The Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila has advocated for a more comprehensive engagement of the Nigerian youth by government at all levels, warning that relegating the Nigerian youth to the background by the governments is inimical to the national development of the country being the most critical segment of any society.
The Speaker, while delivering a keynote address in a webinar for the commemoration of this year’s International Youth Day, organised by the Office of the Speaker and the Nigerian Youth Parliament, also noted that the Nigerian youth need to show greater interest in government and governance.
Governor of Imo State, Hope Uzodinma, former Governor of Bauchi State, Mohammed Abubakar, Minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen as well as the Minister of Sport and Youth Development, Sunday Dare, who all participated in the webinar also urged the youth to show more interest in national development.
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According to Gbajabiamila, one of the most effective means of participating in government by the youths is to constantly engage their representatives in the legislature at all levels.
He said: “In his lifetime, President Nelson Mandela of South Africa, asked of citizens and policymakers thus: ‘
‘”We must recognize the contributions young people make to our society. We must build upon the imagination, energy, vibrancy and talents of these our precious national assets.”‘
Gbajabiamila added that: “This is an obvious imperative, more so in a country like ours with a massive and ever-growing youth bulge. Yet, often when I imagine what it must feel like to be a young person coming of age in Nigeria today, I think about the challenges that limit promise.
“Our country will not reach its full potentials until governments at all levels learn to engage with the changing values, needs, and expectations of Nigeria’s youth.
“All our dreams of prosperity hinge on our ability to provide the physical infrastructure, the legal framework, the cultural and social support required to unleash the innovative potential of our young people.
“To achieve this sort of profound transformation of our governance, all of us in government and politics must commit to opening the political space to allow for greater participation by our nation’s youth.
“Political leaders must act now and consistently to dismantle those practices and systems that serve only to exclude young people from political participation, or that limit them to operating on the fringes as foot soldiers in the battle for spoils”.
Governor Uzodinma said the Nigerian youths, being the hope of the country must not miss their steps towards nation-building because doing so would spell doom for the country.
The Minister of Women Affairs noted that it is incumbent on the youths to take up the issue of gender-based violence as a national question.
Tallen, who was represented by her Special Assistant (Technical), Joan Idonije urged Nigerian youths in communities and schools to establish advocacy groups against rape and other gender-based violence.
In another webinar organised by the youth wing of the Nasrul-Lahi-L-Fatih Society (NASFAT) as part of their programme for the International Youth Day, Gbajabiamila, who had earlier sent a video message to Nigerian youth, charged them to get more involved in politics.
He said the legislative arm of government has done its own part by passing the Not Too Young to Run Bill, saying the young ones should take advantage of it.
He said the youth should not sit back, fold their arms and expect things to just fall in place, adding that “Let the youth be more proactive and be more engaged.”
“The young ones have so much to contribute to the development of this country. We must all get involved in politics. We play politics everywhere. So, everybody should get involved.
“The youth must put some action into it. There shouldn’t be a nonchalant attitude on the part of the youth. Let the young ones take charge. Let’s take those little steps that will take us to the Eldorado.”
Responding to a question on Diaspora voting, Gbajabiamila said it is a great idea to have Nigerians living in other countries vote during an election, but he cautioned that the country must get her elections back home right before thinking of Diaspora voting.
On the call to have a limited age for those that run for political offices as obtained in the civil service, Gbajabiamila said it is a good idea but that it has to be in line with the constitution.
He said Nigerians should be more concerned about merit so as not to discriminate any segment of the society.
Speaking on the issue of climate change, Gbajabiamila said the House is greatly concerned about the issue and that a law on that will be worked on by the House soon.