakers to reflect on Nigeria’s 20 years of democracy with a view to designing a new democratic and leadership model that promotes institutional reforms, economic development and reduces inequality.
Over 300 young leaders elected into various seats in the National and State Houses of Assemblies are expected to participate in the conference. The event will celebrate the direct beneficiaries of the ‘Not Too Young To Run Act’ signed into law on May 31st, 2018 by President Muhammadu Buhari. The young lawmakers will have an opportunity to interact and learn from the experiences of an array of highly respected and seasoned speakers headlining the conference. The keynote speech will be delivered by Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, Speaker, House of Representatives. Other speakers include Senator Abdul-Aziz Nyako; Hon. Nnenna Ukeje; Hon. Tony Nwulu; Hon. Raphael Igbokwe (Chair, Young Parliamentarians Forum); Hon. Luke Onofiok, (Speaker, Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly); Hon. Desmond Elliot; Eugenia Abu; Udo Jude Ilo; Oladayo Olaide; Catriona Liang (British High Commissioner to Nigeria); W. Stuart Symington, (US Ambassador to Nigeria) amongst others.
Unarguably, Nigeria needs a new leadership paradigm that puts the people first. This leadership model must be driven by the philosophy of results and impact as well as accountability and transparency. Through ‘The Convergence’, the ‘Not Too Young To Run Movement’ and YIAGA AFRICA are mobilizing a new breed of visionary public leaders to sanitize electoral politics, obtain political power through the ballot and provide accountable, responsive and innovative leadership.
The Convergence 2.0 is the second in the series of conferences hosted by the movement. The maiden edition held in December 2018 to inspire and equip youth candidates running in the 2019 elections with relevant skills and knowledge for effective campaigns. Over 400 youth candidates were supported to participate at the conference. The Convergence is supported by the United Kingdom Agency for International Development (UKAID).
Executive Director, YIAGA AFRICA and Convener, Not Too Young To Run movement