A significant increase in the presence of youths and women in the political space will show inclusion needed in Nigeria’s democracy. For this, young women and men must not only run for office, but also win elections.
This was said by Efemena Ozugha, Programs Officer, Yiaga Africa during the virtual launch of the RunToWinNG campaign by Yiaga Africa with support from Voice program in Nigeria.
In her opening remarks, Cynthia Mbamalu, Yiaga Africa Director of Programs explained that the campaign is building on the achievements of Yiaga Africa’s #NotTooYoungToRun and #ReadyToRun campaigns to enable young people with competence, character and capacity to not only run for office, but to also win. She revealed that the low statistics of youth and female candidates in the 2019 elections showed the importance of engaging young people, listening to their experiences and challenges as well as providing strategic support to run and win political positions.
‘‘We need more young people to take up leadership positions, so that they can activate their civic responsibilities and transformative leadership,’’ she said.
Speaking on the objectives of the campaign, Mbamalu emphasized that while Yiaga Africa does not sponsor campaigns or provide financial support to aspiring politicians, the organization provide a platform for young people to tell their stories, connect them to individuals or groups to help build their network, and most importantly, connect candidates with citizens to enable them run issue-based campaigns.
Also speaking during the virtual launch, Ijeoma Okwor, Project Coordinator, Voice Nigeria explained that the project was focused on strengthening the capacity of those who are left behind in the world today, and was implemented in 10 countries across the world by the Deutsch government. According to her, the Voice program recognises those who are marginalized like women, LGBTQ communities, persons with disabilities, ethnic minorities, and age-discriminated people (youths and the aged). She explained that the energy and passion shown by young people of Nigeria during 2020’s #EndSars/Soro-Soke movement proved the phenomenal change that will happen in the country if that energy and passion is directed at political participation.
“For that, the Voice program is excited for the work Yiaga Africa will do with the RunToWinNG campaign for youth participation,’’ she added.
On the challenges of young people who are running for offices, Oko Chinedu, Chairman, House Committee on Youths and Sports, Enugu state, noted that finance tops the list. He explained that the Nigerian political space is highly monetized with a lot of stakeholders to ‘settle’ in the “process of campaigning”. He also mentioned godfatherism as a major problem, as people always ask who is sponsoring ‘such a young person’.
“A new and unfamiliar name raises eyebrows, and people tend to lose their confidence in you simply because there is no popular and powerful name backing you”, he added.
Theresa Tekena, Publicity Secretary, Progressive Young Women’s Forum, emphasised that aside from other known problem factors facing young people, young women also have their own challenges different from their male counterparts.
“For women, people already doubt your competence before you even speak”, she said.
The virtual launch also had Ibrahim Faruk, Program Manager Yiaga Africa who suggested ways by which young people can ace the various challenges they face in running for office. According to him, those ways include ‘‘being politically active by not only registering and getting their Permanent Voters Card and getting ready to vote in the FCT Council election in February 2020, and the Nigeria general elections in 2023, but to also join political parties enmasse, and rally together to contest for political offices at the local level.’’
In her closing remarks, Efemena Ozugha, Programs Officer Yiaga Africa reiterated that the RunToWinNG project is for every young person in Nigeria who is interested in improved democratic practices in Nigeria, or who is interested in running for office. She called on civic participation of all Nigerians to ensure that we build a Nigeria where all our voices are amplified, to enable us achieve the change we desire.