Yiaga Africa and the Young Parliamentarians Forum (YPF) have emphasized the importance of bolstering capacity-building efforts for young parliamentarians and promoting mentorship by experienced legislators to ensure the highest standards of representation. This call was made at the successfully concluded Convergence 5.0, an event that marked a significant milestone as the largest gathering of young legislators ever witnessed in Nigeria. With a remarkable turnout of over 120 young parliamentarians, the platform provided a valuable opportunity for these elected representatives to engage with experts and gain valuable insights into effective leadership practices.
During the event’s opening remarks, Cynthia Mbamalu, Director of Programmes at Yiaga Africa, highlighted the importance of The Convergence 5.0 in equipping young legislators with the necessary skills to build power and navigate the complexities of politics in both national and state legislatures. Noting that despite the implementation of the Not-Too-Young-To-Run Act by the previous administration, the prospects of increased youth representation in politics have remained discouraging.
Mbamalu emphasized the need for progress, citing the example of ‘‘the 2019 elections where 13 young individuals were elected to the House of Representatives, a significant increase from 2015. Furthermore, in 2019, 20 young people under the age of 30 secured seats in state assemblies, including two women under the age of 35. While expectations for the 2023 elections were high, the outcome did not meet those expectations.’’ Nevertheless, Mbamalu acknowledged the positive development of having two lawmakers between the ages of 25 and 29 in the House of Representatives, a historic achievement, albeit still insufficient.
Samson Itodo, the Executive Director of Yiaga Africa, echoed Mbamalu’s sentiments, acknowledging the slight increase in the number of young legislators aged between 35 and 26 who were elected to the National and State Assemblies. He stressed the importance of capacity building for these young legislators to ensure their effective performance and meaningful participation in the legislative process as first-timers.
Representing the European Union (EU) Ambassador to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Amb Samuela Isopi, Deputy Head of the EU to Nigeria, Alexandre Borges-Gomes, expressed excitement over the emergence of young legislators at the state and federal levels. He encouraged these young lawmakers to make a substantial difference and deepen democracy.
‘‘It is better to have an imperfect democracy than no democracy at all,’’ stressed the Ambassador.
Speaking on the necessity of platforms like The Convergence, Hon Kabir Tukura, Chairman of the Young Parliamentarian Forum and Member of the House of Representatives, assured Nigerians that the young legislators would not disappoint in fulfilling their legislative responsibilities. Tukura viewed Convergence 5.0 as an opportunity for young legislators to enhance their legislative skills, establish networks, learn from experienced lawmakers, and contribute to the progress of the Assembly.
During the event, Yiaga Africa presented a report titled ‘Youth Representation in the Legislature.’ The report analyzed data obtained from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) regarding elected candidates in the 2023 elections. The findings revealed a slight increase in youth representation, with Kwara state standing out for having the highest number of young female legislators. Notably, the youngest elected female legislator, aged 26, also hails from Kwara state. Additionally, four young female legislators under the age of 35 secured seats in the State Assemblies of Delta, Lagos, and Kwara.
The report also put forth recommendations to enhance capacity-building initiatives for young lawmakers and proposed the introduction and passage of legislation that promotes women’s political participation.
As part of the event, the #NotTooYoungToRun Leadership Prize for Legislative Performance was announced. This prestigious prize aims to recognize exceptional young legislators serving in both the National and State Houses of Assembly who stand out among their peers. The prize includes a month-long leadership fellowship, a cash reward of $20,000, and remarkable opportunities to speak on international platforms. The primary objective of the Prize is to showcase exemplary young legislators as models of public leadership while inspiring lawmakers to consistently provide outstanding legislative guidance and uphold the highest standards of representation.
The Convergence 5.0 is hosted in partnership with the Young Parliamentarians Forum of the National Assembly, and funded by the European Union.