The Commonwealth Youth Council (CYC) is the largest and the most diverse youth led organisation in the world and the official voice of over 1.2 billion young people from across the 53 commonwealth nations.
As elections draws near, the Nigerian-born Chairperson of the Council, Ahmed Adamu speaks to YOUTHVILLE on its programme, Youth Campaign Against Election Violence (YCAEV) and the role of young Nigerians in ensuring peace and achieving a zero-election violence.
What is this youth initiative designed to achieve?
It is a commonwealth initiative to ensure zero-election violence during electioneering process across some elected common wealth countries that were affected by violence in the previous elections. In 2014, we launched the YCAEV campaign in Abuja and we launched the step-down of the campaign in February also in Abuja.
How does it work?
We appointed state marshals. They are working in their states and local government areas, championing this campaign of non-violence in elections. We equally have ambassadors who have voluntarily undertaken to promote peace at every opportunity they have.
They engage in advocacy visits especially to the leaders of different background; religious, political and community leaders. They also engage in rallies to create awareness among others.
How are youths engaged in this violence-free election campaign?
At the launch, youths signed what we call the Youth Peace Accord. We have to sign our own peace accord because most of the violence is perpetuated by the young people.
That is what the Commonwealth has facilitated that the Nigerian young people have agreed that in this year’s election, there will be no violence. In the past elections, young people were killed.
What is the place of YCAEV in the forthcoming elections?
The tension and anxiety with so many security concerns for this year’s election underpins the need to intensify the campaign to promote peace in the country.
What is your evaluation of the challenges faced by youth with the available empowerment programmes?
We have been saying that if you have a ministry of health, you appoint a medical doctor, ministry of women you appoint a woman. Now, we have a ministry of youth, we should have a young person to be the minister who can still interact with his peers.
The challenge to youth in Africa is unemployment. So many young people out there without jobs, some of them went to school and came out with no jobs. Those of them that did not go to school do not have enough capital or enough turn over when they do.
A person who didn't go to school decided to do a mini-business and the business is collapsing because there is no patronage and now if you have this teeming young people coming together, the end result might turn out to be very bad. That is why the government and election is very important in defining and shaping the future of Nigerian young people.
What then would you say to young people?
Young people need to use this opportunity because the politicians, immediately after elections they will not come back to us. They should grab these politicians and make them commit to empowering young people in the country.
Nigerian youths should open their eyes so that they will not just follow candidates blindly. They should look at the candidates especially at local and state levels, and they should avoid violence.
... and Government?
I think there is need for a constitutional review to accommodate young people in elected positions particularly at the national level. Young people have the capacity to contribute to national debate especially at the National Assembly but now the constitution is saying you cannot be president or governor until at the age of 40 or so.
Even someone who is 39 like a governorship candidate in Niger state is above the definition of what we call youth in Nigeria which is between the age of 18 and 35.
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