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Political Process & Urban Youth Development In Niger Delta
At in-dependency in 1960, the Nigerian population was about 50 million. Currently we are an estimate 158 million, meaning that 120 million Nigerians are below the age of 43 years. If those above 60 years are only about 38 million, it therefore means those between the ages of 18- 43 years are the majority. That is about 110 million. Registered voters are currently 130 million according to Electoral Commission of Nigeria, clearly more than half of those eligible to vote are 18 years and above. The pertinent question is therefore: where are the rest of potential voters as out of the 110 million registered voters, only less than 80 million voted in 2007?
The hard fact cannot be bailed out, as more than 142 million people by the Nigerian law are eligible to vote, excluding the ex-convict and the de-franchised.
Then the following ethical summations are put down figuratively:
o 20 million youth aged 18 and above have no Identity cards automatically eliminating them from the voting process.
o A significant number of them have no birth certificates therefore they do not exist.
o Majority (34.3%) of the youth who have votes are apathetic to the whole process. They feel their voting would not make a different.
o For the youth that vote, majority (32 million) vote for the wrong reasons such as: electing leaders from their ethnic groups even though they do not merit, electing those who have dished out the most money, peer pressure and often pressure from one’s family to vote for particular leader as a block.
o A large percentage of the youth watch at the periphery as they are ignorant of the importance of being in political party specifically in the mainstream politics were crucial decisions about a nation are made.
o Civic education has yet to fully incorporated and emphasized that there are youth who are great leaders and merit a chance.
As for those youth in mainstream politics, they face the following:
o Patronage; where senior party members do not create spaces for the youth to play crucial roles in the political parties.
o Lack of clear political party ideology and value system that guides the operation of the party and the conduct of its members indiscriminately especially on age and gender.
o Ethnicity where membership of most political parties is dictated by ethnicity stemming from the founders of the parties or the individuals that are funding it. This has caused chaos, and a lot of heartache for youth who find themselves barred from progressing or participating in crucial roles. The shift of loyalty, distrust, corruption and vertical solidarity determines who gets what within the political parties.
o Gender discrimination has had a negative impact on young ladies within the parties whose participation is limited and their contribution unrecognized. The culture of violence, mud slinging and character assassination has discouraged many competent young ladies from fully engaging in politics.
o Lack of resources, especially funding political activities and maintaining the required mechanisms.
In terms of the employment process, just like the political process and structure development paradigm, young people have the highest rate of unemployment and in many ways are the most vulnerable to the social depredations that are caused by unemployment and poverty. At the same time they are the promise of the future, and failure to invest in the young generation imposes great constraints on the potential for future development. Whether it is investing in the creation of decent work for young people which boosts the economy and lowers the demand for social services, or whether it be supporting peer to peer models of HIV/AIDS education, or supporting youth in creating food security for their community, research has shown that investing in youth brings about healthier youth and healthier communities
STRATEGY AND MOBILISATION FOR YOUTH DEVELOPMENT
The federal Government and its Amnesty group of trustees, and other stakeholders such as NGOs, CLO and other Private donors are a multi-faceted strategy that focuses on recognizing the on-going work of youth on the key urban issues of: economic development; urban peace and conflict; HIV /AIDs; and environmental degradation. These four areas that has become paramount a leverage to resolving the unending national and regional conflicts both religious and economically motivated, that 73% perpetuated by the Youths. The core of the SC strategy is the recognition that youth have the capacity to be meaningfully engaged in urban development programmes. The SC through various youth development initiatives will be a vehicle to mobilize resources to support those most marginalized youth populations in initiating and sustaining youth led programmes.
Creation of urban based youth resource centres that directly support youth led development issues, such as the Youth Development and rehabilitation, a program set up by various states and local government in Nigeria, especially glaring in the Nigeria Delta, Western, Northern and Eastern geopolitical zones of the country. The focus of these hubs will be a space for youth to organize youth-led programmes in the area of economic development, prevention of violence, and delivery of education and services on HIV /AIDs. This strategy is further outlined below.
