We are happy to be a part of this year’s celebration. Let us quickly point out that this year’s celebration of international youth day is a time to celebrate the contribution of young people to keeping peace especially in conflict prevention and transformation as well as inclusion, social justice, and sustainable peace. As such we celebrate every young person contributing to end the war waged on us all by Boko Haram especially those spending their most vibrant years in the various formations of our armed forces, you are our heroes and we celebrate you. We celebrate every young person doing one work or the other at every level to ensure that we achieve peace where there is conflict and to sustain peace where it is present. Peace is not just absence of war; it is also presence of freedom. Freedom to participate in government at whatever level you want to as long as you have the capacity without being discriminated against because of your age.
On this occasion of the 2017 international youth day, it is the dawn of a new day for us in Nigeria. Towards the end of July, our National assembly yielded to the call from many of us and indeed fulfilled their promise by approving of the not too young to run bill; which when passed into law gives Nigeria’s youth the legal leverage to move their participation beyond engaging political leaders to becoming political leaders themselves.
As a collective, we use this occasion of the 2017 international youth day to celebrate all the organisational and individual effort in advocating for the bill. Most importantly, we commend the Nigerian senate in heeding to the voice of the people and we use this avenue to challenge the Lagos state house of assembly and other state assemblies across the federation to rise to the occasion by not speeding up the process of domestication of the bill but also work with the executive arm of government to mainstream the ideals of the bill across ministries and parastatals.
Make no mistake, we do not think this bill by itself will solve all the problems that plague Nigeria’s youth, however, we believe it is a step in the right direction towards meaningful youth participation that is representative of our electoral strength, and will deliver for Nigeria’s youth beyond the tokenism of the status quo. We need not mince words that the system as it is has failed the Nigerian people and the youth are the most affected. As such, our belief in Nigeria’s youth is premised on the notion that only a demography that is old enough to know the workings of the system but very much young enough carve a new pathway can bring about positive change we need in Nigeria.
In line with the global theme for the 2017 youth day, we cannot over emphasize that youth play a critical role in sustaining the peace of every nation state. However, we want to emphasize that peace comes at a price and that price is social and economic development, better public healthcare, jobs, participatory governance, education and social safety nets. It is impossible to build and sustain peace in an environment where poverty, unemployment and marginalization reigns supreme and we use this occasion to call on the government of the day to take action.
One thing is certain, the era of wailing is over, it is youth-next and we are taking our future in our hands to bring about the positive change we desire and better life for all.
Our charge today is to young people across the length and breadth of this nation including Nigerian youth in diaspora that the future is now.
Happy International Youth day.