Nigeria: As Youths Strategise to Wrest Power From Old Politicians

12 December 2018

With the Presidential assent to the Not Too Young To Run Bill, young people are emerging as candidates from various political parties and are set to wrest power from old politicians in 2019., Ruth Tene Natsa, writes on the moves by youths to retire the old guards

It was an awesome gathering of vibrant young political candidates at the 3 days conference tagged 'The Convergence' which began on Monday, December 10-12, organised by the Not Too Young To Run Movement and supported by YIAGA Africa and the United Kingdom Agency for International Development(UKAID).

In his welcome remarks executive director YIAGA Africa Samson Itodo said "the Convergence is designed to equip youth candidates with necessary tools for running effective political campaigns. The conference is a unique platform for youth candidates to build their competence, network, share experiences and advocate for greater representation and credible 2019 elections"

He said "Ultimately the Convergence will equip youth candidates with the right attitude and values to deliver the much needed good governance and quality representation in Nigeria.

Barr. Itodo noted that "As a result of the reduction of age limits in the NTYTR law, Nigeria is witnessing a new wave of competent and credible young women and men aspiring to run for office in 2019 with an agenda to provide innovative, transformative and responsive leadership in the public sphere".

"The conference is designed to provide a platform a platform for empowering equip youth candidates with the necessary tools for running effective political campaigns and build a network for political solidarity and advocacy".

In his remarks, member, House of Representatives and sponsor of the Not Too Young To Run Bill Hon. Tony Nwulu expressed the hope that with the young politicians successes at their various primaries, they were set to bring the needed change to Nigeria.

"If you could have made it through your party primaries, gone through the rigours and every other thing that goes with it and emerged as the party candidate, now you know that you have been truly called to serve the country. With that and, with the strength that God has given us to champion the cause, I am sure that we are going to bring that desired change to Nigeria very soon"

Also speaking Ibrahim Sanusi, of the African Governance Architecture, African Union said "If you look at the challenges we face as young people in the continent, it is not just for us as Nigerians, it is a shared challenge for us across Africa-exclusion, marginalisation, young people at the peripherals of formal processes of engagement.

"That is why it is important, for us to strategise within our country and work together to face the challenges across the continent. If you make a change, you will open the doors to many more and the transformation that we seek will happen. We have a programme on youth engagement across the continent. This is very important to us. This is a convergence and it is not only needed in the country. It is a convergence that is also needed at the pan-African level.

Head of DFID Nigeria office, Ms Debbie Palmer was optimistic that with the character, competence, and capacity of getting ready to run in Nigeria's 2019 elections, it was about political participation. It was about the young people and the future of Nigeria"

Honourable Nnenna Ukeje, member, House of Representatives, who was pessimistic on the level of women participation in the Nigerian political space said "I understand how you feel because when I ran, 12 years ago, for the House of Representatives, I was young as well. But the difference is that I was a double minority; I was young and I am a woman. When I look into this hall, I was able to see just a sprinkling of women and I have that dejavu feeling that the boys have not brought the girls, even as we seek inclusion."

"But let me also say that Nigeria is today a very dangerous place to live in. It is reputed to be the third most terrorised country in the world. It is said that Nigeria is Number 11 in human development index from the bottom. They say it is the 9th most dangerous place for a woman to live in and they say 152 out of 152 is Nigeria's commitment to closing the gap of inequality. But then, it is said 50 per cent of our population is the young people and so 50 per cent of our population of 200 million people means that you, the youths, are 100 million and that were you to move into a country, you would be the 10th most populous country in the world. So, that is the strength of your numbers.

Let me say that, with all these bleak statistics, there is hope. Everybody says Nigeria is a country of great challenges, but we are also in a country of even greater potentials. The potentials lie with this generation. What this does is that as huge as these our challenges are, it would take innovations and it would take a lot of initiatives and I can see the initiatives in the youths. But let also say this to you: it is up to you to take the walk in the park.

Hon David Ombugadu, member, House of Representatives and PDP governorship candidate, Nasarawa State said "I am standing here because I won an election in 2011 and 2015. Currently, I have a beautiful mandate; a mandate by the people of my state to represent them as the next governor of my state in 2019.

"I have a strong faith and I want to use that to officially invite you because I am going to win the election in 2019. This is not because of me, but because I know that the path to winning an election is that I started with focus and determination. To win election, you only need the people; you must set your agenda to win an election. We are not talking about young people in governance just because of our age but because of the impacts we are determined to make to be able to make a difference"

Stating some of his achievements, he told the youths that he drilled 230 boreholes in three LGAs in his constituency, a feat yet unsurpassed

When you ask what are the secrets and what made it possible for me to win election in Nasarawa State, I will tell you this: I started from the University of Jos. I believe in humanitarian service. For you to lead the people, you must be ready to learn, you must be ready to listen and you must be ready to lead your people. I won election because I was able to mobilise my people.

There are principles of good governance that you must be ready to work with. These are accountability, transparency and inclusiveness. You must be able to have this strong commitment to sacrifice. You must have a blueprint Honourable Francesca Oteng Mensah, youngest member of the 7th Parliament of Ghana who won election in 2016 at the age of 23, gathering the highest number of votes charged the young candidates to focus more on self-development, which is branding.

"When it comes to branding, we all have our unique talents and strength. You ask yourself what is your strength and what is so different about you that the other does not have.

She charged the young candidates to know their Electoral Law

"Start to read it and get familiar with it because it is going to be your tool. On the day of election, you might be confronted with certain challenges. If you don't know your Electoral Law, you might not be able to challenge some things that may happen.

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