The two major political parties do not appear to be concerned about our young people. Their scramble for power in 2023 has left the young people far behind at a time the world is yearning for the voice of younger people to be heard.
The United Nations has launched a campaign on Wednesday in collaboration with the Youth Envoy to support young people’s political participation and amplify their voices in public life. We are hoping this will sink into the major political parties in Nigeria whose nomination forms are wearing price tags beyond the reach of the young people.
UN Youth Envoy Jayathma Wickramanayake, said “the intergenerational gap in power, influence and trust constitutes one of the biggest challenges of our time.
The Be Seen, Be Heard campaign, which partners with The Body Shop International, seeks to create long-term structural changes that foster the inclusion of youth in decision-making.
“With the climate crisis, global conflict and generational inequalities running rampant, the inputs, perspectives and representation of youth are needed more than ever”, the press release reads.
The campaign seeks to raise the voice of millions of young people in over 75 countries across six continents.
To understand preconceptions and structural barriers preventing young people from participating in public life, the Be Seen Be Heard: Understanding young people’s political participation report, also released on Wednesday, not only presents a snapshot but makes recommendations to address these challenges.
The report supports the fact that there is a chronic lack of faith in political systems but a clear appetite for more youth representation from all age groups.
It details that 82 per cent of people around the world think the political system needs drastic reform to be fit for the future, and nearly 70 per cent feel that young people should have more say.
Three quarters of those under age 30 feel that politicians and business leaders have ‘messed things up’ for people and the planet and are ready for change.
Moreover, two in three people also disagree with the age balance in politics and 8 in 10 uphold that the ideal first-time voting age should be 16 to 18 – even though most countries restrict it to 18 or over.
Recent data shows that although almost half the world’s population is under 30, they make up only 2.62 per cent of global parliamentarians and that the average age of a world leader is 62.
Ms. Wickramanayake underlined the importance of including youth in the decision-making to fight the mistrust towards political institutions and alienation from elected leaders.
“As young people have made abundantly clear through their activism on the streets, in civil society and on social media, they care deeply about the transformational change needed to create more equal, just and sustainable societies,” she said.
The campaign is an opportunity to change and move towards policies that “reflect the priorities of youth, mirror their concerns, and speak their language”.
According to the survey – which covered 26 countries with 27,043 respondents in total, over half of whom were under age 30 – 67 per cent believe in a better future, with 15 to 17-year-olds most optimistic.
And more than two-thirds agree that political systems would be better if there were more opportunities for younger people to have a say in policy development and change.
This campaign recognizes at its core that young people have a vital role to play in the decisions that affect us all.
“As escalating global conflict, the ongoing climate crisis and worsening socio-economic issues continue to plague our world, we increasingly need fresh perspectives to guide transformative political decision-making the breaks beyond the status quo”, the press release adds.
According to the Youth Envoy, young people’s participation in public decision-making could be improved long-term by lowering voting ages; increasing formal youth representation through youth councils, parliaments, or committees; removing barriers for young people to participate in public decision-making; simplifying first-time voter registration; and improving young people’s leadership skills.
The collaboration between the Youth Envoy’s office and The Body Shop means that young people and others will have many routes to participate in the campaign, which will run until mid-2025 in 2,600 stores.
Local campaign activities will also include partnerships with youth-led or youth-focused non-governmental organizations (NGOs), petition opportunities and other actions.
Unless there is a conscious effort in All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to get the younger generation involved in the mainstream activities of the country, the tomorrow people will remain excluded. That will not be good for the future of Nigeria.
The future belongs to the marginalized youth and their children. And, until Nigeria begins now to get it right, it will continue to be visited by the Buharic plague. The only way to contain the plague is for the country to see, and hear more of our young people in all layers of governance.