The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, has advocated the inclusion of youths in public decision making and economic developmental activities, stressing that, “it was after all not such a long time that Nigeria had a Head of State at 29!, a Commissioner at 25! and a member of the House of Representatives at 21!”.
Speaking at the second annual conference of Young Parliamentarians Forum at the National Assembly, Dogara explained that involving young people in governance offers important opportunities for strengthening their political presence and enlightenment and also developing their economic capacities.
He stressed that a balance of both young and old is very necessary for a successful democracy, explaining that while younger people are often endowed with radicalism and aggression, older persons will bring experience that would ensure stability and diplomacy.
“We believe that it is not just enough to say that the young people are the leaders of tomorrow. To give any useful meaning to this maxim, it is our stance that the young people must be given the requisite opportunities to serve in leadership positions. This is a way of creating inclusion and practically preparing the young ones for future leadership challenges.
“The 8th House of Representatives under my leadership, in its Legislative Agenda has set as priority the promotion of “open parliament” and e-Parliament to encourage youth and public participation in legislative processes and democracy at large.”
Dogara further declared that the political and economic inclusion of young people is basic to the success of any government, especially in Nigeria and Africa where over 60 per cent population is made up of young people, stressing that, “anything short of this will amount to excluding the political majority in the mainstream of socio-economic and political affairs of the country.”
He further stated that it was in this vein that the House of Representatives passed two important Bills through Second Reading, namely, HB 544 and HB 556.
“While HB 544 is aimed at reducing the eligibility age for elective positions; HB 556 is aimed at creating opportunity for young Nigerians to be included in the appointment of Ministers and Commissioners in the states. These bills have been referred to the House Ad- Hoc Committee on Constitution Review headed by the Deputy Speaker,” he explained.
The Speaker, however, tasked civil societies and advocacy organisations to intensify enlightenment campaigns on the bills to avoid a re-occurrence of the defeat suffered by the proposal to reduce age for qualifying to contest for elective office in the 7th Assembly when 306 voted against it and only 50 voted in favour.
He noted that the time for youth inclusion is now, saying, “The need and the case for involvement of young people in our economy and governance is underscored by the reality that they can bring fresh and contemporary ideas to the table.
“Older politicians can guide us with their experience. Younger people are often endowed with radicalism and aggression but, experienced persons bring stability and diplomacy. A balance of both young and old is very necessary for a successful democracy. It was after all not such a long time that Nigeria had a Head of State at 29!, a Commissioner at 25! and a member of the House of Representatives at 21!
“Mark Elliot Zuckerberg, Co-founder of Facebook, was only 19 years when they started. He is now worth 52 billion USD. The same applies to Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Amazons Jeff Bizos, and Apples Steve Jobs and so many other entrepreneurs. They were all in their late teens and twenties when they founded their multi-billion dollar businesses.
“Let us unleash the potentials of our young people and Nigeria will be definitely better for it,” the Speaker said.
Dogara also noted that under the 1963(S.44) and 1979 (S.61) Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the age qualification for membership of the House of Representatives was 21 years.
“The reason for changing it to 30 years under the 1999 Constitution has not been justified. We may need to revert to the provisions of the 1963 Constitution in this area. That way, bright young men would not have to resort to forgery of their ages to participate and excel in the political process,” he stated.