All Protocols Observed.
It is with great delight that I welcome you to this great occasion bringing together young people and relevant stakeholders to explore how to enhance youth electoral participation for peaceful and inclusive societies. This workshop is coming after the historic passage and signing of the “NotTooYoungToRun” bill which has resulted in the slight reduction in the age requirement for elective offices in Nigeria.
The international community has also recognized the importance of youth participating in political systems, including through several international conventions and UN resolutions for example the United Nations resolution 2250 and the recent adoption of UN resolution 2419 which spotlighted the nexus between Youth, Peace and Security. These resolutions identified and emphasized the inclusion of youth in any peace and security architecture, advocates for youth involvement in formal politics and also portrays youth as partners in preventing violence and building sustainable peace.
Nigeria Youth 4 Peace Initiative is a programme of Building Blocks for Peace Foundation, an incorporated non-governmental organization working on Conflict Prevention, Prevention of Violent Extremism, Peacebuilding, Democracy and Good Governance and Sustainable Development in Nigeria. Through our NigeriaYouth4Peace Initiative, over five thousand youth have been trained and empowered to make positive contributions to conflict prevention and peacebuilding across Nigeria.
The centrality of elections to popular participation and representative governance cannot be overemphasized. It is the mechanisms through which citizens choose their representatives. However, due to the win at all cost syndromes, elections in Nigeria are usually marred by violent conflicts.
According to the Human Right Watch, every electoral process comes with its own fair share of violent conflict, for instance, the 2003 and 2007 general elections were among the worst elections witnessed in Nigeria as at least 300 people were killed in the violent attacks. In 2011, following the announcement of Goodluck Jonathan as the winner of the presidential election, rioting broke out in the country’s north and central region which killed over 800 lives and leaving 65,000 people internally displaced across 12 States of the Federation. According to the National Human Right Commission Pre-election Violence Report (2015), it reported that 61 incidences of election violence occurred in 22 states with 58 people killed (Premium Times Feb. 25, 2015).
However, it is very pertinent to know that at the centre of these violent conflicts are the youth that makes up about 63 percent (60 million) of all the eligible voters. The inclusion of these youths in politics and governance has far-reaching implications in the country as a more politically active youth would bring about fresh ideas, insight, values and strengthening the democratic system which will in turn bring about peace, security and development.
Across the globe, youth tend to participate in elections less than older citizens. Bringing more youth to ballot boxes requires specific measures and an overall environment empowering youth to participate in civic life. As part of an electoral cycle strategy, it is important to engage youth in the immediate electoral process to participate actively in the democratic life of their countries.
The essence of this wonderful gathering today which is one of the activities designed by our organization to foster peaceful elections is to Map out roles youth are expected to play throughout the electoral cycle (before, during and after elections), Highlight ways by which youth can contribute to peaceful elections and be politically active, Identify innovative youth-led initiatives, formal and informal, that enhance youth political participation and also Proffer ways by which young people’s role and influence in decision-making can be enhanced.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
According to the former Secretary general of the United Nations, Kofi Anan- No one is born a good citizen; no nation is born a democracy. Rather, both are processes that continue to evolve over a lifetime. Young people must be included from birth. A society that cuts itself off from its youth severs its lifeline; it is condemned to bleed to death.
On a final note, I want to once again welcome you all to this workshop and also congratulate everyone for being a part of this great occasion. It is my hope that we all would leave here with a renewed commitment to a peaceful nation.
As we approach 2019 elections, I implore those who are yet to get their PVC to kindly do so.
Let us use our vote and not violence. Peaceful 2019 is the responsibility of all.
Thanks and God bless you.