Ebonyi youths gather in Abakaliki to chat strategies for effective participation in politics -By Reginald Okoro

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The International Republican Institute (IRI) has organised a one–day youth townhall meeting in Abakaliki which brought together youths from across political, social and economic divides.
The meeting which held on Tuesday was aimed at discussing strategies for improving youths participation in the political process, developing legislative and government policies that would address the development challenge affecting the youths of Ebonyi state.
The summit had in attendance leaders of registered political parties, members of the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) , youth organizations among others.
Mr Bonaventure Akuma, facilitator of the programme stated that the essence of the townhall meeting was to aggregate opinions, identify challenges that militate against youth involvement in politics.
He explained that the initiative was to come up with strategies to improve youth participation in nation’s politics.
Meanwhile, a participant, Mr Hillary Nwali, state chairman of Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN) noted that there was a huge gap in youth involvement in politics especially in the Ebonyi.
He lamented that the situation had persisted despite the Not-Too-Young-To-Run law which has lowered the age requirements for contesting elections allowing more youths to participate.
He decried the level of involvement of youths in thuggery, political hooliganism and their interest in pecuniary gains which exposed them to be used by older politicians for their selfish interests.
He advocated capacity building on the part of the youths as a way of improving themselves mentally and equip them with skills that would enable them do better when they enter into politics.
He also described money as one of the major inhibitions to youths participation in partisan politics.
He explained that it was important that youths started early to mobilize and engage in community services in order to get acquainted with the people adding that such engagement could make up for lack of funds.
“Money is major impediments to youths participation in politics especially contesting for elective positions.
“Engagement in community services can become a panacea since it can become an opportunity to get them acquainted with the people,” Nwali said.
Mr Chinedu Nwasum said youths could exploit their large population and mobilize for change.
“‘The youths should have an agenda that cut across parties so that their common interests can be protected,” he said.
Another youth, Mr Godson Egwu, urged youth to focus on capacity building and mentorship and avoid over dependence on the old breed politicians.
“Capacity development and mentorship are important if youths must be relevant and play active role in the political process.
“Youths should empower themselves with relevant skills and should stop being willing tools in the hands of the old politicians,” Egwu said.
Mr Benjamin Mkpuma another participant urged youths to keep faith with the political process and strive to end political apathy that had bedevilled the political system.
Mkpuma, a member of the APC said that he had not lost focus or interest in politics despite challenges in party politics.
“Youths should not lose focus or interest in politics because there will certainly be an improvement in the political process,” he said.
He described political parties as vehicles that takes one to his destination and enjoined participants to hop into this vehicle to get to their destinations.
“Joining a political party is the first step that one takes in the quest for political participation and power.
“And as youths we should get registered with political parties to enhance our opportunity,” he added.
Mr James Uburu recalled how the #EndSARS protests demonstrated the power of the youths.
“If this same energy can be channeled towards politics a lot can change,” Uburu said.
Mr Chikaodiri Igweze observed that the problem with youth participation in politics was largely dependent on non-preparedness.
“The youths hope to get into power but do not prepare themselves to take that power; financial and emotional preparation are needed to enhance them.” he said.
The outcome of the event was aggregation of youth demand to hand over to government youth agencies, party leaders and lawmakers to guide laws and policies that would enhance youth involvement in political process and governance to avoid further youth uprising.

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