Training youth as peace builders: The World Youth Report 2009 states that a majority of warfare takes place in developing countries, particularly in Africa, where an estimated 200,000 young soldiers between the ages of 10 and 24 risk their lives in the course of armed conflict willed by adults. Even in countries not plagued by armed conflict, the youth have often been misused in the political arena. While their energy and enthusiasms are powerful tools in promoting social or political issues, they are also vulnerable to being misled and misused, often leading to disruptive results. Youth need to be involved in violence prevention strategies, not just conflict reaction strategies. Youth can take the lead. There is also an implementation strategy through collaboration between Federal government agencies (MYA) and their subs, local and national youth organizations, NGOs and local authorities focused on creating effective and sustainable models for urban youth development and employment in Nigeria.
Plans are now in place to assist in the design of other regions/states of the country since by virtue of its implementation in Niger Delta with the following objectives:
Objective of the SC Youth Centres Project:
– To encourage partnerships with relevant stakeholders in the delivery of youth development;
– To increase knowledge, skills and attitude change of young people;
– To respond to educational, socio-economic, recreational, emotional and psychological needs of young people in an integrated way;
– To encourage youth to have greater ownership of development;
– To offer leadership and mentorship to young people.
Six Key Areas of Intervention:
1. Employment and Entrepreneurship: To build capacity of youth to participate effectively in urban poverty reduction through training and by offering employment opportunities in self-employment, formal and informal sectors.
2. Governance and Advocacy: To enhance youth contribution towards better governance by promoting increased youth participation in local government matters, particularly those concerning youth development.
3. Health: To provide services aimed at preventing and solving reproductive health problems amongst the youth by provision of information, skills training, education on reproductive health, counseling and referral services.
4. Communication and Information: To establish mechanisms to effectively communicate and disseminate information to youth, youth organizations and other partners involved in youth work.
5. Environment and Resource Management: To strengthen youth engagement in the protection and improvement of the environment by promoting their participation in environmental justice and governance initiatives.
Needs for financial support:
– Establish satellite resource centres in informal settlements
– Define and initiate employment creation programmes, micro-credit programmes
– Enable more health services to be offered free
– Build more networks and partnerships both locally and internationally
– Provide the library with books and information
– Provide computers for office work and internet access
– Build employment training programmes including global mentoring and monitoring
– Establish a youth trust/small grants programme for entrepreneurship
This partnership has been constructed in order to learn from each other best practices regarding how to address the diversity of challenges facing youth today in urban communities, systems to enable them to make sustainable decisions, and the inter-generational transfer of values.
THE OBJECTIVE OF YOUTH DEVELOPMENT IN NATION BUILDING
A nation will add a feather to its cap and process of its development will continue if its ambitious, agile, virile and strong youths are guided on the right direction. The youths of a nation are powerful. They are agile and are inclined to work, but it is usually seen that the youths are unable to yield desired results for want of proper guidance.
Consequently, whatever they do neither it gives satisfaction to them nor does it fulfill the needs of the nation. Under these circumstances to speak of the welfare of Youth in Nation Building, and Human Capital Development is meaningless; until priority is giving to its articulate program that will set them in vogue.
The fact is that after independence the successive generations failed to carve the path of progress on right lines, simply because of the innocuous poor articulation of youths in government’s actions to make certain future decisions in terms of continuity. The moral question is, how can a nation be developed if its youths, those who are willing to undertake any kind of work, one would only but imagine how strenuous it will be, if they are not guided properly?
It will ultimately result in a chaotic situation like the one we are faced with, such as the issues of youth restiveness in the Niger Delta and in other parts of Nigeria and Africa. The society is divided and trapped in the cob-web of problems. Self interest has become dominant, corruption is rampant and what alarms us most is that the national character is on decline.
