• OAU to represent South West at national debate

By Henry Uche, Lagos

With the rising economic deprivation in Nigeria, students in tertiary institutions are increasingly voicing their concerns about the APC government’s performance over the past years.

Across various campuses, formal and informal debates on the state of affairs are ongoing. While some students express frustration with the APC government, others remain hopeful for a better future.

Recently, at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), students from Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Ife, Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA), TAI Solarin University of Education, Ogun State, and UNILAG gathered to discuss the status quo and future of governance, leadership, and administration at the federal level, particularly its impact on young people’s destinies.

Organized by Yiaga Africa in collaboration with the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) and supported by Open Society Foundations, the event saw students questioning the possibility and reality of becoming the leaders of tomorrow, as often promised by older politicians. Some expressed feelings of hopelessness, believing they cannot compete with wealthy individuals, while others held onto faith in a better future.

Under the theme “My Nigeria- Our Nigerian Debate,” Blessing Obasi, a student from TAI Solarin University of Education, expressed her disappointment with the country’s current state but maintained her belief in a brighter future. “To be honest, I am not happy, I am just disappointed with the government at the centre, but I still believe Nigeria can be better,” she said.

Obasi emphasized that Nigerian youths would continue to raise their voices until things improve. “Sad, we thought some politicians had good intentions but on getting there, they just changed into what I don’t know. Worse still, some politicians have in mind to loot before getting into power. I believe the beautiful ones are born, and one day they will emerge in leadership positions. We shall keep fighting (literally) until something better happens,” she added.

Osunsakin Samuel, a FUTA student, adopted a neutral stance, affirming that Nigeria can improve if young people take governance more seriously. He urged students not to let the economic situation discourage them from believing in their country.

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“I’m not disappointed at all over the performance of APC administration. Let’s maintain a positive mindset. I know many are aggrieved following what happened last year, but we can’t give up, we will get it right one day,” he assured.

Anthonia Onda, a senior program officer at Yiaga Africa, emphasized the importance of considering life after elections. She asserted that the forum provided a platform for young people to discuss issues related to politics, governance, leadership, and administration, which directly impact their lives.

“This is to make young people understand that they are involved in the affairs of government. As they discuss topical issues that affect them, they must know that life after elections is paramount. Governance is more important than just casting votes. There are more beyond elections. Youths should begin to think about innovative ways to improve the process,” she urged.

Mark Amaza, senior communications officer at Yiaga, highlighted the “Not Too Young To Run Act” as an enabler, citing the increased number of young people in executive and legislative positions. However, he stressed that more needs to be done.

“The debate is about giving Nigerian youths a platform to discuss issues of governance/politics and leadership at the top, as it affects them most. We want them to know what is really involved so they can properly prepare themselves. It’s not all about money, but capacity to deliver best results,” he said.

Amaza emphasized that the change Nigerians desire should begin at the individual level. He highlighted that the inter-campus debate aimed to assess young people’s awareness, preparedness, willingness, and readiness to participate actively in the entire governance process.

“You can see one of the issues debated here is whether election petitions should be concluded before a government is sworn in or not. Other things looked into are governance, democracy, politics, citizenship, and national values. There are a whole lot of real issues for serious discourse, only if we all do our bids,” he added.

Amaza concluded by emphasizing the importance of informing and empowering Nigerian youths to make informed decisions regarding government and politics. He also called for political parties to create a level playing field for everyone to participate, especially young people who may lack the financial resources to compete with wealthier candidates.