Lyrics: We started last week assessing youth’s involvement in politics, we started with Ebonyi State. And our guest last week, kept on talking about a young Honorable House of Assembly Member who has been doing very well as a youth.
I kind of tag him the youngest youth in politics especially at that level.
Now, today we are assessing youth involvement in governance and politics in Imo State.
So this week on the awakening, we will be analyzing the current level of youth participation in politics and governance, in Imo State.
Now, we will also highlight the roles responsible agencies have to play in ensuring youth inclusion in politics and governance.
Our guest speaker today is Prince Chimezie Okoro. Okoro is the Citizens platform Team leader.
Lyrics: Now we want you to analyze and breakdown the responsible roles the agencies have to play.
Now to start with, Youth in politics, achievable or not?
Prince: It’s achievable.
Lyrics: Achievable soon or not achievable long time?
Winnie: Or achieving now?
Prince: It’s a long time thing.
Lyrics: Give or take, how long? If we start doing what you gonna teach us today, how long?
Prince: I don’t want to be a fake Prophet …but, let’s say five years upwards.
Lyrics: Why do you think five years?
Prince: You see eh… With the current situation and the things wey dey happen around youths, we need this kind of behavioural change towards politics and it doesn’t just come like that across Nigeria.
We have 36 states and let’s say we’re taking like two states per year, or let’s say even four states per year.
Lyrics: Okay, so you think this kind of change is going to be zonal, it can be done once randomly?
Prince: Yeah… It’s not a spontaneous thing. You see, first of all the number of youths, I’ll have to explain the level of youth’s participation in Imo State.
It is very very low.
Their participation in politics is …I’ll break it into two.
Participation in Politics and the other one is participation in governance.
You see their participation in politics is partisan, so at the party level they have the youth wing.
I’m a youth member of XYZ party and then when it comes to the actual thing which is governance itself you don’t see that kind of participation...you understand.
In Imo State, we just have two young persons who are House members - I mean under 35 who are just House members. But when it comes to….
Lyrics: *interrupts… the rest are old.
Prince: *giggling… Yes, we have Honorable Phillip Ojiogo and we have Honorable Crown Michael. These are just the two young guys.
Lyrics: They’re both young guys?
Prince: Yeah, they’re young guys under 35.
Lyrics: In fact, I wanted to say under 40 is nice.
Prince: No no… I’m just saying, I’m giving you the actual - under 35. Yeah, because when we had the election, it was last year and then this year, they must have added one or two years to their ages.
So, I’m saying if it comes to political participation of the youths in Imo State, it is very low and at the level of party politics, that is where they operate.
You know they belong to various youth wings of a particular party and they do all of those youth thing ...thuggery, violence during election and stuffs like that, but the actual governance itself, the decision making we want to see how things, policy making at that point, you don’t get to find youths participating actively in Imo State.
Winnie: So, you mentioned eh… two different types of participation, participation in the area of politics and participation in the area of governance, and in the area of politics, you also highlighted political parties.
Prince: Yeah, that is where it starts from.
Winnie: Do you think that’s a stepping stone to actual governance, because they won’t fly to the other part of participation which is governance and you mentioned thuggery and other violent activities, is that like the only thing they get to do at the party?
Prince: From my experience, I’ve not seen a youth who aspired from being a political youth to wanting to become… in the governance system.
For example, these two young men in the house of assembly didn’t just start from political parties and politics, we didn’t see them in the street doing certain things, they joined the party and then they were focused on what they wanted to aspire for.
Now the party process, also is an issue if I have to go that way.
We have the party constitution, the nice things written in the constitution; they are all nice in the party constitution, but when it comes to the actual implementation of those things, the party big wigs have a way of making the youths not get there.
So, if for example youths have to be counselor this and that, and when it comes to getting a nomination form you need 12 million... you can imagine yourself. An average youth, would rather buy a RAV-4, than buying a form he isn’t even sure would let him win the primaries.