In order to attend to the problem prevalent with youth restiveness and their role in nation building in the region, there is need for overall human capital development. Because development brings together the production and distribution of commodities, and the expansion and use of human capabilities. For youth to lead a long and healthy life there is need for intellectual and socio-economic enlightenment on their rights, thereby creating those articulate acumen to navigate their paths in accessing resources needed for their decent living, and their involvement in Nation Building. This is where investing in human resource development amongst the timid youths of the Niger Delta, as part of the Federal Government’s “Operation Youth for Nation Building” strategy is imperatively of utmost concern and urgency. There is no gain saying nevertheless that the productive capacity of youths is wider than all other forms of wealth taken together, which perhaps is the centerpiece of this caption.
In my earlier paper presented on the lunching of the Edo State’s Directorate of Youth Affairs and Social mobilization; part of the paper quotes as follows:
The problem of youth restiveness is a mirage until recently when a coalition of civil liberty Organization, NGOs, Government and other international agencies expressed largesse concern over Youth Global development as they collectively and genuinely seek to address the ills and disproportionate spur of Youth affairs in government and their apartheid in Nation Building; such as in the Niger Delta and other parts of the country, with regard to Militancy, sectarian and religious violence, Illiteracy, unemployment, disempowerment etc.
Generally speaking, several militants and youth leaders might not hold the ace on how the solution to the economic, socio-political and environmental problems of the Niger Delta region and its timid youth. However if the region’s leaders and representative of various organization are truly sincere in the ongoing peace process, their actions are capable of creating a vacuum in the economic mainstream and survival of our federal hegemony – Nigeria. In order to facilitate steady and speedy youth capital and human development; there is need to address the following:
a. Provision of sufficient mechanism and infrastructure to boost youth capital initiative and sustainable development.
b. Initiate programme for youth interactive sessions and intellectual model in the discussion of issues such as youth restiveness, the society and economic development of youths in nation building, an agenda that reflects on the youth.
c. Discussing and articulating programs to quell corruption, political irresponsibility among political representative, and inefficiency within government systems and weak social safety.
d. Solution to uplifting the meager status of the youths in issues such as hunger, illiteracy, unemployment and economic disempowerment should be resolved, and programs should be set up at various quarters to attend to these problems.
With the above paradigm, different strategic indicators should be put in place to assume its full mandates of youth capital development by ending restiveness, militancy, violence and all forms of crisis in the Niger Delta region, both internally motivated, nationally alleged, or some sort of ‘International Oil Conspiracy’. Although it is also pertinent to remark that at the root cause and effect of youth conflict in the Niger delta and elsewhere in Nigeria is due to the high incidence of state failures over time to address certain economic, political and sociological issues affecting and reflecting albeit Youth Development. National leaders instead of focusing more on the federal process that brings about equitable development across the nation. The National Leaders are over indulging in paraphelia Federal structure which is suppresses the concept of peace building, and reneging Youth development in Nation Building.
The inability of the Niger Delta states to meet its primary social obligation notably youth and other socio-economic development provision and maintenance of internal order as well as its unconcealed order for misrule, epitomize a total failure of national leadership process and structure within and without.
Even though the youths of Niger Delta is wholly or partly marginalized and displaced, the historical pivotal causes of youth restiveness, which comprises of 96% youth force in Niger Delta region is nonetheless caused by the antecedent of greed, political ambition and individualized cause. This of course is an emphasis on the disunity that has rocked the region’s leaders, and basically for the lack of various established organization’s commitment in the region’s politics, as the leaders are not accountable and transparent; or simply, militant groups finds it difficult to focus on a common goal, vision and ideology of the region’s long national and economic deprivation over time, that makes the crisis seem even more complex, tactical and dangerous.
