The clamour for youth inclusion in governance in Nigeria is without doubt one of the most visible consistent campaigns over the last decade. The high level of poverty, unemployment and increase in organized crime has further escalated the call for the inclusion of youth in the governance architecture of the world’s most populous black Nation. Considering the figures which is an estimated population of 68 million Nigerian Youths, it is no brainer why the campaign and insistence for youth inclusion is even more intensified. Overtime, different civil society organizations, clerics, academia, international organizations and even foreign governments have faulted the political set-up of Nigeria in the area of youth inclusiveness. By extension, many proponents of youth inclusiveness have linked the decadence in social values and increased corruption on the inability of the State to cater for its teeming youthful population.
Every year, different political parties and candidates made it a point of campaign to address this structural imbalance that do not favor youth participation beyond campaign organizers, social media influencers, critics and the likes, as they in their own words believed that the time has come to embrace youth participation in full measure. Hence they make promises like 30% affirmative action or whatever sooths their narrative, in their quest to get to power. How far these political parties fare when they get to power or even in their own internal party structure is topic for another day.
While the conversations about youth inclusiveness trended, on and off-line, many political watchers saw that the extent of youth involvement in governance goes beyond the usual on and off line campaign as it’s realization was embedded in the altering of the 1999 constitution to discard the age restriction imposed on young people to contest for political office in the first place. Youth exclusion they believed was a function of an existing order backed by law and considering that it will require the amendments to that clause by the National Assembly, they rechanneled their focus and energy to mount pressure on the National Assembly giving rise to the passage of the age reduction bill, otherwise known as the #NotTooYoungToRun bill. Similarly, applauds also goes to the State assemblies that concurred to this bill. It is now left for the President to join this league of democracy advocates, by assenting to the age reduction bill.
Meanwhile, the role of youth goes beyond participating in politics. The anti-corruption fight is the responsibility of all, especially young people. Understanding youth inclusiveness in the anti-corruption campaign is even made easier when you understand the various implications inherent in shutting out a great percentage of your population from participating in governance. If you do not wonder why a country who has excluded a greater percentage of its youth in governance has been so backwards in terms of developments and societal progress, you’ll definitely not wonder why the anti-corruption fight has been stalled or depreciated despite recorded effort. The youth demographic is simply pointing to the fact that any project embarked upon without the inclusion of the youth is a mirage. This is the story of the Nigerian anti-corruption war.
These ideas got even more buttressed during my experience in the public integrity debate competition for students of tertiary institutions organized by YIAGA Africa. The project is an activity under the #BounceCorruption project of YIAGA and is supported by MacArthur foundation.
During the project lunch in September last year, YIAGA Africa’s Executive Director Mr. Samson Itodo, said the #BounceCorruption project is designed to complement efforts by state and non-state actors in the fight against corruption by promoting zero tolerance for corruption and impunity through effective citizens oversight and mobilization for accountable governance. I believe that Mr. Itodo’s strategy to focus on enlisting citizens in the anti-corruption fight was borne out of the apparent inefficiency of successive governments in this regard, as it was virtually impossible to wage war against corruption without having citizens, particularly youths as frontrunners.
One of the ways YIAGA Africa used in engaging young people is through the Bounce Corruption public integrity debate across Nigerian tertiary institutions. The debate competition is designed for students in selected tertiary institutions across the six geo-political zones of the country. It provides a platform for harnessing youth views into the anti-corruption crusade as well as a platform for propagating the values of integrity, transparency and accountability. Privileged to have been to four (4) zones so far, we have recorded participation of about 15 tertiary institutions with close to a thousand (1000) student participants across the zones. I can confidently conclude that any anti-corruption strategy that seeks to correct the ills of society without adequately outlining the extent of youth involvement may likely not be a success. I saw first-hand the zeal of young people in yearning to attain a society devoid of corruption. I was extremely impressed by their knowledge as they demystified the current anticorruption strategy which was the subject under discuss at the debates. I saw the need for creating more platforms and directly involving youths in challenges that affects them. To do otherwise will be counterproductive to say the least.
Through its Bounce Corruption project, YIAGA Africa has also engaged youths in areas of developing a software prototype designed to help in the fight against corruption during its recent Hackathon (Hack4Good) contest, as well as mobilizing popular On Air Personalities (#BounceCorruption Radio Ambassadors) across the 36 States of the Federation and FCT on content development for effective messaging on anti-corruption and on effective media engagement on Nigeria’s anti-corruption strategy.
The project currently manages a robust Radio Ambassadors network, committed to promoting accountability and mainstreaming anti-corruption messages into radio programming. The major aim of this initiative is to sensitize and enlighten citizens about the anticorruption campaign thereby enlisting them as advocates of a corrupt free society, hence a reversal of the negative trends that have overshadowed national and international discourse overtime.
But YIAGA Africa can only do that much, as it might be constrained by numerous factors especially finances to aggressively mobilize citizens and youths across board in the anti-corruption movement that seeks to place our country on the annals progressive states and youth inclusiveness. CSOs, NGOs, and government should be encouraged to embrace YIAGA’s ideas in its quest for a robust anticorruption war. Youth inclusiveness, as has been enshrined in YIAGA’s modus operandi is the way forward.
Michael Agada is a Program Assistant for Accountability and Justice with YIAGA Africa. He’s an undaunted believer in Democracy good governance and an advocate of youth participation in governance process. He tweets from @MichaelAgada on twitter.