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Political Process & Urban Youth Development In Niger Delta

At in-dependency in 1960, the Nigerian population was about 50 million. Currently we are an estimate 158 million, meaning that 120 million Nigerians are below the age of 43 years. If those above 60 years are only about 38 million, it therefore means those between the ages of 18- 43 years are the majority. That is about 110 million. Registered voters are currently 130 million according to Electoral Commission of Nigeria, clearly more than half of those eligible to vote are 18 years and above. The pertinent question is therefore: where are the rest of potential voters as out of the 110 million registered voters, only less than 80 million voted in 2007?

The hard fact cannot be bailed out, as more than 142 million people by the Nigerian law are eligible to vote, excluding the ex-convict and the de-franchised.

Then the following ethical summations are put down figuratively:

o 20 million youth aged 18 and above have no Identity cards automatically eliminating them from the voting process.
o A significant number of them have no birth certificates therefore they do not exist.
o Majority (34.3%) of the youth who have votes are apathetic to the whole process. They feel their voting would not make a different.
o For the youth that vote, majority (32 million) vote for the wrong reasons such as: electing leaders from their ethnic groups even though they do not merit, electing those who have dished out the most money, peer pressure and often pressure from one’s family to vote for particular leader as a block.
o A large percentage of the youth watch at the periphery as they are ignorant of the importance of being in political party specifically in the mainstream politics were crucial decisions about a nation are made.
o Civic education has yet to fully incorporated and emphasized that there are youth who are great leaders and merit a chance.

As for those youth in mainstream politics, they face the following:

o Patronage; where senior party members do not create spaces for the youth to play crucial roles in the political parties.
o Lack of clear political party ideology and value system that guides the operation of the party and the conduct of its members indiscriminately especially on age and gender.
o Ethnicity where membership of most political parties is dictated by ethnicity stemming from the founders of the parties or the individuals that are funding it. This has caused chaos, and a lot of heartache for youth who find themselves barred from progressing or participating in crucial roles. The shift of loyalty, distrust, corruption and vertical solidarity determines who gets what within the political parties.
o Gender discrimination has had a negative impact on young ladies within the parties whose participation is limited and their contribution unrecognized. The culture of violence, mud slinging and character assassination has discouraged many competent young ladies from fully engaging in politics.
o Lack of resources, especially funding political activities and maintaining the required mechanisms.

In terms of the employment process, just like the political process and structure development paradigm, young people have the highest rate of unemployment and in many ways are the most vulnerable to the social depredations that are caused by unemployment and poverty. At the same time they are the promise of the future, and failure to invest in the young generation imposes great constraints on the potential for future development. Whether it is investing in the creation of decent work for young people which boosts the economy and lowers the demand for social services, or whether it be supporting peer to peer models of HIV/AIDS education, or supporting youth in creating food security for their community, research has shown that investing in youth brings about healthier youth and healthier communities

STRATEGY AND MOBILISATION FOR YOUTH DEVELOPMENT

The federal Government and its Amnesty group of trustees, and other stakeholders such as NGOs, CLO and other Private donors are a multi-faceted strategy that focuses on recognizing the on-going work of youth on the key urban issues of: economic development; urban peace and conflict; HIV /AIDs; and environmental degradation. These four areas that has become paramount a leverage to resolving the unending national and regional conflicts both religious and economically motivated, that 73% perpetuated by the Youths. The core of the SC strategy is the recognition that youth have the capacity to be meaningfully engaged in urban development programmes. The SC through various youth development initiatives will be a vehicle to mobilize resources to support those most marginalized youth populations in initiating and sustaining youth led programmes.

Strategy 1

Creation of urban based youth resource centres that directly support youth led development issues, such as the Youth Development and rehabilitation, a program set up by various states and local government in Nigeria, especially glaring in the Nigeria Delta, Western, Northern and Eastern geopolitical zones of the country. The focus of these hubs will be a space for youth to organize youth-led programmes in the area of economic development, prevention of violence, and delivery of education and services on HIV /AIDs. This strategy is further outlined below.

Strategy 2

Training youth as peace builders: The World Youth Report 2009 states that a majority of warfare takes place in developing countries, particularly in Africa, where an estimated 200,000 young soldiers between the ages of 10 and 24 risk their lives in the course of armed conflict willed by adults. Even in countries not plagued by armed conflict, the youth have often been misused in the political arena. While their energy and enthusiasms are powerful tools in promoting social or political issues, they are also vulnerable to being misled and misused, often leading to disruptive results. Youth need to be involved in violence prevention strategies, not just conflict reaction strategies. Youth can take the lead. There is also an implementation strategy through collaboration between Federal government agencies (MYA) and their subs, local and national youth organizations, NGOs and local authorities focused on creating effective and sustainable models for urban youth development and employment in Nigeria.

Plans are now in place to assist in the design of other regions/states of the country since by virtue of its implementation in Niger Delta with the following objectives:

Objective of the SC Youth Centres Project:

– To encourage partnerships with relevant stakeholders in the delivery of youth development;
– To increase knowledge, skills and attitude change of young people;
– To respond to educational, socio-economic, recreational, emotional and psychological needs of young people in an integrated way;
– To encourage youth to have greater ownership of development;
– To offer leadership and mentorship to young people.

Six Key Areas of Intervention:

1. Employment and Entrepreneurship: To build capacity of youth to participate effectively in urban poverty reduction through training and by offering employment opportunities in self-employment, formal and informal sectors.

2. Governance and Advocacy: To enhance youth contribution towards better governance by promoting increased youth participation in local government matters, particularly those concerning youth development.

3. Health: To provide services aimed at preventing and solving reproductive health problems amongst the youth by provision of information, skills training, education on reproductive health, counseling and referral services.

4. Communication and Information: To establish mechanisms to effectively communicate and disseminate information to youth, youth organizations and other partners involved in youth work.

5. Environment and Resource Management: To strengthen youth engagement in the protection and improvement of the environment by promoting their participation in environmental justice and governance initiatives.

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