As the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), prepares for its national congress, JOHN OBA urges political parties to develop appropriate framework for effective governance and management of varying interests within the political space where the youth is in majority.
The importance of developing the potentials of youth has been at the fore front of global development debates since 1985 when the United Nations designated the international year of the youth. The adoption of the African youth charter by the African Union in May 2006, also underscored the very critical and vital importance the continental body attaches to the role of youth in promoting participatory democracy, peace and development in the African continent.
The unprecedented attention generated on issues affecting the youth in recent times has carved out education, employment, poverty, drug abuse, health and environment, juvenile delinquency, leisure time activities, girls and young women empowerment, participation in governance and globalization, conflict prevention and inter-generational relations as priority.
Among these key areas, youth participation in governance has been generating serious concerns considering the fact that involving the youths in decision making process will further enhance their faith and believe in the process of governance where decisions that impact on the life of the entire society is taken.
It is generally agreed that attempting to address these needs is the pre-requisite for unlocking and unleashing the potentials of the youth for the attainment of peace and development. This has raised the need for concerted efforts and commitments from governments and all other key stakeholders in creating enabling environment for all youth development and support programmes and implementation. Unfortunately, efforts in this regard have been grossly inadequate, thereby making any form of attention extended to addressing youths issue seem a favour.
One would no doubt accept the fact that neglect of youth policy is largely responsible for the crisis facing the youth in the society today. No doubt, the development of the society depends much on the quality of its manpower, the bulk of which the youth represents. A vibrant youthful population has the capacity to accelerate creativity, which in turn generate opportunities through various commercially viable knowledge-based enterprises capable of increasing mass production and empowerment opportunities.
It has now become pertinent to approach youth development and policy implementation in a more coordinated and pragmatic manner, where all stakeholders will be mobilised and accommodated to play important role in addressing the deficiencies in policy formulation, analysis and planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. The high rate of unemployment/underemployment, involvement in political and socially motivated conflicts, armed robbery, terrorisms and kidnapping, ravaging impact of HIV/AIDS among the youths etc are symptoms of the gross abuse of the instruments of youth development policy and lack of appropriate positive perception about the role of youth in the society.
Since it is only government decision that touches or impact the lives of people either positively or negatively, government, as an institution, must therefore lead the way in identifying these issues, putting the appropriate infrastructures in place, creating the enabling socio-political and economic environment, bringing the stakeholders together and sourcing the funds and appropriate channel for the implementation of all decisions aimed at addressing issues concerning the wellbeing of the youth in general.
And since political parties are the recruitment centres for all those aspiring to play a role in governance at all levels of the society, issues impinging on its credibility and integrity to throw up good and well-informed leaders should be identified and properly addressed. Considering the critical role of youth on the life of a nation and its capacity to destabilise the political space, the political party must, as a matter of responsibility create strategic lifeline for youth empowerment through effective development of a platform for mobilisation, empowerment and for the overall transition of young persons into successful adult, good citizens. Nigerian parties must blend their vision for youth development with the overall plans for the development of the country and this must be done through mobilisation of ideas from the professional members who would conduct an evaluation of the state of the nation.
This must be done vis- a vis the situation of the youth with a view to articulating appropriate strategies for boosting the capacity of the party in addressing all the challenges facing the nation and the youth in particular.
Going by the situation in Nigeria and with the National convention of the Peoples Democratic Party in sight, attention has been focused on what the incoming party officials plan for the nation at this trying period of our history. Before now, so many have shifted blames to the party for disconnecting itself from governance after every election. This situation has reduced the ability of the party to be effectively engaged to play its crucial role in supporting the government to develop and implement its programmes in line with the party’s vision and manifesto.
This has resulted in low in public confidence and trust for the party that has been at the helms of affairs since the inception of the present democratic dispensation in the nation. While one cannot totally blame the PDP for this, one also compelled to recognise the fact that the inability to properly engage the party in governance may be due to the fact that issues-based politics is still evolving and this may take some time to get to the desired standard.
It is to be note that the party cannot boast of any vision for the overall development of the nation talk less of paying attention to plights of the youth in particular.
The importance of this is that it will encourage meaningful contributions to the overall vision of the party and a reflection of this will be seen on the state of the nation. Therefore, matured political party is the cornerstone for any form of development and efforts to boost both government institutions and individual capacities to develop solutions to some of the challenges facing the society. By implication, every party must pay attention to its organisational development and effective communications among its diverse membership and other partners.
Also very important is the critical nature and channels of communicating of party messages, programmes, plans, actions and policy issued development without diminishing evolving mutual cooperation and partnership with all other stakeholders and the need to build a pool of well informer representatives of the people who are well connected with the needs and aspirations of the society.
The challenge of putting youth at the centre of development process and strategies should be seen from the perspective of the challenge, two decades ago, putting women and gender issues on the global development agenda was prominent. Today, it is no more fashionable to solve the problems of developing countries without focusing on the role of women. A similar paradigm shift is required with respect to youth development and the political party must ensure that young persons must be accommodated within the mainstream of the political party politics where critical decision affecting them are dealt with instead of remaining ignorant of happenings in the political arena and watching from the side. This therefore require the need to evolve a robust political education and civic education to mobilise the youths to see need for their active participation as government decision are political and so their involvement will make much difference.
This brings to mind the upcoming elections into the various offices of the PDP at the forthcoming national congress, it is noteworthy that many young politicians have also developed thick skin and courage to be part of the political process in line with the general view that being part of the process is the first step to resolving the critical issues facing the youth. The creation of a political office especially for the youth is indeed, a commitment of the party to accommodate the youth in the decision making process, though other parties have done the same. Already there are three people competing for the post of National Youth Leader of the party at the forthcoming National convention. While this is commendable, the questions that arisen are, “what plans do these aspiring youth leaders have for the youth? What is their capacity to effectively mobilise the party and other stakeholders to partner in resolving these issues?” It is important for them to exhibit better understanding of issue affecting this sector and develop clear focus to mobilised the party and its leadership to the plights facing the youth sector without being intimidated by the resources and attitudes of the politicians who may barred them from participating in key decision making and in other critical roles. And without been a trouble to the party like the youth leader of the South Africa ruling party. To achieve this, participating youth politicians must display highest levels of loyalty, trust and must eschew all kinds of violence, mud slinging and character assassination that may discouraged many other competent young persons from fully engaging in politics.
Among the contending young politicians for the position of National Youth Leader is Hon. Solomon Bamola Gowin, who recently unveil his vision tagged, Youth-Rural Empowerment Advocacy Project (YouthREAP) where he stated that issues on youth development will be brought to the table in developing approaches of investing in fellow youth as potentials for future development with special focus on employment and entrepreneurship, governance and political advocacy, where youth contribution towards better governance will be enhanced by promoting increased youth participation in politics at all levels. Others are health, communication and information, environment and resource management. These are commendable initiatives if it will be implemented when he finally occupies the office without letting money and politicking obstruct it.
As laudable as this initiative may seems, more so because in the history of contesting for this post in PDP since its formation, this is the first time someone is taking the time to effectively articulate the youth situation and proffering clues from the party perspectives. This initiative, no doubt, has sent the right signals to both PDP and other political parties while providing new opportunity to challenge their thinking to effectively discharge their mandate in a more coordinated manner to the youths such that they will begin to see themselves as vital components of the society willing to make meaningful contributions to the development of the Nation rather than been mere stoogies.