Octagon Rooms

The Need for more Young People in Politics

Posted on: August 15th, 2016 by The Moderator No Comments

Welcome to The Octagon.

See the profile of our guests in this Octagon room conversation.

The Octagon: We appreciate your taking time out to join this chat session which will end at 4pm. We have two moderators in the room who will only offer guidance where necessary. Please feel free to openly share your thoughts and experiences.

Let’s begin with some introductions before going into the discussion. Can everyone let us know who they are and share a bit about what they do? Thank you.

 

Kingsley: My name is Kingsley Ewetuya and I am a Project Engineer and Interface Manager in what’s left of the Oil Industry.

Ishan: Hi everyone. My name is Ishan. I’m a strategy and business development consultant. I have spent a good part of the last 11yrs working in the political sphere, more specifically in and around the presidency.

Seun: I am Oluseun Onigbinde, Lead Partner, BudgIT

Dare: Hello everyone, I am Dare Aliu, I am a power Engr. Team Lead of power at Honeywell group and EA to the chairman. I am passionate about the possibility of a Nigeria where things actually work . I have narrowed that passion to seeing the power sector work.

Banks: My name is Bamikole Omishore, better known as Banks. Special Assistant on New Media and Advocacy to Senate President. Strategist by volition . Been working with Senator Saraki for 5 years. I like to think of my self more as a serial investor.

Gbenga: I’m Gbenga Olorunpomi. A Digital Marketer and political animal. I currently serve at the pleasure of the Kogi State Governor as his Senior Special Assistant on New Media. I’m an incurable optimist and a lover of innovation and dancing.

Tega: I’m O’tega, a passionate Nigerian citizen who tries to know a bit about everything. I’m currently the Group Head for Corporate Communications at one of Nigeria’s largest homegrown conglomerates, BUA Group.

Mark Amaza: *

 

The Octagon: Thanks for the introduction.

Having been taught that democracy is “government of the people, by the people and for the people”, one of the major challenges facing democracy this century is how to translate citizen demands into responsive and accountable politics.

Young people between the ages of 15 and 25 constitute a fifth of the world’s population and yet decreasing levels of youth participation in elections and shrinking membership in political parties. Surveys have shown that whilst trust of government is low, trust in public services is generally high amongst young people.

Why don’t we have enough young people in Politics? Has Nigerian politics discouraged the inclusion of young people? Is It important to have more young people in government? How can we get more Young people interested in holding political office?

 

Banks: First we have to clearly define what group or who qualifies as young/youth. I honestly think Nigeria has a different definition for youth than the rest of the world.

Tega: By young people do you mean those aged 15 – 25 like you initially pointed out or are we expanding that to include those aged 25 – 35 years (or even 45 like some of our political parties’ youth reps)?

Dare: “While recognizing that member states use different chronologies to define youth, the United Nations defines youth as persons between the ages of 15 and 24 with all UN statistics based on this range, the UN states education as a source for theses statistics. The UN also recognizes that this varies without prejudice to other age groups listed by member states such as 18-30. A useful distinction within the UN itself can be made between teenagers (i.e. those between the ages of 13 and 19) and young adults (those between the ages of 18 and 32).The UN also states they are aware that several definitions exist for youth within UN entities such as Youth Habitat 15-32 and African Youth Charter 15-35.”

Gbenga: Young people will only participate in activities they find interesting, Profitable and appealing. I think the brand of politics and the quality of leadership before 2011 wasn’t exciting or inviting enough to attract the attention of young people. I don’t think we give enough credit to those who dreamt up and actualized Team Ribadu in 2010. That movement was built and sustained by social media. It had representation in every sate of the country and all the participants shared stories and encouraged each other. Many are still in touch today, 6 years after the launch of the movement. The perceived competence and incorruptibility of the man at the centre and the collective anger at the status quo ensured that young professionals gave up their time and resources to support a political cause. True, many had diverse ideologies and wanted different things but we all agreed that corruption had to go and professionalism had to return to leadership. I often imagine if we had allowed that group to grow beyond that man.

Tega: Haha. Gbenga, people must eat.

Gbenga: You’re right. Poverty and helplessness also play a role. So, what we need is a system that quickly empowers and educates the masses in the shortest time.

Seun: Poverty is a key challenge and politicians use it as leverage. This makes our politics more expensive.

Ishan: I agree with Gbenga. The short cut is a mass enlightenment campaign. The more people that are aware and knowledgeable, the more of a chance guys like you will be elected to office.

Kingsley: There are two institutional barriers to entry, that need to be uprooted.

  1. Financial: purchasing even the registration forms is independently unaffordable for most people. Even our President said he had to take a loan. We need campaign finance reform
  2. Political: Two subsets here: We have a policy of indigenization which makes it almost impossible for people to seek office in their state of residency rather than origin. That needs to go.

Also, there is no allowance for independent candidacy. This means that the political future youths are subject to the whims of party powers who simply aren’t ready to let go.

Dare: Kingsley, thanks for highlighting those two points. However I must reiterate that finance is the key factor that prevents the youth from engaging in active politics. The United States which represents the most advanced democracy has done its best limit the effect of finance in elections but still have a long way to go. Until we can reasonably separate entry into the political sphere and deep pockets, the youth will remain at the mercy of the older generation.

Seun: Our brand of politics is too expensive and does not appreciate ideas but slogan. This is why I think young people find it hard to enter politics.

Tega: Putting this issue at the doorstep of finance especially is one way we as young people ‘lie’ to ourselves and exclude us from the political process. Who says you have to be ‘elected’ to actually make your voice heard and impact felt in Nigerian politics – as an insider or otherwise?

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