The International Press Centre (IPC) has held a one-day Inter Party Dialogue on Advancing Youth Participation in Elections in Lagos.
The event which IPC held in partnership with ACTIONAID Nigeria and the UKAID through the Department for International Development (DFID) had a robust youth participation from Lagos and beyond. Over 100 participants comprising youths, representatives of political parties, institutional stakeholders- Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), National Orientation Agency (NOA), the media and related stakeholders attended the dialogue.
The dialogue in furtherance of series of citizens’ engagement and capacity building programmes for community members from 18 communities across six Local Government Areas (LGAs) of Lagos State, namely: Amuwo Odofin, Surulere, Shomolu, Ikorodu, Lagos Mainland and Ifako Ijaiye. IPC is implementing the programme under the Strengthening Citizens Engagement in Electoral Process (SCEEP) project.
Activities under the SCEEP project, which commenced in 2014 in the aforementioned LGAs include voter education and election sensitization programmes, capacity building for community members on citizens’ rights issues, the development of Community Development Charters, training on advocacy skills and community mobilization for development initiatives, budget literacy training, etc.
Aim of the inter-party dialogue was facilitating joint actions for young people (youths) in advancing a more inclusive participation in elections and political governance. The event also focused on enhancing the capacity of youths to actively participate in elections and positively engage the electoral process to take up political spaces in governance.
The dialogue also served as a forum to strengthen the relationship between electoral stakeholders, government and youths in Lagos grassroots communities in playing desired roles in the development process, especially in the electoral and political process of governance.
Moderating the event, seasoned journalist Mr. Ayo Aluko-Olokun, advised Nigerian youths to participate actively and intelligently in the electoral process. Also at the event, Mrs. Ijeoma Okey-Igbokwe, Director, Media, Publicity and Civil Society Issues, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Mr. Waheed Ishola, Lagos State Director of the National Orientation Agency (NOA) addressed the youths in various capacities. Also facilitating at the event were Mrs. Tolulope Aderibigbe who represented Mrs. Hafsat Abiola-Costello, Executive Director of Kudirat Initiative for Democracy (KIND), and Mr. Rotimi Sankore, Editor-In-Chief at the Africa Development Information (Afri-Dev).
Three persons representing political stakeholder groups: Dayo Israel, who contested the Lagos Mainland Local Government chairmanship at the primary election of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Jude Ojo, who contested for the Chairmanship on the platform of the Accord Party and Seni Ajai, Lagos State Secretary of the National Conscience Party (NCP) also gave their goodwill messages and valuable remarks on related issues of youths and elections.
The Guest discussants addressed various sub-themes arising from the main-theme: “Advancing youth participation in elections: Taking up the spaces for electoral position through the rungs”. Mr. Hassan Soweto, rights activist spoke on Advancing an Enabling Environment for the Participation of Youths in Governance; spoke on Role of Local Governments in Governance and Human Development- Why youths should be involved.
It was noted that there are a number of obstacles to youth participation in politics which need to be dismounted. With a population of about 64 million and constituting more than 60% of the voting population, there is a vital need to deepen youth participation in elections in terms of the ideas they are bringing to the table. Youths should not allow themselves to be used in organising or disrupting political rallies.
It was observed that identified obstacles to youth participation in political activities, particularly in contesting for elective positions include the constitutional age set for persons to contest elective positions in Nigeria; monetization of the political landscape such that the political process is expensive and political parties charge so much for forms to contest for elective positions; and the non-acceptance of independent candidature in elections.
Another observation at the event was that women, like youths, were also consigned to the back seat of governance and need to be better represented. It however pointed out that lack of trust in themselves, low self-esteem, lack of self-equipping were obstacles militating against women participation in politics.
It was also noted that other things identified as obstacles to youth and women’s participation in politics and governance are poverty, culture, religion etc.
It was further noted that the lack of proper demographic representation of youths, women and persons living with disabilities are reasons that aid the continuous exclusion of from governance in Nigeria.
It was observed that the most important role Local Government play in any country is civil registration and the failure of local government is a failure of governance in Nigeria.
The event did not end until several recommendations were made. The youths were encouraged to set their political agenda and further strengthen strategies on advancing the “not too young to run” campaign at local and state levels.
They were also advised to organize themselves and converge at a cross- cutting political party conference to address the issues of adequate youth participation in elections.
Women groups were also enjoined to put up more representation in in governance in order to be heard. They were also urged to equip themselves and be confident to be viable for elective positions.
People living with disabilities were also encouraged to continue to participate in the electoral process.