The creation of partnerships and connections between political parties and student union governments has been highlighted as a good way to encourage and foster youth participation in politics by the students of Federal University of Technology Minna with special emphasis on the fact that mentorship is an important component of leadership and being mentored by actual politicians will encourage more young people to run for office and in turn, motivate more young people to vote for them.
These suggestions were made during the Campus Conversation on Youth Participation organized by Yiaga Africa and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in Minna, Niger state. The conversation on youth participation in politics was a timely discourse that touched not only on why young people seem hesitant to participate but also why it has become necessary for youths to participate regardless of reservations.
During the event, the students shared some reasons why youths are not encouraged to participate in politics or register to vote. Some noted that they feel totally disconnected from the present leaders of the country and do not feel the need to vote for anybody. When asked what can be done about this problem, many proffered open conversations and connections between political parties and student unions as a way to involve more youths in the political processes, harvest and mentor young leaders and also build lines of engagement between the youths and the government.
Speaking as a Panelist at the event, a former Commissioner for Youth and the current Commissioner for Local Government, Community Development and Chieftaincy Affairs, Niger State, Hon Emmanuel Umar revealed a deep passion for youth in governance, noting that he once stepped down from running for an elective position for a younger person. He commended Yiaga Africa for always bringing the discussion of youth participation in politics to the forefront and urged the youths to take advantage of the opportunities CSOs have fought for to aspire for a better country.
He advised against passive citizenry and social media governance and asked the youths to bring their clamour for change to the real table of power by running for office or voting for their choice of leaders.
“Seated here are men and women that the Constitution of Nigeria has empowered to bring the desired change they want to see,” he stated in reference to the Not Too Young To Run Act that has lowered the age for seeking elective positions.
Also speaking at the event, Youth Coordinator Regional Center for Expertise, Minna Ibrahim Jafaru, reminded the students that a lot of change can be affected if the youth of the nation take a stand through their votes. He urged them not to feel small in the large scheme of things, but to remember that change can start in small doses.
Answering a query about election violence as a deterrent for many youths who want to vote, he reminded the students that in many cases, youths are also the ones mobilized for election thuggery and violence. He advised youths to continue to remind each other of what is at stake: the future of Nigeria.
“Would my vote even count?”
“When politicians are giving N5,000 to poor people to vote for them, how will my vote count?”
“Will we ever get a chance to be leaders?”
“They say we are the leaders of tomorrow. The way things are looking, tomorrow may never come”
These were questions and queries that the students were filled with at the beginning of the programme. After a panel activity which involved writing out ways to motivate other youths to participate in the electoral process that produced scintillating ideas, the students were convinced that participation is the only way to assure the desired change and testified to that effect.
The new mantra became “No more siddon look. We must participate!”