By Udora Orizu
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, has said that relegating Nigerian youths to the background by governments is inimical to the national development of the country being the most critical segment of any society.
The Speaker stated this while delivering a keynote address in a webinar for the commemoration of the 2020 International Youth Day, organised by the Office of the Speaker and the Nigerian Youth Parliament.
He said political leaders must act now to dismantle those practices and systems that serve only to exclude young people from political participation, or that limit them to operating on the fringes as foot soldiers in the battle for spoils.
Gbajabiamila, while advocating a more comprehensive engagement of the Nigerian youth by the government at all levels, also called on the youths to show greater interest in government and governance.
He said one of the most effective means of participating in government by the youths is to constantly engage their representatives in the legislature at all levels.
According to him, “In his lifetime, President Nelson Mandela of South Africa, asked of citizens and policymakers thus: We must recognize the contributions young people make to our society. We must build upon the imagination, energy, vibrancy and talents of these our precious national assets.
“This is an obvious imperative, more so in a country like ours with a massive and ever-growing youth bulge. Yet, often when I imagine what it must feel like to be a young person coming of age in Nigeria today, I think about the challenges that limit promise. Our country will not reach its full potentials until governments at all levels learn to engage with the changing values, needs, and expectations of Nigeria’s youth.
“All our dreams of prosperity hinge on our ability to provide the physical infrastructure, the legal framework, the cultural and social support required to unleash the innovative potential of our young people. To achieve this sort of profound transformation of our governance, all of us in government and politics must commit to opening the political space to allow for greater participation by our nation’s youth.”
The Governor of Imo State, Hope Uzodinma; former Governor of Bauchi State, Mohammed Abubakar; Minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen; as well as the Minister of Sport and Youth Development, Sunday Dare, who all participated in the webinar, also urged the youths to show more interest in national development.
In another webinar organised by the youth wing of the Nasrul-Lahi-L-Fatih Society (NASFAT) as part of their programme for the International Youth Day, Gbajabiamila charged Nigerian youths to get more involved in politics.
He said the legislative arm of government has done its own part by passing the ‘Not Too Young to Run Bill’, adding that the young ones should take advantage of it.
Responding to a question on the call to have a limited age for those that run for political offices as obtained in the civil service, Gbajabiamila said it is a good idea but that it has to be in line with the constitution.
He said Nigerians should be more concerned about merit so as not to discriminate against any segment of the society.
Speaking on the issue of climate change, he said the House is greatly concerned about the issue and that a law on that will be worked on by the House soon.