Repositioning Nigerian Youth Summit

“…The United Nations is doing a considerable amount to invest in youth. We are acquiring knowledge and best practices about the issues affecting young people today. And we are making greater efforts to engage youth in our negotiating and decision-making processes. Still, I do not think we have gone nearly far enough…”

 

– Secretary-General’s Remarks: General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Youth, 2011

Nigeria’s robust youth environment and increasing youth population makes her one of the most youthful populations in the world. The National Youth Policy defines youth as all young persons of ages 18 – 35. With over 60% of the population, Nigeria’s burgeoning youth population provides a huge social, economic and political capital required to drive socio-political and economic development.

Nigeria’s greatest asset lies in its youthful demography, yet, there have been little or no gains towards furthering the youth agenda and harnessing the energy, resilience and commitment of Nigeria’s youth.Youth are the engine room of every nation. The similitude of the importance of youth to nation building could be likened to a car engine, without which, vehicles can’t move, so also without youth, a nation cannot thrive.

The role of the youth in nation building is too relevant to be jettisoned – they serve as the back-bone of a society. They can make or mar a nation based on what is programmed in them. They are a feedback system because if they are well equipped and garnished with the best available resources, they give a positive outcome, but, if otherwise, negative outcome should be expected. Youth constitute not only a formidable demographic force, but also make up the next generation of parents, workers and leaders. Their wellbeing, therefore, has implications not only for their own lives, but also for the societies they will build and maintain.

The role of Nigerian youth cannot be underestimated in nation building. Nigerian youths from time immemorial have been contributing their quota towards national development. The likes of Sir Tafawa Balewa, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Herbert Macaulay fought tooth and nail in their youthful days to deliver the political independence we all enjoy today as a nation. They can be a creative force, a dynamic source of innovations, and they have undoubtedly, throughout history, participated, contributed, and even catalyzed important changes in political systems, power-sharing dynamics and economic opportunities

Participation is a fundamental right. It is one of the guiding principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that has been reiterated in many other Conventions and Declarations. Through active participation, youth are empowered to play a vital role in their own development as well as in that of their communities, and the nation at large. Currently, there’s an alarming increase in the indulgence of Nigerian youth in social vices, such as political thuggery, kidnapping, armed robbery, militancy and terrorism, amongst others.

There’s a dire need to develop more effective programs that can impact positively on youth; empower and reposition them as national assets, rather than national liabilities.

Since inception and over a decade of work in Nigeria, AfriGrowth Foundation has pursued a positive approach to youth development that applies holistic strategies to the complex set of youth needs. This approach recognizes that we need to ensure that the youth develop the skills, values, and attitudes they need to succeed today, not just tomorrow.

The approach also recognizes that young people are not problems to be solved, but problem solvers themselves. This paradigm emphasizes that youth are assets to the nation and active agents of change who can contribute their energy, idealism, and insights to a nation’s growth and progress. They are not merely passive recipients of programs and support. Other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Nigeria have also initiated and executed laudable youth-focused programs aimed enhancing their capacity and empowering them to participate fully in nation building, via several sectors of endeavor.

These NGOs have equally been most instrumental in creating and fostering structures and mechanism, which advance youth participation in nation building. Several programs and initiatives have been designed and executed, aimed at empowering youth economically, socially, morally and politically. Even though these laudable programs and initiatives promote youth participation; the overall impact is yet to be felt in Nigeria. Hence the need to redefine and develop new strategies on how to effectively engage youth in current and subsequent programs.

Youth participation in Nigeria remains a subject that defies easy description. What does youth participation mean in different cultures? What inhibits or encourages youth participation? What attitudes do young people and adults hold when it comes to ensuring young people a greater voice in decision making? How does lack of access to technology hinder youth’s ability to participate on a national scale? What lessons have we learned from existing youth participation programs in Nigeria? How can we integrate value reorientation in our youth-focused programs?

How can we effectively ensure participation of youth in the conception, design, planning and implementation of youth-focused programs? These are very important questions for Nigerian NGOs focused on youth development. There is a need for a collective and better understanding of what youth participation involves, how it can be implemented for all youth ages. Participation can be strengthened by including youth in the design, implementation, monitoring, reporting and evaluation of instruments, strategies and programs.

AfriGrowth Foundation, which is in the front line of instituting a course of reflection and focus for renewed action centered on adding values to the lives of Nigerian youth is laying incentives to organize a roundtable strategic session, premised on the discourse of effective youth participation in nation building. This event will involve selected NGOs that have youth-focused programs.