Let us give a helping hand to the young generation, uplift their morale to enable them to revive the national character and to carry on the process of national upliftment. It is also our duty and if we are indifferently disposed to it, we are certainly disregarding our duty towards the society and nation. Under such circumstances, we have no right to initiate peace process, because if we cannot find people in ourselves, therefore finding peace in others is impossible.
Encourage the youth in nation building is something that is character oriented, and if our leaders in government despise these salient issues, then it is glaring that they are profiting from the violence, and the current national quagmire.
YOUTH AND NATION BUILDING NETWORK
From the above analogy and largesse, the reason for CLO, NGOs and government participation in the facilitation towards ending the conflicts in the region between militants and multinational corporations on one hand, Government and Militants/Youths Leaders on the other hand, and coalition of the willing to prevent further crisis in the region, which houses the leaders and representative from Multinational Oil Corporations, Stakeholders in the peace process, the Government, civil liberty organization and the international community on another end, is to put an end to the violence and under-development in the region. The State and Federal government demonstration of amnesty initiative is a welcome development, and should be embraced by all stakeholders in the area in order to sue for dialogue.
The political independence is essential for the upliftment of a nation, but it is not the end. Much is to be achieved on social and economic fronts. Probably, the political independence was regarded as the ultimate goal. Therefore, the contemporary generation of youths was not given any definite guide-line; with the result they had no knowledge of their duties towards the society or the nation. To avoid further deterioration of the situation, it is necessary to guide the youths in right direction, so that they may engage themselves with the task of completing the unfinished process of upliftment of their nation.
The responsibility of preparing the background and creating a congenial environment in this respect lies with the intellectuals and the leaders of society. But if the leaders through pride and personal ego fail to realize these facts, then we will continue to embark on the enslaved marigold problems.
Separately, the government, NGOs and CLOs have been trying to mediate and facilitate peace process in the area through several MDGs projects, sustainable initiative with communities in the region, and to negotiate with youth leaders, warlords; who because of lack of cooperation and misplaced agenda have been fighting themselves over ethnic, religious and political matters and not because of the plight of their people (Asakitikpi, 2007). These are indeed reasons why any form of peace process in the area has failed, why the Amnesty initiative of the federal government and genuine stakeholders in the Niger Delta will not work, if these leaders through a forum of sincere peace builders in line with government’s plans for development do not come together through consensus.
Asakitikpi went further:
“The headline which quote Alhaji Dokubo as stating that ‘we must control our resources’, suggest the he – Dokubo is not fighting for the rights of his people to have control their resources, but for powerful individuals like himself”.
Going by Asakitikpi’s analogy, it is to say that while there are no genuine youth leaders, other than illustrious personalities like Isaac Adaka Boro, Professor Ake and their likes; the manner in which some of the claimed freedom fighters, Militants (MEND) and co, Youth Leaders and their various administrative structures are composed is not to say beyond measure, unacceptable. Literarily we are all aware of the bunkering episode that brought some of these leaders to financial fame, and the criminal activities to convert federal and state laws into personal enterprise. One must quickly re-visit the differentiation between legitimate leadership structure and a mob operated scheme, which at certain time terrorized the inhabitants of their communities those who stood in their way of justices and legality. These Militants leaders that preaches irrelevancy of the amnesty package today were also instrumental to the building of the foundation along with militarized economic misnomer of the antecedent of military regime, the inability of a decent society across the region. Will it not be refuted with regard to the rationality of these leaders’ genuine course for development in the area, when they were actors in the vandalization of the moral and economic good of their host communities; while circumventing their people and playing the gimmicks with Multinational Corporations and shady government officials? In my Ernest opinion, those leaders that will reject the amnesty initiative of the Federal government are the real terror of the region, and they should face the full blow of the law.
