Ahead of the 2023 general elections, the Nigerian youth have been showing their readiness to take over the presidency and other elective positions. But the new twist is their demand for the 30 per cent affirmative action. TOPE SUNDAY writes.
The Nigerian youth, who formed 16.8 percent of the country’s population, are showing their commitment ahead of the 2023 general elections to take charge of governance. According to reports, Nigeria’s population is around 200 million people with an annual population growth of 2.61 per cent.
In her article; “Why we should drive it home for the Nigerian youth,” Joyce Daniels, argued that over 33.6 million (16.8 per cent) Nigerians are regarded as youths aged between 15 and 35 years. According to her, about 43.69 per cent of Nigeria’s total population is aged 0 to 14 in 2019, arguing that in the nearest future, the youth will increasingly form the bulk of the country’s population as children grow older into young adults.
Apart from Daniels, another youth leader, Comrade Tolu Ajayi, also demanded that the youth should be considered for presidency in 2023 and called on President Muhammadu Buhari to hand over to a youth as successor.
The convener of Afenifere for Collective Transformation (ACT) in his letter to Buhari dated June 12, 2021, and copied the vice president, Senate president, speaker of the House of Representatives, and All Progressives Congress national leader, among others, asked him to redeem his pledge that he would handover to a youth as successor.
2023 and youth’s demands
Ajayi, at a recent press conference in Abuja, said handing over to youths in 2023 would serve as the only way to checkmate growing youthful unrest, restiveness and violence across the country and also set criteria for the would-be youth that will become the president.
“Come 29th of May 2023, a new president would emerge and now the Nigerian youth want not only the president, but the All Progressives Congress (APC) at large to not only support this ambition but also give us a credible youthful and young president to drive and champion this ambition for us. This candidate must have held the position of the governor of a state in the country or a sitting governor with age less than 50 years old. Nigerian youths want a president that belongs to our generation whom we believe would understand us better.
“We understand that Nigerian youth have been abused, used, denied, rejected and labelled negatively by the elders of this country; hence, our resolve to redeem ourselves and our image with a young president that would further affirm our God-given potential and ability in political leadership. To this end, an educated and qualified young Nigerian whose credentials and age would not be hidden is who we want at the level of our presidency come 2023 for the principle of transparency. This we want the APC to give us,” he said.
Youth ready for leadership?
The governor of the Kogi state, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, who is in his 40s, is one of the youth that has shown interest to run for the presidency in 2023. Though he has not officially declared his interest, his foot soldiers are rooting for him. But why he is entitled and qualified to rule the country, there have been arguments in some quarters that the Nigerian youths are not mature for politics.
But in an interview with Blueprint Weekend, the Nigerian Youth Ambassador to the United States, Dr. Raymond Edoh, countered the insinuation that the youth were not ready for leadership position, saying that many of them were ready to take up the mantle of leadership in the country and described them as “the most educated.”
Edoh, who is also the secretary-general, Nigerian Youth Congress (NYC), disclosed that youth were the backbone of the country and said finances, may be the only factor preventing them from contesting elections.
“The youth are the most educated, so if anyone is saying that the youth are not ready to occupy positions of authority, then he’s wrong. I think the only part I will agree with is the financial challenge in contesting political offices. We don’t have the money to spend on campaigns for different elective offices. But my happiness is one, if you observe under the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari for the first time in the history of this country, a lot of people who don’t have money, a lot of youth, a lot of poor people, who are nobody, who have no name at all, were able to get themselves into various political positions, unlike previous administrations that we had to spend a whole lot of money. I can assure you somebody like me, trusts me I can contest a position without spending money and I will win,” he said.
The 30% affirmative action
Leading the debate for the 30 per cent affirmative action for the youth in the 2023 general elections, the president of the Nigerian Youth Congress (NYC), Blessing A. Akinlosotu, said though the group had not officially pegged the age of whoever is going to run for elective positions, the youth should be given some considerations that will make their participation in politics much easier.
Akinlosotu, who spoke with this reporter, commended President Buhari for the Not Too Young To Run Act, but lamented that some of the youth were not financially buoyant to obtain nomination forms of the leading political parties in the country.
He said: “The Not Too Young To Run Act is one of the wonderful bills that have happened to this country. We strongly believe that it gives the opportunity to the young people to be actively involved in politics. The age barrier that if you are not up to 30 0r 35 years you cannot run for elections has been removed. But the major challenges that we have is that the Act on its own cannot effectively implement the desires of the young people. There must be an amendment or addition to that Act to make some of all these challenges to accommodate the young people. For instance, selling of the nomination form of political parties, let’s say the biggest political parties, APC or PDP is too bogus.
“How will a young person that is just coming up cope under this circumstance? You may have the energy to test the water; you may have intelligence, but what about finances? If you go out, that has been a barrier. The second thing is that we need to migrate the youth into policies. We should not allow them to be cut short somewhere. They should be considered like women. We are asking for 35% affirmative action as given to women in politics. What is left for the youth is to be given 20 to 30% affirmative action.”
He said further that, “If the president comes in 2023, he will definitely know that 30% of his cabinets will be youths. So, if the governor is coming, it should already be in the law that this is a bylaw of operations of governance, that 30% of young people must form his cabinet. So, by the time we start having youths as ministers and commissioners; that is how to migrate youths to governance. With this, the system of government will not be new and strange to them. We are appealing to the proper authority, especially the senate president, to make sure that youths have a quota in the system.
“The young people of this country are 70%. So, if they give us 30% of the cabinet’s positions, it is still a better deal. From there, we would start from somewhere. We strongly believe that youths should be singled out for motivation. What do I mean? Like they (political parties) will sell the form for the women and tell them to pay 50% of the cost of the nomination form. Also, the youth should also get a 50% slash of whatever nomination form that has been agreed upon. This is one of the ways that the youth can be motivated into politics.”