Lyrics: So, you think that money is the core discouraging factor?
Prince: Money is a major factor, not just money, but like I said the political processes are also factors. They have a way of discouraging.
Lyrics: Good, now somehow somewhere, dem don raise that money and they don win. Is that encouraging for somebody out there?
Prince: Yes, it’s encouraging but then the means. For example, I want to be a house member. I need to raise that kind of money, and if I don’t have it, what happens? All of my good thoughts, skills and everything, I’ll just take it back and keep, and stay quiet and then watch things unfold and at that money is a determiner.
Lyrics: We were taking about the parties, Irrespective of how the youths, sell their way into the hearts of other youths, I participated in politics in UNEC, I went ahead to be the director of socials and for the first time, I eventually became the Faculty DOS, which wasn’t what I wanted.
How do we prepare the minds of the youths to prepare for challenges?
Prince: With what you just described, brings in the word which we call “Connection” and “God Fatherism”, in which they put who they wanted.
In that kind of situation, if parties would allow the youths to participate or women, in encouraging the youths to participate, we should start from the political parties.
You can’t operate independently, because Nigeria has not seen that kind of situation, but if you must have to be in politics, then you must join a political party.
They need to make the political processes open, make it affordable, if he process that brings is transparent and free, then I’ll be encouraged to join.
Lyrics: How do you encourage somebody who already knows these permutations ...God-Fatherism? How do we encourage them despite all these, that there’s hope for you in politics and how do we encourage them to gear up and prepare for next steps in politics?
Prince: From my experience, one thing we’ve tried doing from the private sector in Imo State, is to sensitize youths across local governments in Imo State, that there is still hope. There’s still a chance, there’s still hope that you can get in there, just be part of the process.
Winnie: One point you highlighted is the expensive electoral process. Now a lot of young people cannot afford the huge amount of money, how do you encourage them?
Prince: I wouldn’t advise anybody carelessly to go and raise money anyhow. I mentioned Connection and God-Fatherism sometime back; now, this is where all these factors key in - encouraging you to be part of the process and then somebody else is lending you the money.
When we are awakened, and people see that this person is right for the job, he will do the job for the community, people will give you the money.
Winnie: Focusing on Imo State, in this post-election period the government must have made some political appointments. How youth friendly are those appointments?
Prince: I’m not trying to have comparison or favor one side. Previously, in an administration (either in Osun or Ondo State), it was open.
Summarily I’m not really sure about the youth appointment in Imo State, because it’s not really in the open, but I don’t get the feel that more youths are being appointed.
Winnie: So, going forward what would you advise?
Prince: Going forward, I would advise whoever is sitting there in the seat of power to make more political appointments that’s embracing the youth and then, the women.
Lyrics: Let me take you away from the political aspect, do you think the youths are ready for the politics?
Prince: Sincerely, I’ve asked myself this question. Like I said in the beginning, a good number of us are not even interested. Those that are interested are at the partisan level.
There are good guys in this community, but we choose to fall back, because we are not encourage by what is happening generally.
90% of the youths are not interested, but the 10% interested, we are trying to collate things differently if we try to go into politics, and it’s a small voice.
A good number of youths in Imo State are not interested in politics.
Winnie: What would you think would make them to be interested and be ready in politics and good governance?
Prince: I’ll just highlight two things, one I said in the beginning, we’ll have to start sensitizing and re-orienting them.
Now, to get yourself ready, you have to start registering in a politic party and doing all of those processes.
Political parties need to make it possible for them to come on board.
Lyrics: The youths are not encouraging each other. More so, people are becoming to see politics as business rather than policy changes. How do we change that perception?
Prince: Of course, it’s business. If we can make the cost of governance cheap. We can’t operate independently, so we need to join a political party.
So, the political party constitution should make it very easy for young persons to now start accessing the other things of being in a political party.
Winnie: When we talk about good governance, it also involves the issue of accountability, how is it going on in Imo State?
