Why has the inclusion of youths in electoral process being overlooked? What are the strategies to make sure political spaces are created for the youths in Nigeria?
Young people are often excluded or overlooked as political candidates. Politics is typically regarded as a space for politically experienced men, and while women are often disadvantaged in accumulating experience to run for office, young people are systematically marginalized because of their young age, limited opportunities, and projected lack of experience.
Recognizing the potential of youths in electoral process, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) developed its first-ever Youth Strategy (2014–2017), called “Empowered Youth, Sustainable Future”, in line with the UN System-Wide Action Plan on Youth(2013) which calls on young generations to become more involved and more committed in development processes.
Last year the #NotTooYoungToRun movement started with support from different partners and this year a bill was passed and signed. Now we are talking about creation of more spaces for the youths in electoral process to occupy. On the 5th of July, 2018 at the Strengthening Citizens Engagement in Electoral Process (SCEEP) dissemination event we had a questioning session with Mr. Ezenwa Nwagu, he shared insights on strategies the civic organisations intend to implement to create more spaces for youths in electoral process.
Mr. Ezenwa Nwagu is the Chairperson Partners for Electoral Reform, a consultant for Strengthening Citizens Engagement in Electoral Process (SCEEP) and also a community development expert who has solicited for citizens’ participation in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Here’s what he had to say: take a minute and listen to the audio or you can continue to read through.
A lot of people don’t know what #NotTooYoungToRun is even when you listened to the country director of action aid you’ll also see that even at that level it is not yet understood what that is?
Now the simple thing #NotTooYoungToRun sucks to address was constitutional limitations for youths in electoral process to aspire in politics, before now the constitution criminalized aspiration, so what does it mean?
Until I am 30 even if I am 29 and I have double PHD, I cannot say I want to run for house of representative. So the only thing you can compare to #NotTooYoungToRun is the struggle for independence and so when people try to reduce you and say it has happened before, Gowon has ran, no, Gowon was a cubist, these are cubists’, they are not democratic.
In a democracy, your constitution made by so-called citizens removed the right of people to run if they belong to certain age bracket so that was what was removed, even that was a compromise.
#NotTooYoungToRun as it is is a compromise, because there is nothing biologically. Nothing physio-nominally, that says if I can vote for you at 18, that I should not say I want to run for office at 18 so what you saw was a compromise. In many other jurisdictions, 23 year olds are in senate in Australia.
So as it is what are the civic organizations doing to address the compromise?
There is a generation, I have said so that in the celebration of #NotTooYoungToRun, I have made it very clear that the generation that would accuse us of compromise are the younger people.
Scandinavian countries are talking about reducing even the age of voting. Norway has reduced the age to 15. My daughter and son at the age of 14, they are already posing questions that some of us cannot answer and then you are even depriving them, so what am I saying?
It is a struggle to expand the democratic space, it will continue as we realize how much the space is constricted, we will continue to work to expand it.
Just one more question, so as a key stakeholder in civic organizations and the movement that they planned to change in your opinion, what really, how do you see the impact of SCEEP as a program?
Oh, SCEEP project is phenomenal, SCEEP is one thing, the community charter, it is phenomenal, it is not been done anywhere so just take that alone, in 180 communities that citizens would have a document with which they can engage their leaders, you can’t reduce its impact.
Thank you so much for your time.