Exclusion of youths from power recipe for radicalisation, criminalisation – EU chief warns
… decries the decline of youth candidacy for 2023 general election
Following a decline in youth candidacy for the 2023 general elections, the European Union (EU) Ambassador to Nigeria, Samuela Isopi has warned against the dire consequences of excluding youths from political participation and decision-making.
Isope who spoke on Wednesday in Abuja at a two-day conference for 150 young legislative candidates across the country, organised by Yiaga Africa regretted that young people were being excluded from power worldwide despite having a population of about 1.2 billion, aged between 15 and 24.
She said: “The world today is very young, the world today is up to 1.2billion young people aged 15-24, Which represents the largest young generation in history with Africa leading in the number of young men and women worldwide but indeed, young people not only in Nigeria are excluded from job opportunities, power.
“Exclusion of young people can lead to political apathy, radicalisation and crime.
“This is why it is very important to fully include the young generation in the political life of the country, in the decision-making process and in the development of the country, young people have demonstrated worldwide and also in Nigeria that they have the capacity to lead. That they have the capacity to make a change.
“The passage of the not too young to run law was really a good step in the right direction because it has expanded the face to youth political participation, it has translated into a comfortable increase in youth political participation.” She said.
According to her, the decline in youth participation could be attributed to a series of factors which she said included: the high cost of nomination forms, the need for wealth to do politics in Nigeria and lack of inclusion in political parties.
Presenting a report titled Youth Candidacy in the 2023 Elections, Executive Director, Yiaga Africa, Samson Itodo, regretted that findings indicated a decline of youth candidacy from 34 per cent in the 2019 general elections to 28 per cent in the 2023 general elections.
Itodo said the report indicated a whole lot of factors responsible for the decline, including the excessive cost of nomination forms, and highly commercialised party primaries, among others.
Youth candidacy in the House of Representatives Election; the report pointed out that despite 3,122 candidates vying for seats in the House of Representatives, only 3,115 candidates have complete information provided. Of this number, 674 representing 22 per cent are young candidates. Two young candidates are people living with disabilities (albinism – 1, others – 1).
Meanwhile, he said 51 young candidates are vying for governorship and deputies, and the total number is 837 representing 12.2 per cent; Senate has 41 young candidates with a total of 1,101 representing 3.7 per cent; the House of Representatives has 674 young candidates with a total of 3,122 representing 21.6 per cent; and State House of Assembly has 3,632 young candidates with a total number of 10,240 representing 35.6 per cent.
According to him, the total number of young candidates is 4,398 and the total number of young candidates is 15,336 which represents 28.6 per cent.
The report also showed that across the geographical zone distribution, the North West has 23 per cent; and South West has 18 per cent dominating other zones with respect to the number of candidates.
However, the North East has 38 per cent has more ‘Not-Too-aYoung-Run’ candidates after North West 85 per cent compared to other regions. The South East has 20 per cent which is the fewest number of candidates in the Not-Too-aYoung-Run category.
The report also indicated that on age distribution fewer than half (46 per cent) of the young candidates belong to the group 25-30 ′. Across zones, the North West has the highest number of candidates in the age group ‘25 – 30’ and ’31 – 35’. Overall, there are more candidates in the age group ’31 -35’ than ’20 – 25’.
The geographical classification of the young candidates by gender reveals that the North West (37%) has the largest representation of male candidates and South East (8%) has the lowest. In contrast, the South West (28%) has the largest representation of female young candidates, North Central (13%) and North East (13%) have the least. In general, there is a higher representation of female candidates in the South than in the North.
Party distribution of Candidates Across Zones; In general, the Action Democratic Congress, ADC, has the highest number of young candidates in the 2023 State House of Assembly election.
From key findings from the Analysis of the 2023 general election candidates, he (Itodo) said: “43.2% of youth candidates in the 2023 election are direct beneficiaries of the Not Too Young To Run Act. Of the 15,336 candidates on the ballot in the 2023 elections, 4,398 are youth candidates. 1,899 of these figures are between 398 youth candidates. 1,899 of these figures are between 25 – 30 years.
“Youth candidacy records decline from 34% in the 2019 election to 28.6% in the 2023 elections. For instance, youth candidacy for the House of Representatives plunges from 27.4% in 2019 to 21.6% in 2023. Similarly, the State House of Assembly also dropped from 41.8% in 2019 to 35.6% in 2023.
“Political parties nominated more youth candidates for legislative elections at the state level than executive or national assembly seats. For instance, State Assembly elections and House of Representatives elections recorded a high level of youth candidacy. 35.6% of candidates of the State Assembly are youth, 21.6% for the House of Reps and only 3.7% of candidates in the Senatorial elections are youth.
“The North-west geo-political zone maintains its reputation as the zone with the highest number of youth candidates. The geographical distribution of candidates shows that the level of youth candidates in the North West is 28%, Northcentral, 18.1%, Northeast, 16%, South West, 14.1%, South-south 12.6% and lastly South East with 10.4% youth candidacy.
“Ranking of youth-friendly parties: Based on the ranking of political parties on youth candidacy, the African Democratic Congress (ADC) ranks 1st for nominating the highest number of youth candidates. Labour party ranks 6th, New Nigerian People’s Party ranks 3rd, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) ranks 13th, and All Progressive Congress (APC) ranks 15th.
“Poor representation of young female candidates on the list of candidates. 11% of youth candidates are female.
“With respect to the young female candidates, the ADC (62), AA (58), and APM (54) have the highest number of young female candidates. While the APC (9) and PDP (5) have the lowest number of young female candidates.
“Among the young candidates, 7 individuals representing 0.2% belong to persons living with disabilities in the 2023 election.”
However, Yiaga Africa expressed displeasure over the current funding model of political financing, which it pointed as creating unfair competition and shrinking the political space to the detriment of competent leaders, youth, and women.
“Political finance reform is an urgent necessity to ensure the political space is accessible to all persons regardless of age, economic class, tribe, and creed.
“Any meaningful reform of party funding or campaign funding should deliver the following four key outcomes; first, limit the influx of unregulated money in the political process; secondly, enhance the capacity of political parties on resource mobilization and maintenance of proper account of financial transactions and assets register; thirdly, strengthen INEC’s capacity to monitor and ensure compliance with political finance regulations and; fourth explore new pathways of candidate selection that de-emphasizes the place of money and economic power over competence, capacity and character.
“The net effect of these outcomes will be improved safeguards for the political space, party supremacy, and candidate recruitment. Public perception of youth leadership affects the emergence of youth candidates in elections.
“Young people are perceived as inexperienced and ill-prepared for public leadership hence the limits placed on youth participation in politics”, he added.
Meanwhile, as part of its recommendations, the report thus read, “To secure electoral victory for youth candidates, political parties should provide technical, financial and logistics support to young male and female candidates during the campaigns.
“Youth candidates will require technical support to hone political organizing skills, and improve knowledge of election day operations, and legal framework for elections.
“The general public is encouraged to support youth candidates by making financial donations to youth candidates with competence, character and capacity.
“Media organisations should prioritize coverage of youth candidates.
Adequate airtime should be provided to young male and female candidates to provide visibility for youth candidates and improve public perception of youth candidates.
“To advance political inclusion and accountability in the election, Nigeria requires comprehensive political finance reform and reforms of the delegate recruitment and management process.”