Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Chief Sunday Dare, has expressed that Nigerian youths cannot be ignored anymore in the politics and governance of the country. He added that these young people are increasingly and actively influencing the course of the nation. The minister stated these while rendering his keynote address at the African/National Youth Day celebration which was held in Abuja. The theme of the occasion was “Breaking Barriers to Meaningful Participation and Inclusion in Advocacy.” However, its sub-theme was “Bridging the Intergenerational Gap to Harness Youth Potentials.”
Dare revealed that the Federal Government’s youth policy seeks to ensure a progressive and substantive inclusion of young people in political and decision-making processes at all levels in the country. He acknowledged that there has been a global shift to youth inclusion in governance. Consequently, Nigeria with its teeming youth population cannot be an exception, he says. He said that young people have been shaping social and economic innovations, challenging social norms and values, and breaking new grounds. He also mentioned that the connectedness granted by the internet has allowed them to influence the situation of things even from remote locations.
From End SARS to a clamor for a new party candidate.
Since 2017, young people in Nigeria started protesting the alleged illegal extortion, arrest, torture and killing of youths in Nigeria by the infamous (SARS) Special Anti-Robbery Squad, which was attached to the Nigerian Police Force. Youths, especially young men, reported being profiled and targeted. They reported being harassed and unlawfully frisked at gunpoint. Some also reportedly said that they were taken to ATM points to withdraw cash before being freed. Some have also reported that family and friends suddenly went missing after an encounter with the squad. This set off a series of protests, majorly online.
In 2020, the youths were truly tired of the brutality meted out by the squad and the rest of the armed service in the country. For several weeks, youths gathered en masse and protested at different places. The most notables of those places are at the Lekki Toll Gate (Victoria Island, Lagos), Alausa (Ikeja, Lagos), and Eagle Square (Abuja). These protests shook the nation, traffic stood still, businesses in affected areas paused. Particularly, the Lekki Toll Gate was blocked by protesters and the management of the toll failed to generate any income during this period.
Failure to achieve more with the protest resulted in interest in politics.
In an anti-climactic turn of event, the nationwide protests morphed into a violent array of events. First, there was an alleged shooting of protesters by the Nigerian Army at the Lekki Toll Gate. Also, thugs and looters had invaded the streets, causing mayhem. It was safe to say that while there was rest for several months after this incident, the youth felt that the protests were a failure and they needed to do more to have lasting solutions.
This necessitated their move into politics. Majority of those who had had a part in the protest have pitched their support for the Labour Party presidential candidate, Mr. Peter Obi, who was the former governor of Anambra State. Initially, he was in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) while the youth also protested that he be given the ticket to contest the presidency. A few days to the PDP primaries, Mr. Obi changed his party and joined the Labour Party.
The minister says the youth face many challenges.
Chief Dare noted that the Nigerian youth face many obstacles, some of which include discrimination, marginalization, and lack of access to opportunities and voice on decision-making. However, in an amazing move, Mr. Obi has had massive support from the youth who believe that this is one of the ways to influence happenings in the country. It is therefore right that the influence of youths in politics and the administration of the country is not belittled. Rather, it should be encouraged because the country needs all hands-on deck to salvage the situation.