Nigeria: Young People Seek Active Role In Politics

A cursory look at Nigeria’s leadership system reveals that young people are yet to actively take up leadership roles and participate in governance process. Hence, it will be safe to say that youth participation in Nigeria governance is negligible.

However, early this year, a group of young Nigeria came together to develop an initiative called TIE Nigeria to encourage young people.

TIE Nigeria, an initiative of the 2014 Fellows on the Good Governance team of the Carrington Youth Fellowship Initiative (CYFI) program of the United States Consulate, Lagos, is a youth based organisation that champions the information of Nigerian youths on governance; facilitates strategic civic dialogues and promotes peaceful youth-led calls for accountability and transparency in government.

In the last six months since it launched, the project has been able to more than 90 young leaders in Nigeria. It has also received support of different groups including the Independent National Electoral Commission  – the official body in charge of electoral process in Nigeria.

In this interview, TIE Nigeria’s programme Director, Eyitayo Ogunmola, spoke with Rural Reporters on the group activities, how people can get involve and why should young people care about governance. 

 

Is TIE Nigeria strictly a political-oriented initiative or are there other issues addressed by the group?

Permit me to create a big divergence of opinion at this point. We are a politically oriented organization with total focus on good governance. The subject of governance cannot be isolated because it’s an outcome of multifaceted lifestyles. Leadership, career, business, personal values among other discuss create structures for governance. TIE Nigeria is majorly focused on educating, enlightening and engaging young Nigerians on governance and its available system and structures towards increasing youth participation in Politics. Our engagement model is to educate ourselves and advocate for structural policies that will improve youth participation in politics. We aim to tackle the wide spread apathy by informing their thoughts and strengthen their commitment to participatory governance.

To simply put- we are a youth based organization that champions the information of Nigerian youths on governance, facilitates strategic civic dialogues and promotes peaceful youth-led calls for accountability and transparency in government, thereby improving governance in Nigeria today and nurturing future Nigerian leaders.

What are some of the group practical activities at the moment?

At the moment, we are focused on the engaging the youths towards the 2015 election. That is our strategic focus for the year. Our mission for this period is designed around educating voters on the skeleton trying to educate the youths throughout ‘Speak to Leadership’ forums which is designed to educate and engage young people. The ‘speak to leadership’ forum is structured to bring in the same room leadership figures and about 30 youths per session to enlighten the youths about available systems for participation in governance. We have had the first 2 edition and we hope to have the third session by January.  Fortunately for us, the United States Consulate, Lagos will be the host for the third session.

We are also building strategic partnership with major organization that can help us facilitate the delivery of projects; we have support from INEC, BudgIT, Impact Your World, HEDA Resources, Reclaim Naija, Human Development Initiative, among others. The only way to drive our projects successfully is through mentorship by larger organizations. At the moment, Nigerian Leadership Initiative, NLI is also providing Institutional mentorship to our organization. These are our engagements.

Also, I am working with Africa Resourceful Leaders Foundation in the Local Government tour. The LG tour project, ‘My Vote and I’ is committed to informing the people on why they need to vote and the available systems for them to air their opinions.

How can people get involve?

eyOh, this question is timely. We need people to step into the organisation. We need more volunteers for our projects; we need more Leaders to help us sensitize younger people. We also need more institutional support and organizational mentorship. Thanks to our team of volunteers- they have been very helpful on our projects. TIE Nigeria can only survive if we build more partnerships. It’s amazing how INEC Lagos has been very supportive to our project. We have gotten lots of institutional assistance from Human Development Initiative and we need more of these to reach our target beneficiaries. We just have to keep inviting more people to join us in the struggle to liberate the ignorant youths.

What do young people stand to gain by participating in TIE Nigeria’s programme/initiative?

One thing we empathize among our team is capital development. If nothing shifts after two months of joining our team, then something is wrong. Volunteering is delayed gratification. It’s building your professional capacities for the future. The advantage with working with civil society organization is that it assists you to be a part of the change you want to see in the society. I have been volunteering since I was 16 and I have learned a lot through this same type of employment. Learning is critical to youth development and that is what we offer. Also, we have in pipeline internship opportunities with our partners for our volunteers. This is designed to help them gain necessary skills on the job with our partners which will in turn help our organization grow up.

Beyond volunteering for our organization, we are also building small buckets of partnership with organizations and initiatives led by young people. What this offers us is an opportunity to reach a larger target participants and beneficiaries in our initiatives.

Why should young people care about governance (election and the voting process)?

