The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon Yakubu Dogara, has said the House will consider lowering the age of eligibility for Nigerians seeking election into political offices in order to allow youths to actively participate in the political process.
This is just as he charged youths to participate more actively in politics by breaking voters’ apathy, and electing leaders who will secure their future and interests.
Speaking during a dialogue with students drawn from universities across the country at the National Assembly, the speaker said, “I am acutely aware that young people often find themselves on the fringes of the political process. We need to develop a structured manner of involving our students and youths in the political process. I think it may not be out of place to lower the age qualification for certain elective offices in the next constitutional amendment exercise.”
Speaking about political apathy among young people, translating to low voters’ turnout, the speaker said this has to change because they play an increased central role in movement for democracy around the globe.
“Many young people are not involved in voting during elections which threatens the representative nature of our democratic institutions,” he noted.
The Speaker added, “This country belongs to you but it’s under the stranglehold of men and women of a generation that has overreached itself. The truth is that nothing will be ceded or conceded to your generation without a fight. In this endeavor, your voices mean nothing if you don’t have the votes. Therefore, all students in Nigeria must not only register to vote and cast their votes during elections, they must also ensure that their votes count. There is no other better way by which you will earn respect for yourselves and ensure that the gifts you have taken to the university to polish ultimately benefit your generation.”
He, however, cautioned that there must be a balance between involvement in student unionism, activism and academic excellence.
“I believe strongly that the culture of peaceful protest, demonstrations and general activism is not only necessary in a democratic state but is in fact a constitutional right. This ensures accountability of government to the people. Resistance to tyranny, crusade for justice and good governance require courage, patriotism and ideological purity. It was Martin Luther King, Jnr, who said that: “freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed”. Indeed, ‘the man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny’, to paraphrase Prof Wole Soyinka. The culture of protest that I endorse must be uncompromisingly peaceful and non-violent. It must be based on selflessness and not aided by ambition or corruption. It must be for the right reasons and procured only by the purest of motives. It must not be based on propaganda and misinformation. It must be non-partisan. Students should never allow themselves to be used by politicians to score political points or by state or non-state actors to pick sour grapes on their behalf.
“Young students like you possess abundance of passion, drive and the spirit of adventure thus risk taking comes naturally to the young. The idealism of youth must, however, be tempered by the need to excel academically in school. Any student who places activism over academics will sooner than later be left behind by his classmates. You must therefore strike the right balance between activism and academic and social progress.”
The Speaker advised them to pursue their motives with peaceful protest, saying the House will always protect them from victimisation.
“We want to assure all Nigerian students, that the House of Representatives, and indeed the National Assembly as a parliament of the Nigerian people will take right steps to meet most of your demands. We believe that student unionism is a vital training ground for leadership. On your part, you must return to the part of enlightened, peaceful, purposeful and violence – free student unionism and activism.”
Dogara assured them that the House takes youth unemployment in Nigeria as a top priority, which is why as part of the Sectoral Debates of the House of Representatives, it is engaging the executive on how to diversify the economy and create jobs for our people.
“The issues surrounding youth employment are multi-sectoral and must involve many stakeholders – governments, the private sector, educational and training institutions, employers and industries, employees, parents and families, communities, and of course the youth themselves. It is clear that the three Cs – communication, collaboration and coordination – among the various sectors and stakeholders are extremely important to ensure the positive outcomes of any strategy or approach developed and implemented.”
“The House has specifically scheduled debates and interactive sessions with MDAs responsible for job creation and employment in our next Sectoral debates.”
You can read the full address here http://yakubudogara.com.ng/address-at-the-interactive-session-with-students/
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