This is indicative of Alhaji Asari Dokubo’s recent nationwide activities as per the crisis in the region, and his docile and incurrent acumen to fully comprehend the dynamics and sincerity as an in-depth mythology of the peace building and Youth development initiative of the region. The reason for this exercise is, for both the Federal Government, MNCs, NGOs, CLOs and Militants Groups to admittedly compensate the people of the region of the havoc melted on them, for the long years of economic degradation, political marginalization, economic deprivation, and barricading terror weighed on them by both Military operations of the Federal Government in their drive to eliminate Militants, and Guerilla warfare on them by Militants.
Through Nation Building, empowerment of Youths in its entire ramification is likely to lead to human capital development which in turn is expresses to reduce the tendency towards anti-social behaviours that affects societal norms, ethics and values. Youth development is not about increase capacity in terms of knowledge and skill acquisition as pronounced in so many organizations’ mission statements nowadays, rather it equally requires that individuals have access to capital so that their means of livelihood could be sustained and realized. A decent society where there is a wide gap between the rich and poor creates the condition for desperation and the undermining of societal values as individuals will do anything possible to avert poverty by any means. This should be discouraged by creating a forum for filling these society gaps, such as government’s concentration on youth development in nation building, as they are the leaders of tomorrow, and the workforce of present and very near future.
POSITIVE YOUTH DEVELOPMENT
This project conception was initiated, in part, to describe why a “shift in approach” has been advocated for how we address youth issues in this country. We are going to be focusing on the ways in which differing points of view have converged to form the field of positive youth development in recent Nigerian centric polity. With the twenty first century’s “discovery” of childhood and adolescence as special periods in which children should be given support to learn and develop, society assumed an increased sense of responsibility for the care of its young people.
Increases in juvenile crime and concerns about troubled youth led in the 2007 of the commencement of the Yar ‘Adua Administration in the beginning of major federal funding initiatives to address these issues, which is collectively packaged and address in several initiative to booster youth sensitization and National identity. These trends accelerated during the 2008, as did national rates of poverty, economic degradation, and other bad government policies which indeed has been instrumental to violence; hence unfortunate returns to Nation building. In the summary put forward by (Nicholas Idemudia et al (2006) An Essay on the Nigerian Political society 🙂
Yet again, with the impressive research conducted in the early part of 1995 – 1996 by tow foremost American scholars and researchers;
Changes in socialization forces that have historically nurtured the development of children – especially in the family – necessitate reconceptualization of school and community practices to support the family in its mission to raise successful children (Hernandez, 1995, from Weissberg & Greenberg, 1997: 5).
Any Youth Development and Outreach Program should seek to promote the participation and leadership of Nigerian Youths and young people in the development process of nation building. The purpose wherefore should be to highlight the value that young people can play in the effort to build a region with stable democracies, sustainable economies, and equitable societies. By establishing alliances with the public and private sectors, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and youth, the government and all stakeholders should emphasize participation and leadership, entrepreneurial development, technology, and community service to the end of:
Empowering young people to become involved in their personal development and that of their communities, and advocating youth development and participation as an integral part of development; mainstreaming youth development and participation throughout the nation’s Ministry of Youths Affairs operations, and promoting inter-organisational partnerships to advance youth development and participation.
Although is difficult to implement at first hand, yet with systematic efforts to enforce actualization, the government through what this research material can offer give attention to issues which will turn out as effective than any other implementation one may think fit for Youth awareness campaign strategy.
Activities should include:
(1) YOUTH AND CAPACITY BUILDING: Capacity building, which involves creating training, initiatives and projects that develop the managerial, technical, entrepreneurial, and leadership skills of youth, so that they might become actors in the development process rather than the subjects of that process. Facilitation of communication among youth in the form of a regional network of more than 13.5 Million youth leaders and social entrepreneurs across Nigeria actively engaged in socio-economic activities who will serve as agents for development in their communities should be a government at all levels investment planning. In the area of outreach and communications, the creation of public awareness among the general public, government agencies, and the non-profit and private sectors on the contributions and value of youth participation and development. In addition, the programme should develop communication tools and promote the best practices and model programmes of youth development through conferences, audiovisual materials, publications, television programming, press articles, a quarterly newsletter, and The Youth Development and Outreach website such as those of the National Youth Council of Nigeria and several others.
