IYD Statement By Ikanna Okim
Statement By Ikanna Okim, Community Lead Nigeria on International Youth Day 2018.
“International Youth Day 2018. The theme for International Youth Day 2018 is Safe Spaces for Youth. Youth need safe spaces where they can come together, engage in activities related to their diverse needs and interests, participate in decision making processes and freely express themselves.”
Some weeks back, I organised and facilitated a Facebook campaign with the hashtag #YoungNotTimid. Via this online campaign, young minds spilled out their opinions on the status quo of politics and governance in Nigeria while impressively making known to the world their ideas on how to build a better Nigeria with particular reference to Nigeria’s leadership and governance.
I’m excited first because this has left a thick cloud of concern about politics in Nigeria in the minds of young people reached and second because the campaign has gone beyond 10 days and has formed the lifestyle of young people reached.
Today, we commemorate International Youth Day. Every day is for the youth. Everyday is youth day. However, today is specially set aside to emphasize the importance, rights, obligations and indispensability of a the young person. The theme is safe spaces for youth. We advocate for environmental, social, intellectual, political, technological, educational, safe spaces, among others.
My emphasis is on political safe spaces. I would be very crude about the state of affairs in Africa. Africa is bedeviled by the condition of older people in positions of authority in the countries, States, local government, even grassroot constituencies in Africa. This condition is not unfavourable merely because there’s anything wrong with leading at an old age , but it is unfortunate mainly because it is a recurring decimal. This is a pointer to the fact that there is something wrong somewhere.
One major evil is that the constitutions, or customs/conventions (or whatever is the grundnorm) of African countries are harsh to leadership of young persons.
For example, the Nigerian Constitution places the minimum requisite age of the President to be 40years old. Over the years in Nigeria, we have had Presidents of way past 50 years. This is unfair to young persons who have political aspirations. It is a limitation to youth involvement in politics. In Kenya, age limits were removed in 2004, making possible a teenage president. As long as you’re 18 and can vote, you can also contest for presidency or any other lower office. This is what I call development and it is highly commendable.
Also, the game of politics in Africa has been termed ‘deadly’ by people as even the lives of persons involved are at risk. Apart from the fact that this is not a good image, it makes the political space unsafe for promising young people who would love to serve the country in higher capacities.
It is also important that youth get involved, even if taking commenting on government policies as a start-off point. Being interested, at least, shows responsibility and with much advocacy on this, laws, customs and conventions would be adjusted to accommodate youth involvement in politics. This is my hope.
On this auspicious day, I dare to dream. I dare to dream of a world where young people are allowed tocome together, engage in activities related to their diverse needs and interests, participate in decision making processes and freely express themselves.
Ikanna Okim is The Community Lead for Nigeria and an African Young Leader from Nigeria.
Ikanna is a prolific writer and speaker. She is passionate about teenagers, women and children and runs a Mentorship Network for girls on social media platforms.
She is a voice in leadership and governance. The undergraduate of Law is the author of the 2017 bestseller. Insipid and other books.