Prince: When we try rallying youths into doing a thing, one program will just jump out from no where, they place distractions and you see they lose focus. I believe they let some of these things happen.
Winnie: So, what distractions have they placed for Imo?
Prince: The drama that has been playing out in Imo for the past one month, is the issue of pensions, so they have protested twice now.
Another thing, I noticed is the guys at the top (Big Politicians) have a way of convincing 5-10 youths, and make them their e-media specialist liars.
Winnie: What’s the social media engagement of people in Imo State?
Prince: I personally, set up posts on Facebook, taking pictures of heap sites, bad roads and stuffs. These top people have a way of turning the youths against the youths.
I was one time arrested by the police with accusations of casting aspersions on the governor.
If people that are trying to make things happen on social media, are been harassed, either online or physically, what do you think? It’s not encouraging.
Apart, from the distraction I’ve mentioned, there’s this kind of power play.
Winnie: All these forms of harassment, did it stop you from doing what you had to do?
Prince: The only thing it did to me was take out my family from social media pages, and one change my name online.
Winnie: Is that the way forward? because we are trying to hold our leaders accountable.
Prince: Like I said, I keep saying, very few.
Winne: Also, these works, you’ve been doing like the accountability, did it inspire for something you were looking up too?
Prince: Okay, I wouldn’t know how you want to verify my response. I’m not going for the envelope part of it, or any appointment, no!
My appointment is with my family, I don’t want any state appointment. When I was given an award, I dedicated it to my children, so they would be proud to know their father was part of history and they can carry on my good work.
So, I’m not doing it for the pay; of course, nobody is paying me. And I need to add this, South-Saharan Social Development Organization (SSDO), gave us technical support.
We are doing it, because of the concern on the way things are.
Lyrics: When the government do these things you’ve highlighted, do you go back to post these responses?
Prince: Yeah… I do, but just for one road. Like the post I made on the road leading to my village of about 10km, attention has been given to it, they’ve started work on it.
Winnie: You know, what you’re doing, you aren’t doing it for any gratification or whatsoever. Do these youths have the same mind as you and what would you say is the challenge?
Prince: Lack of passion. Like Fela said we are used to suffering and smiling. Some people are so comfortable with what they have.
1st Caller: We keep looking up to the young people, but somewhere along the line, we get disappointed. They need to keep engaging themselves, it shouldn’t just be about getting sponsored.
What we need is to replenish that zeal we had before especially in the 70’s and 80’s then early 90’s. Take responsibilities, nobody is going to do it for you.
~ Mrs. Odazie, from Illah, Delta State.
2nd Caller: One of the problems with the youths is participating in thuggery and violence. What do you think we can do to stop this? Even some of the graduates, looking at the money involved, where will they get that kind of money from; most especially in buying nomination form?
~ Steven Bamayi
Prince: You see, we cannot eradicate certain things into-to; we can at least reduce them. If we start to re-orient our youths or sensitizing them, we will start having behavioral change.
By the time we start giving them the realities, we’ll have a change of hearts.
We should also start talking about political parties, reducing the cost of governance. We also need to push for the Independent Presidential Bill.
Winnie: What area do you think Imo State needs intervention?
Prince: All of it, there’s no independent one. Each one depends on the other to happen. Every aspect needs to balance out for things to work out.
Winnie: What specific area needs urgent intervention?
Prince: To be specific, the area I think needs urgent intervention, is the ease of doing business for the young people, social amenities and then state friendly laws.
A question someone asked on social media saying, “When was the last time our governor had a meeting with entrepreneurs?”, that was a very technical question, because when you have meeting with entrepreneurs, you bring investments into the state.
You want to ask them what works, what can work?
3rd Caller: It’s so unfortunate how youths are being bought on cheap gratifications. It breaks my heart, when I see youths engage in thuggery and at the end, you hear them shouting and complaining of bad governance. Youths need to wake up.
Prince: The last guy that called, did you notice his passion? So, there are pockets of effectiveness.