(2) INTER-ORGANISATIONAL COLLABORATION: The creation of strategic alliances with public, private, and non-profit sectors to advocate for effective youth participation as agents for development in that region through information exchange, project collaboration, resource mobilisation, and dissemination of best practices promotion of the importance of Inter-Regional collaboration and inter-agency partnerships to better respond to the needs of youth representation of the MYA in the Geopolitical Working Group on Youth Development (GPWGYD)), a consortium of National donor agencies (such as philanthropist, Governments, and national NGOs) that supports new approaches to positive youth development and participation in Niger Delta and Nigeria as a Nation. Intra-agency mainstreaming, that is, the development of internal alliances with other departments and MYA parastatal Offices to integrate youth development and participation into the Federal government through the MYA’s mission and project pipeline, and Policy advocacy and formulation that promotes a supportive policy environment for youth development and participation by engaging in policy formulation initiatives with other partners.
YOUTH ACTIVE PARTICIPATION IN NATION BUILDING
It is now obvious that the future of Nigeria lies in good leadership and those responsible are without dispute young leaders. We all agree that good governance, democracy, constitutionalism and nation building are heavily shaped by the quality of a country’s politics. If the future of Nigeria lies in the youth, how then can space be created in the mainstream politics to realize it? Let us take the antecedent of Ghanaian political scene for example.
The overarching goal of the present Administration’s initiative is to mobilize and harness the abundant resources of Nigeria’s youth towards improving the quality of life in cities and towns with a view to empower vulnerable urban youth groups for improved socio-economic inclusion and development.
Imperatively, a new dawn has emerged where the luxury of comfortably sitting back and complaining as youth has long gone. Nigeria cannot continue being a continent of succession without successors, youth leaders are the best alternative. With regard to the researches conducted over time, both in Nigeria, United States, Europe, Asia, The Caribbean and South America, some of the forward include:
o Legal backing through Political Party Bills, a strong National Youth Policy and lobbying for Affirmative Action Bills for the youth (The MYA has through the Federal initiative calculated efforts to make this possible amidst its National Agenda).
o Strategies on resource mobilization to support potential youth election candidates, civic education with a special focus on the critical role of youth, networking and coordination of youth activities to form a platform where we speak in one voice and push our agenda, working with media for the benefit of youth and building their capacity as leaders who work with and for the people they represent and thus, the community at the grassroots. Encourage youth to join sound political parties.
o Youth have to develop good leadership skills and learn from others. Practice leadership that enables positive transformation in our countries.
o Focus and scope of leadership should not be limited to politics and national level; it should transcend boundaries into regional and international levels. We should be able to have competent youth representatives in such bodies. It is imperative to adapt universally accepted value systems, broaden our knowledge by exposing ourselves to what youth leaders and leaders from other age-groups and countries are engaged in, learn and adapt what works best.
In order to implement the youth initiative both nationally and locally, all the stakeholders in youth awareness and mobilisation should kick-off with their own style of campaign coupled with statutory funding; where agenda are specified and accessed by a committee. A key focus of these partnerships will be to take the local initiatives of youth nationally as expression by the Mission statement of the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN) and the National Youth Initiative Forum (NYIF), and this is to ensure it bring them all, collectively to a level in which they can be shared with other youth, researchers and policy makers. This effort is unique in its approach in that it starts from the belief that youth are agents of change within their communities. Most development programmes see youth as being the problem, on whom development programmes can fix. They treat youth as passive receptors, unable to act, and needing to be acted upon. This in recent time have been refuted, gnashed at and fought with the last youth blow ever known. It is unacceptable, and any political process that encourages such a misconception and misrepresentation of the ideology of the youth as the fountain of nation building is doomed to fail, and research indicates that such a process will continue to fail.
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