Today marks another anniversary of the United Nations’ International Youth Day. More than ever before, today’s observance is apt, considering the fact that the current global demographic shows that half of the people on our planet are 30 or younger, and this is expected to reach 57 per cent by the end of 2030.
Compared to that global demographic, Nigeria is even richer in youth population. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, Nigeria has the largest population of youth in the world, with a median age of 18.1 years. About 70 per cent of the population are under 30, and 42 per cent are under the age of 15.
Although much has been said about Nigeria’s potential demographic asset in her youth population, the spirit behind the founding of International Youth Day by the United Nations is one Nigeria can glean from.
The General Assembly endorsed the declaration on the promotion among youth of the ideals of peace, mutual respect and understanding between peoples.
For this year’s observance, the objective of International Youth Day is to amplify the message that action is needed across all generations to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and leave no one behind. It will also raise awareness on certain barriers to intergenerational solidarity, notably ageism, which impacts young and old persons, while having detrimental effects on society as a whole.
Ageism is an insidious and often an unaddressed issue in health, human rights and development, and has bearings on both older and younger populations around the world. In addition, ageism regularly intersects with other forms of bias (such as racism and sexism) and impacts people in ways that prevent them from reaching their full potential and comprehensively contributing to their community.
The Global Report on Ageism, launched by the United Nations in March 2021 highlights that despite lack of research, young people continue to report age-related barriers in various spheres of their lives such as employment, political participation, health and justice. The report also identifies intergenerational interventions as one of the three key strategies to address ageism. Intergenerational activities can also lead to a greater sense of social connectedness and strengthen intergenerational solidarity.
Gleaning from the above report, there can be no gainsaying the fact that much of the unrest Nigeria has experienced over the past several years can be linked to youth discontent. A classic example was the #EndSars protest that rocked the nation nearly two years ago.
Of course, youth restiveness can be linked to issues such as unemployment, economic marginalisation, to name a few.
The need for youth participation in politics and the economy is therefore exigent at the moment. There may be no better time than now to etch themselves in the commonwealth of the fatherland than now.
Arguably, the time is even rifer now considering the fact that 2023 general elections are barely months away.
Thankfully, the Buhari administration has achieved the “Not Too Young To Run Act,” which makes it easier for Nigeria’s young people to get involved and chart their economic and political destiny.
The majority of people in Nigeria and further afield agree that the age balance in politics is wrong. More than two thirds (69 per cent) of people across all age groups agree that more opportunities for younger people to have a say in policy development/change would make political systems better.
Globally, only 2.6 per cent of parliamentarians are under 30 years old, and less than 1 per cent of these young MPs are women.
The time for Nigeria’s young people to chart a better future for themselves is now.