‘If youths can vote at 18, they can also be voted for at 18’
Concerned by their seeming passive role in politics in the country, Nigerian youths have asked for full acknowledgment of their rights, demanding that, as they have voted for older political candidates in past elections, they too, should be voted for.
This was the resolution at the recent conference by Rise Network in commemoration of the United Nations (UN) International Youth Day, in line with the group’s focus on Youth and Education Development via Capacity Building on Youth Inclusion.
The event featured a debate on “If we can vote at 18, we can also be voted for at 18,” moderated by Ademola Olarewaju, which pitched an All Progressives Congress (APC) advocate, Rinsola, against a PDP defender, Anthony.
Guest speakers at the conference include Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who was represented by his Deputy Chief of Staff, Gbenga Makanjuola; former Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola; senior spokesman to the former President, Dr. Reuben Abati and Ovation Magazine publisher, Dele Momodu.
Momodu spoke on the importance of political participation, explaining how he had, in times past, supported others into office until he decided to throw his hat into the ring and contest for the position of President.
He insisted that “the youths of today must go back to the days when young people had a strong voice” and emphasised that social media be deployed in shaping policies and enhancing civil participation.
Saraki emphasised the importance of getting involved, noting that the 8th Senate is going to come up with E-Parliament, a system, where citizens can contribute to senate debates online, engage with senators and monitor events at the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly.
On his part, Abati said, for youths to develop a sense of identity, they need to mark themselves out from previous generations in rigorous thinking, distinctive engagement and an insistence on doing the right thing. He traced the role of youths in various change of governments across the world via ‘Arab Springs’ and also likened it to #OccupyNigeria but pointed out that the latter had a political undertone. He cited this as example of how governments that ignore the youths usually get swept off.
For Fashola, the minimum age at which people can contest for public office should be constitutionally reviewed, noting that when youths leave a vacuum in the political process, people who are above 50 move into such positions at their expense.