“Young people should be in the forefront of global change and innovation.

Empowered, they can be agents of development and peace. If, however,

they are left on society’s margins, all of us will be impoverished”- Kofi Annan. 


Youth refers to a time in the life of any individual between adolescence and adulthood. According to Wikipedia, youths in Nigeria includes all members of the Federal republic aged 18-35. Politics on the other hand, refers to the way countries are governed and how rules or laws are made. Youths of this generation face lots of hindrances ranging from discrimination, marginalization, lack of access to opportunities and a voice in decision making. In the same vein, political participation is a key pillar of active citizenry and it is observed that very few youths engage in any form of political participation. 

Youth inclusion entails taking part in the mainstream politics – voting, joining a political party or pressure group, campaigning, or standing for election and also participating in the public discourse through organized channels, petitions, and other forms of expression.  Nevertheless, several efforts of the current administration in Nigeria cannot be undermined which was to pass the Not Too Young To Run bill which reduced the age to run for President from 40 to 30 years; Governors from 35 to 30 years, Senators from 35 to 30 years and members of State Houses of Assembly from 30 to 25 years of age. 

According to a United Nations report of 2016, most youths do not engage in domestic politics, and self-reported knowledge about politics and politicking is low; a major challenge seems to be the lack of trust in the electoral and political system. It is observed that an average Nigerian youth is faced with a number of difficulties which transcend their capabilities and makes it difficult to give room for right thought of participation in domestic politics. Some of these challenges include unavailable channels to engage constructively with the political processes, wrong orientation from older generations, unemployment which is the order of the day, lack of sensitization of the benefits of participation and difficulty in accessing political information. 

Marginalization, discrimination and segregation connected with youth exclusion tends to occur concurrently along multiple areas where youths need to be included. Therefore, policies which address only one aspect of youth inclusion, such as improved access to education, poverty alleviation programs, and unwarranted rallies for revolution may be too narrow to overcome exclusion more generally. 

A major trend in Nigeria has been how youths have chosen to take cover in social media spaces to voice their opinions and use various hashtags to create unrest in the same social space. However, to advance citizenship in a sustainable way, youths must progress beyond “virtual citizenship” to formal political participation at the national and grassroot levels. The low participation of youths in the 2019 general elections had nothing good to write home about, as the only area where youths were active was where they were used as political thugs; thus, reflecting the large disconnect between the younger generation and the political establishment. 

To address the youth exclusion in the political sphere, it is important to note that some policy reforms need to be considered such that there is provision in the new electoral law, which incentivizes political parties to nominate at least one young candidate under age 35 among the top candidates on any electoral list; this serves as an important entry point for political participation.

Youth and students’ organizations should have the opportunity to voice concerns and proffer solutions about educational policies and regulations, grants should be provided to support the capacity of non-governmental organizations to engage and provide services to excluded youths. For these policies to be effective, institutional channels should be created to influence local policy at local youth councils. National Youth Councils should be given a voice in national policy and reforms because youths are purpose-driven and innovative.

Youths are the driving energy in nation building. Therefore, the state should ensure that youths have the necessary conditions to develop at their pace, taking responsibilities, broadening as well as expanding their participation in socio-economic, cultural, and political development.

AJEWOLE EMMANUEL AYOBAMI is a content writer with The Young Leaders Council


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