by Oluwatoyin Oladapo
The youth of a Nation are the trustees of posterity – Benjamin Disraeli
What if the economic and social development of every nation were preserved as we would our most cherished possession or business? What if all the energy and zeal we, as youths, channel towards that new idea, innovation, adventure or business is introduced into the development of our nation? What if youths are actually interested in the prosperity of their nation first before the agenda of a particular person or sect of the country?
A third of the global population is made up of adolescents and young adults. More than half of Nigerians are under thirty years of age.This should mean something more than the cliché chants about youths being the leaders of tomorrow. This should mean their participation in the political system of their immediate environment should not go unnoticed. Youths can be leaders now without having to wait till tomorrow. Youth participation in politics will yield ingenuity, innovation, actual implementation of ideas and better qualified candidates.These are qualities of a functional society.
On ingenuity and innovation, youths may not have a monopoly of ideas but invention and creativity are the trademarks of youths. Their ability to think and provide solutions from even mundane activities should not be wasted. Youths are providing relevant services to the economy of Nigeria; a good example of this is in the online service delivery, (Jumia and Okadabooks)
Jumia is a Nigerian online retail company which delivers goods purchased on its platform, across different parts of Nigeria. It currently has a presence in sixteen African countries.
Okadabooks is an online bookstore and library. Books can be read for free or bought on this platform. It showcases new authors as it is also a publishing platform.
These remarkable services which were founded by youths cut across all parts of Nigeria and are easily accessible. These are ideas and services which may have been too ‘risky’ in the past but which have become practically indispensable now. Politics should not be devoid of such significant ideas.
Also, the energy of an average youth is phenomenal. When a youth is passionate about a particular cause, the zest to implement instructions in line with that cause is second to none. Politics needs this energy in ensuring that policies and laws do not remain in a comatose state but are implemented and enforced. It is through this that the development of a nation can be guaranteed. Citizens of that nation are also assured of a working government evident in results. The reverse of failing to channel youth energy into positivity in a political system will result in a stagnant society bordering on decline.
Youths have watched the political scene from the side-lines for quite some time. They can tell competent leaders from the incompetent ones. They can tell those with integrity apart from those without. Now, this is a privilege no other age group can boast of. The older generation only have knowledge of their age group as they have barely seen youths participate actively in politics. Youths have watched both the older generation and theirs as well. This gives a wider range of people to elect from as being able to represent them in public offices. More importantly, this will prevent a recycle of same candidates who have repeatedly failed in public office.
In light of the foregoing, Nigeria stands to gain monumentally in the active positive participation of youths in politics at different spheres/levels. This should start from the grassroots. Since they are arguably believed to be the most easily influenced in terms of elections, then youths can start from there to re-orientate other youths at that level on the importance of leaders with integrity and on the importance of not sacrificing their future for immediate handouts.
Youth involvement in politics does not have to be at only the lofty political offices. They have to play the role of disseminating the right information to the electorate who are key in electing the holders of political offices.
Another important step in youth participation in politics for social re-engineering is abstaining from being used as political thugs. Instances of pre-voting and snatching of ballot boxes will be discarded.This will go a long way in ensuring that free and fair elections are a reality.
Closely related to abstaining from political thuggery is the need to participate in politics by voting the right people into office. Many youths may seem discouraged with the political system as it is today, but the starting point in ensuring that it changes positively is to vote for ideals they believe in as opposed to total non-participation in the voting process. Politics should not be seen as only for the corrupt but a means to an end. The possibility of a better society should be the driving force and focus.
In conclusion, it is important for youths to realise that they are not alone in their quest for a better nation. There are quite a handful of other youths with integrity quietly leading in different spheres of life. These are youths whose track records should be presented as being qualified to achieve this social re-engineering critically needed in Nigeria. The passion for politics the right way can be reignited in the hearts of youths; slowly but surely. No remarkable and lasting progress has ever been a walk in the park. All youths can start now and where they are.