Empowering Nigerian Youth in Politics: Catalysts for Change

Empowering Nigerian Youth in Politics: Catalysts for Change

By Mikail Ajibola

In Nigeria, youth-hood spans from the age of 18 to 29 years, as per the new youth policy. While former President Chief Olusegun Obasanjo once emphatically asserted that “youths constitute Nigeria’s only hope for a greater future.” The government characterizes the youth as enthusiastic, energetic, and promising individuals. Also in a public address, former president Muhammadu Buhari tagged Nigerians youth lazy during a public address which generated a lot of controversy and backlash. Either acknowledged or not, one thing remains a certainty, youth are the major driving force of every country”s growth and development.

However, the roles and interests of the youth in Nigerian politics have been historically overlooked, leading to consequences such as alienation, destabilization, immorality, non-inclusion of youths in the government leading to conflict among the younger generation.

Youth play a crucial role in Nigerian politics, and their active involvement is essential for a well-functioning democratic system. Rather than sidelining their interests, the government needs to acknowledge the significance of youth opinions and actively include them in the decision-making process. A substantial portion of the Nigerian youth population is currently facing challenges as the political landscape fails to favor their aspirations. Jobless graduates struggling to make ends meet are a common sight, reflecting the pressing need for opportunities for the youth to engage in political processes and contribute to the nation’s development.

The political landscape and offices continuously revolve around the older generation. Moving and passing the baton of power from one older politician to the other. It remains triggering for the youths that a higher chunk of Nigeria politicians are those in power since Nigeria gained independence. Leaving room for little or no involvement of Nigeria youth in politics. Nigeria witnesses a massive protest from the youths to remove the age limit to run from office in 2017, the protest tagged  #NotTooYoungToRun marks a time when the youths decided to stand up for their rights.

Unemployment rates, projected to be 32.5% in 2021 and rising to 41.3% in 2022, underscore the urgency of addressing the challenges faced by Nigerian youth. The current system, marked by corruption and neglect, necessitates a shift in power dynamics to enable the youth to actively participate in shaping Nigeria’s narrative and future. The involvement of youths in politics will promote not just inclusivity but also ensure that there is a politician to carry out their best interest. Education is also an important factor to reduce the violence and using the youths as machinery by politicians during elections in Nigeria. Standard education will and proper orientation will ensure the youths are not used as tools for violence.

Niger Delta Crisis: Unveiling Political Dimensions

The Niger Delta, encompassing nine coastal southern Nigerian states, has been a region of historical significance, once referred to as the Oil Rivers due to its palm oil production. However, it has become a hotbed of international concern due to extensive pollution, primarily caused by major oil spills from multinational corporations in the petroleum industry.

The Niger Delta Crisis, gaining momentum in the 1990s, traces its roots back to the 1970s when the region experienced intensified oil production. Environmental degradation and socio-economic neglect, despite being the source of Nigeria’s oil wealth, led to growing tensions and grievances among the local communities. The lack of infrastructure development, oil spills, and marginalization fueled a sense of injustice and frustration, culminating in protests, activism, and at times, militant activities.

This crisis has deep political dimensions, involving struggles over resource control, environmental degradation, socio-economic marginalization, and government policies. Resolving the Niger Delta Crisis requires a comprehensive approach, addressing issues such as dialogue and negotiation, sustainable development, environmental remediation, good governance, anti-corruption measures, and legal reforms. Only through such an inclusive approach can lasting solutions be found, considering the socio-economic, environmental, and political aspects of the region and empowering local communities.

Evolution and Influence of Political Parties in Nigeria

The history of political parties in Nigeria dates back to the formation of the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) in 1923 by Herbert Macaulay. Initially emerging along regional and ethnic lines during the colonial period, political parties played a pivotal role in advocating for independence.
After gaining independence in 1960, political parties continued to represent regional interests, contributing to political tensions and the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970). The onset of military rule further suppressed political parties, but remnants persisted, nurturing the desire for a return to civilian rule.

In 1999, Nigeria transitioned back to civilian rule, leading to the emergence of various political parties, including the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the Alliance for Democracy (AD). The dominance of the PDP eventually gave way to the emergence of larger parties like the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2015, shaping the country’s political landscape.

The influence of these parties has been profound, determining policy directions, shaping governance, and mobilizing support. However, challenges such as internal divisions, party indiscipline, and issues of ideology and internal democracy have impacted their overall effectiveness in governance and representation.

Empowering the youth in Nigerian politics, addressing the Niger Delta Crisis, and understanding the evolution of political parties are essential components of fostering a stable and prosperous Nigeria. Youths active involvement and participation in Nigeria politics will ensure the facilitation of laws and policies that will promote the state of living for the youths. In terms of job creations, policies formulation, and access to proper fundings. Who can feel the pain of the youths, if not a youth.

The current government of President Bola Tinubu took a profound step in ensuring the inclusion of some youths in his cabinets. This proved to be a flicker of hope for Nigerians youth as they know they aren’t there yet, but also realized it is a huge step towards the direction the youths have been fighting for, for ages.

Recognizing the active role of the youth in politics, resolving regional crises, and navigating the complexities of political party dynamics contribute to building a resilient and inclusive nation. As Nigeria continues its journey, a focus on these critical aspects will pave the way for a brighter future, one shaped by active youth participation and effective governance.

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