The European Union and Yiaga Africa have urged young parliamentarians not to forget their constituents, but to promote good governance and deepen democracy as they assume office.
They gave the advice on Tuesday in Abuja, during the Convergence 5.0 conference with the theme “Leadership, Power and Politics”, organized by Yiaga Africa in collaboration with Young Parliamentarians Forum, with support from the EU.
The European Union Ambassador to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Samuela Isopi, said that young people represent a key actor in change and development, but inequality pushes them into political apathy.
Isopi, represented by the Deputy Head of the EU to Nigeria, Alexandre Borges-Gomes, said that the inclusion of young people in the electoral process and as political representatives was only fair and also good for development.
“The passage of the Not-Too-Young-To-Run law is a step in the right direction, however, it has not translated into a quantitative increase in youth political participation, only, it has expanded the space for their political participation.
“A good law is only as good as its implementation, and that needs political will to change .”
Isopi encouraged the young parliamentarians to do their bit to deepen democracy and build critical mass.
“Your constituents matter, never lose sight of that; we, the EU, will continue to provide support and do all we can to promote effective youth political participation,” she said.
Mr Samson Itodo, Executive Director, Yiaga Africa, said youth representation in legislature improved by a slight margin.
He said that the North West had the highest percentage of young legislators, but the North East, South East, and South-South had low representation of youths.
Itodo said that the All Progressives Congress (APC) had the highest number of young legislators followed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
” Key findings revealed that youth representation in the House of Representatives
increased from three percent in 2019 to 3.92 percent (0.9 increase), while
in the state assemblies, it rose from 8.9 percent in 2019 to 9.2 percent
“Two young people between 25 – 29 won seats in the House of Representatives. This is the first time candidates below 30 years will be elected to the National Assembly since the passage of the Act in 2018.
“Four young female legislators under 35 years won legislative seats in three state assemblies, namely Delta, Lagos and Kwara.
“Kwara has the highest record of young female legislators and the youngest elected female, 26 years, is from Kwara state.”
Itodo recommended an investment in sustained capacity building for young legislators who were primarily first-time lawmakers, to improve their knowledge of legislative practice and procedure.
He also said there was a need to ensure young legislators were assigned leadership roles in
legislative committees to maximize their intellect, energy, and creativity in improving legislative governance.
Itodo advised the establishment of the Youth Parliamentarians Forum as a legislative committee to
guarantee access to technical and financial resources to facilitate active youth participation in
He also called for more political participation of youths, adding that Yiaga Africa introduced the Not-Too-Young-To-Run Leadership Prize for Legislative Performance, with some benefits to celebrate outstanding leadership performance and encourage quality legislation.
Itodo said that Yiaga Africa had promised to dole out $20,000 to any lawmakers elected at the state and federal level who makes his or her mark in legislative duties.
He said lawmakers that would qualify for the prize money must be under 35 years of age, either at the state or federal legislature, and would be assessed based on the number of bills sponsored and level of contributions to legislative proceedings.
Yiaga Africa Director of Programmes, Cynthia Mbamalu, said that the convergence 5.0 is the largest gathering of young legislators in Nigeria and is a platform for young legislators to learn from experts in the field on how best to effectively deliver leadership.
Mbamalu said that it was also a platform for young elected representatives to learn how to build power and how to best to navigate the politics in the national and state houses of assembly, hence the theme, leadership, power politics.
She said that after the signing of the Not-Too-Young-To-Run law with the hope of having more young people in politics, the progress had been somewhat slow .
“In the 2023 elections, we hoped for better, but yes, it did not go the way we were expecting.
”But, we still have things to celebrate, like in the House of Reps, we have 14 under 35 years old who won the elections.
“At the state level, there are 92 under 35-year-olds who won the elections; for the women, it is still a sad story as we have four lawmakers who are under 35 years old that are women.”
Mbamalu urged the young parliamentarians to promote legislations that can increase women’s political representation in Nigeria and support youth political representation in the country, as it would help to stem the tide of migration.
Prof. Abubakar Sulieman, Director-General of, National Institute for Democratic and Legislative Studies (NILDS), said that legislators at all levels had two major roles to play as agenda setters.
Suleiman said one was policy agenda setting and constitutional matters of national security, social security, human security, national unity and sustainable development.
He said that their second role was that of law and policy reformation, and encouraged them to ensure that constitutional amendments are made to have better policies that would promote the security and welfare of all people.
He also urged them to properly carry out their monitoring and evaluation oversight to avoid sabotage.
Mr Kabir Tukura, Member, the House of Representatives and Chair, the Young Parliamentarians Forum, commended Yiaga Africa for the initiative to equip young legislators for good governance.
Tukura pledged the allegiance of the forum members to work to deepen democracy as well as leave a mark legislative-wise, by supporting laws to improve the participation of marginalized groups in politics.
He called on all young parliamentarians to keep their heads down and learn, adding that Yiaga Africa taught him legislation and how to move motions in the House.
He said that the convergence platform was a well of knowledge for them.