Governance is the beginning and the end of life. We need to understand that our being is dictated by polity. It’s everything. What is frustrating is how less concerned people are when it comes to the subject of politics and governance. The roads are bad because someone in power doesn’t care. Someone in power cares less because the people decide not to hold someone accountable. The people cannot hold government accountable because an organization isn’t there to engage them and teach them how. The government dictates what happens to us all- there is no debate about that. If we don’t get engaged in government now, we will wake up someday to see that Nigeria is down the road of peril. Some of our parents in their youthful age decided not to be a part of the system and now their wards and children are staying at home for 5 months without education. What can they do about that- nothing! I don’t want to take chances. If the good guys refuse to lead, then the bad guys will take charge. We need to be very interested in elections because it’s the platform for choosing those who lead us. Every young person needs to vote for what he/she believes.

Do you think young people want to get involved in politics today? What is the basis for your assessment?

Well, TIE Nigeria in 6 months has engaged more than 90 young leaders. And it’s always a question of how do we change this country? How do we get engaged in leadership and politics? I know that young people want to be a part of politics; we only have our ways of doing this. Our method is quite different from that of the present politicians. Young people are starting up companies, building organizations, social enterprises and leading change projects in their communities. I personally have engaged more than 2000 youths in my company and I have realized that youths in this generation want to build their professional and entrepreneurial lives and get into politics to use their professional competence to build this country.

Does TIE Nigeria have its reach in the rural communities (especially the disadvantaged/uneducated members of the society)? If not how do you reach out to people who are not within the group’s immediate proximity?

The TIE Nigeria team has come to understand that we can’t change the world in few minutes. We have limited capacities and we have decided to drive our projects within our reach. For us, this is how to best evaluate the impact of our efforts and scale up as we move on. We also want to replicate our projects in few rural communities come 2015-2016. Yet, we can only achieve this through partnership with already existing organizations. I will participating in the next Democracy Series for Participatory Learning and Actions by Youth (DESPLAY) in January at Abuja to build my capacity for governance and also build strong network with other youths doing projects around governance in other states in Nigeria. This is one way for expansion for us.

What are some of the challenges facing credible governance in Nigeria and what is TIE Nigeria doing to address this?

For us, it’s the lack of governance Knowledge among the youths. Come to think of it. How many people do research on candidates before voting? I had a fierce debate with some of my colleagues who have formed their political perceptions without even practices politics. They seems not to know a thing about governance and these guys want to wake up someday to be minsters. How many youths know the names of their local government chairmen or Community development chairmen, etc? Do you know who your counsellor is? Do you know how much is allocated to your community? We think information and education in TIE Nigeria. We agree that knowing is important for participation. Everyone who engages with TIE Nigeria is equipped to know and get informed. Let me share this with you. One of the participants of our first forum invited me as a panellist in his community project. He went back to his community after the TIE Nigeria ‘speak to leadership’ forum to engage people of his community on why they need to participate in the 2015 election; informing them on the necessities. It was a Yoruba speaking event. I was there and it was massive. That’s what we do. Now we are partnering with his project to give it a bigger voice. That is what we do.  We equip young people with enough information that will expand their capacities to participate in government and politics, and engage them on how to drive value-based leadership. We need value based leadership, understanding of governance and passionate people.

Most of your plans are geared towards the 2015 general election. What measures have TIE Nigeria put in place to ensure the sustainability of this project?

Well, the truth is sustainability. We have built a 5 approach model for our sustainability. Let me share some with you. Firstly, we have developed small scale projects that we can confidently sponsor ourselves without external financial supports- we understand that if a social project cannot be done on a small scale, it’s not sustainable. Secondly, we are also building a team of professionals. Most of the issues social outfits have are the lack of capacities to build up their enterprises. People drive projects and projects drive change. We are also developing partnership with other organizations. The power of collaboration and partnership is synergetic outcomes. One thing we do in our team is to ask what we need for the project and who can provide it free for us. We do critical stakeholders analysis- understanding their influence, support strengths and power. Another method is through Lean Entrepreneurship; TIE Nigeria’s fund is majorly for projects not overheads. We are leaning our organizational structures to help us sustain. Lastly, we are working on projects that can father other smaller projects and serve as financial backbones to other projects. Such projects will be monetized to help drive other projects. This is social entrepreneurship. We may start running some special publishing to support our projects. Of course, we will also source for sponsorship.

What are the most pressing issues that need to be addressed in the coming 2015 election?

Of course security. That’s what comes to mind for the governorship and presidential elections. What happens if 4 cities are attacked 2 days to the presidential election in a Northern state? It’s a pity people are not talking about this. The security challenge is a lot. Fundamentally, critical analysis helps us to admit that the security threat in the north will give a plus to some people and that’s the truth. Also, the collection of the Permanent Voters Card. Do you know that 65 percent of eligible voters have not collected theirs? I am sure the government knows this and they are willing to provide solutions to these threats.

 

 

Busayo Sotunde is a prolific writer with special focus on Business, Entrepreneurship, Reproductive Health and other development issues in Africa. Her articles have been published by different outlets including Investing Port and Ventures-Africa.com. She has a penchant for reading and sustainable development. Follow Busayo on Twitter @BusayomiSotunde

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