A report on the Awakening Interactive Townhall Sessions held across the five states of southeast Nigeria on “The Emerging Roles of Young People in Good Governance” : 9th – 12th November, 2020
The Awakening is a civic enlightenment program that aims to combat political apathy amongst youths in Southeastern Nigeria. The program is funded by OSIWA/DFID and implemented by South Saharan Social Development Organization (SSDO). The Awakening program aims to build the capacity of youth in southeast Nigeria on citizens’ rights and responsibility, democracy, good governance and public accountability.
In November 2020, the Awakening organized a series of town hall meetings across the 5 southeast states. The town hall meetings featured twenty-five youth leaders from each state, drawn from non-governmental organizations, student bodies, media and other sectors. The theme of the townhall was –“The Emerging Roles of Young People in Good Governance” and the objectives were as follows:
- To identify key governance issues affecting young people in the southeast states.
- Explore various options available for proactive youth involvement in good governance.
- Develop actionable steps and strategies for ensuring youth participation in good governance.
Key Governance Issues/Challenges Identified
The Town Hall Meetings took the experiences of the participants into account in detailing a situation analysis of governance in the southeast states. The key governance issues affecting the youth were outlined as follows:
- Favouritism and mediocrity engenders a sectionalist governance structure that repress youth because of the social, cultural or political affiliations.
- Sycophancy is expected of and expressed among youth whose opinions on governance are taken seriously by the ruling class.
- Lack of accountability among youth organizations.
- Insensitivity among youth wielding political officers to fostering governance agenda.
- A lack of political space for participation makes it difficult for the youth to aspire to public offices. This affects women disproportionately.
- Ignorance and a lack of exposure limits the capacity of the youth to identify core governance issues, plan and execute set objectives (where they exist).
- Poverty and a poor mind-set limits the ability of the youth to reject tokens from political agents and engage meaningfully with the government.
- Voice is not given the youth and there are no safe platforms that will allow them to speak up for change they want.
- Inconsistency of message and affiliations to goals and ideologies limits the capacity of the youth to take a stand on good governance.
- God-fatherism puts a leash on progressive youth who may wish to pursue good governance goals in the state.
- A lack of mentorship is a big issue for youth who are unable to find role models of good governance activists in the state.
- Thuggery and Hooliganism, implying the use of violence in the resolution of governance issues by the youth create further problems.
- Lack of information from government programs (such as budget planning and reviews) make it difficult to assess and demand governance
- Poor lobbying and advocacy skills among the youth
- Weak government institutions
The major recommendations made include the following:
- Form a network of young people with knowledge, hands-on experience in various fields in the southeast. It will feature periodic interactions, exchanges and strategies to monitor and facilitate good governance.
- Conduct regular enlightenment campaigns on youth participation in governance and political education for youth using social media, town hall meetings, seminars and school-based sensitization programs at all levels.
- Combat poverty among the youth by economic capacity building through training in Agrobusiness such as rice farming, ICT/Digital marketing and metal fabrication among others; as well as, advocacy for tax waivers and incentivisation of Youth-owned Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). These training activities will be conducted in partnership with relevant institutions such as National Directorate on Employment (NDE), Industrial Training Fund (ITF), Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN), Local Governments (LGs), Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and Community Based Organizations (CBOs).
- Provide financial education to youth who operate MSMEs in the southeast.
- Facilitate a value re-orientation to restore the confidence of the youth in participating in good governance initiatives. This can be coordinated in partnership with the National Orientation Agency (NOA).
- Establish independent funding and sponsorship streams from NGOs, public spirited individuals and corporate organization to finance good governance initiatives.
- Conduct policy appraisal events where young people can contribute to policy develop as well as query implementation. An example is to hold a yearly budget appraisal conference.
- Conduct excursions for select southeast youths by taking them to big cities and events where they can interact with and learn from other young people from elsewhere.
- Organize youth-driven mentorship and co-mentorship programs.
- Conduct constructive engagement with major stakeholders including religious leaders, councillors, traditional rulers via open dialogues on good governance for southeast states using phone in programs on television and radio platforms.
- Encourage youth participation in politics (as both active voters and contestants) and advocate against unnecessary political cross carpeting.
- Advocate for financial subsidies on fund requirements for contesting elective positions by young people.
- Form a youth-led political movement via registration of a political party, repurposing of an already existing party or the formation of stronger and more independent youth wings within all political parties.
- Establish Citizens Accountability Clubs in partnership with CSOs, CBOs, National Youth Service Corps Members, students, town unions and age grade groups. The club will conduct grassroots sensitization.
- Create information network for deliberate dissemination of information on good governance. Media for information sharing will include social media, press conferences, radio/television engagements, flyers, billboards, etc. The media employed will be subject to funds available.
Each person in attendance committed to sharing the outcomes of the meetings with other youths in their networks, with the aim of developing an action plan that is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time bound, gender sensitive and legal to encourage good governance in southeast Nigeria.