President of the Nigerian Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, has said that giving young persons the opportunity to participate in leadership would prove a pragmatic step towards achieving peace and good governance in societies.Saraki made this assertion in his key note address at the African Regional Conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Young Parliamentarians Forum (YPF) at the National Assembly Complex, Abuja.
Commenting on the theme of the conference, “Empowering Youth: Enhancing Political Participation for more inclusive and Peaceful Societies”, the Senate President described the topic as strategic in enhancing the development of nations within the IPU.He pointed out that the effort of Nigeria’s 8thNational Assembly through the conference, was geared towards creating the needed consciousness on the need to facilitate youth inclusiveness in governance, so as to achieve global peace.In his words, he said, “I cannot agree more on the strategic importance of the theme of this Conference in national development of our countries.” The Senate President enthused that the presence of the young parliamentarians was to the National Assembly, an undeniable justification of the resolve of the Nigerian national Parliament to take a confident walk on the trail of achieving socio-economic and political inclusion of the Nigerian youth and a collaborative effort that is crucial to achieving good governance and development.
Dr. Saraki further held that inclusiveness as it relates to the theme of the conference, is a panacea for achieving peaceful societies; warning however, that where injustice, poverty and lack of political will for reform are paramount,
political engagement and inclusiveness of the youth would achieve very little or nothing at all. He noted that the agitations of young members of the National Assembly, youth groups and Civil Society Organizations for the inclusion of young persons in leadership and in the decision making process, is not just one of those instruments adopted by pressure groups to attract attention but a genuine demand for initiating and sustaining good governance and development. He went further to state that because the agitations were expressed in the form of request for the reduction in the age qualification for running for public offices, the leadership of the National Assembly sees it as an opportunity to change the leadership temperament in developing societies, an opportunity to prepare for the future of Africa as a socio-economically and politically developed continent. Dr. Saraki also expressed personal gladness that the National Assembly reduced the age qualification for running for public office to as low as 25 years and further shared the optimism that it will be enshrined in the Constitution after the entire amendment process.
The Senate President told the young parliamentarians that the National Assembly was more committed to enacting legislations and giving legislative backing to policies that would eradicate poverty, exhume and expunge injustice in the society and help in the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He bewailed the culture of sight tight political leadership in the continent. According to Saraki, “ obviously in Africa, the concentration of political leadership must shift from playing ‘politics of perpetuation’ to developing the education sector,
building a sustainable, localised and industrialized economy that can create jobs for the teeming population of Africa’s youth.”
Also speaking at the occassion, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, expressed deep concerns at the growing political insecurity and increased violent extremism in Africa. He lamented that Africa is in dire need of selfless service and therefore, challenged African youths to prepare themselves to ensure good governance on the continent. The speaker said that the rising political insecurity, violent extremism and crises ravaging Africa is another issue that should be of concern to them as lawmakers. He urged the participants at theConference to carefully examine the relationship between youth unemployment/ underemployment and upsurge in criminal activities, extremism and armed conflict on the continent.
Hon. Dogara equally craved the indulgence of delegates and other participants at the Conference to not only proffer solutions to the challenges raised, but as Members of Parliaments and drivers of positive change, go back to their different countries with the hunger and spirit of pressing for domestication and optimal implementation of the outcomes of the deliberations at the Conference”.
According to him, issues such as youth engagement and building peaceful societies, countering violent extremism, countering poverty and economic marginalisation as well as eliminating inequalities and promoting good governance must be addressed for parliamentarians to meet the yearnings of the people. The Speaker
IPU Regional Conference of Young Parliamentarians of Africa: Youth Inclusiveness As Panacea For Peace and Good Governance. He urged the youths to think on how best to provide selfless leadership in their countries, stressing that it was pointless to fight for a political position unless one has the competence to perform in it. He charged the youth to leverage technology to proffer solutions to Africa’s problems, with every sense of urgency.
Dogara observed that Africa has the fastest growing youth population in the world and called on all levels of government to develop programmes for their political participation and also warned that failing to do the needful in this regard would lead to dire social and political consequences. He admonished young persons to be sensitive to the fragile nature of democracy and refuse to be used for political thuggery. While promising the Nigerian parliament’s continued support to youth forums in the country, Dogara urged other African parliaments to support the resolutions of the Conference. He
encouraged the youth present at the Conference to build sustainable forces within their networks so as to be able to address the retrogression affecting the African continent.
In his welcome speech, Chairman of the Young Parliamentarians Forum of Nigeria and a member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Raphael Igbokwe, advised Nigerian youths to reject people aged 35 years and above as their party leaders in the forthcoming conventions of political parties.
Igbokwe who is popular for his strong support for the “Not Too Young to Run” Bill in the House of Representatives said, “in Nigeria, as we approach the convention process for political parties, we urge forced striving to be put to election or appointment of people as youth. Any person above 35 years shall be resisted and Nigerian youths shall mobilise against such political party”.
According to Igbokwe, there cannot be strong democracy, lasting peace or sustainable development without the contribution of young people who according to him “represent a major segment of the population in many African countries”. He argued that the legislative and government policy response to the involvement of young people in violence and conflict should not be reduced to merely security and military response.
In his remarks, the Secretary-General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), Mr Martins Chugong, urged that African youths must participate in the political process of their countries, stressing that Africa is best positioned to be the leader of the world in international politics