Global explosion in knowledge and social consciousness has enhanced the capacity of Nigerian Youths. However, their ability to utilize these assets effectively to drive national transformation would depend on the leadership opportunities available to them. According to an independent research by the British Council, by 2030; “Youth not oil, will be Nigeria’s greatest asset”. However, the way Nigeria defines the Youth and their place in the leadership of this nation is fundamental to Youth political representation and inclusion.
The concept of Youth as leaders of tomorrow has constricted a very important social category to the political fringe and reduced a demographic majority to political minority. This needs to change. This position document, amongst other things, seeks to advance an agenda that will enable the Nigerian Youth scale the wall of exclusion in leadership and governance.
Why Nigerian Youth?
The Nigerian Youth is easily a demographic majority considering an estimated population of 68 million Nigerian Youths. Put in context, this is twice the population of Ghana; more than the population of South Africa and bigger than the population of the United Kingdom. If the Nigerian Youth population were to be a nation, it would be the fourth largest country in Africa and 19th in the world. By sheer numerical strength, it would therefore be a major country.
However, despite the foregoing, the Nigerian Youth has since our nation’s return to democratic rule in 1999 been kept on the wings and fringes of leadership. By the position of this document, we refuse 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.
A few examples of our national history buttress the fact that when given the opportunity, the Nigerian Youth possesses the capacity to lead and with distinction.
Shehu Shagari: Federal Legislator at 30. Minister at 35
M.T. Mbu: Minister at 25. High Commissioner to the United Kingdom at 26
Richard Akinjide: Minister of Education at 32
Maitama Sule: Oil Minister at 29
Yakubu Gowon: Head of State at 32
Audu Ogbe: Minister at 35
Extra: More than half of the Balewa cabinet were 40 years and under.
In the light of the above, we believe that democracy signifies the representation of people in government. Because it is also a game of numbers, representation in a democracy is expected to mirror the demographic composition of the population. By this understanding, we wish to affirm that not only is Youth a demographic majority in Nigeria but also, a distinct social category and as such, ought to be given its rightful representation in the leadership of this nation just as gender has attained recognition as a distinct social category.
While we understand that “Youth” in itself, as is the case with gender, is not a credential for leadership, for us at Rethink Nigeria, youth in this context relates to credible and competent young Nigerians between the ages of 18-40. Whereas the National Youth Policy considers Youth as young Nigerians aged between 18-35, we advocate for a rethink of this age policy to accommodate more Nigerians in the light of our socio-economic realities. This has been done before especially with the example in 2011, of the Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria (YouWIN) Business Plan competition where the age of Youth was reviewed to create room for more Nigerians between the age of 18 and 40.
We therefore propose to the National Conference, the consideration and adoption of a 30 percent representation of Nigerian Youth in all political appointments at federal, state and local government levels irrespective of the political party in power, beginning with the next electoral dispensation in 2015.
Umar Ahmed Shehu
Deputy Convening Volunteer
About Rethink Nigeria: Rethink Nigeria is an ideas-driven movement of young professionals and intellectuals who are card-carrying members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Comprising young party members between the age of 18 and 40, the group is aimed at spearheading advocacy towards realizing the following objectives:
- Promote the politics of ideas and intellectual participation in politics.
- Advocate for 30 percent youth representation in political appointments into public office at Federal, State and Local Government levels.
Membership is open to all card-carrying youth members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who share our vision. Rethink Nigeria is officially affiliated to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) through the office of the National Youth Leader.