By Rukayya Idris
As the 2022 edition of the International Youth Day is commemorated globally, the people of Biu, a politically charged local government headquarters in the south of Borno, a state in northeast Nigeria, earnestly urge politicians to discard ageism in order to pave path for the young people to take part in real politics.
The United Nations “has long recognized that young people are a major human resource for development and
key agents for social change, economic growth and technological innovation; thereby their participation in
decision-making is a key priority area of the UN agenda on youth.
That was why in 1995, when the tenth anniversary
of International Youth Year was commemorated, the United Nations had to bolstered its obligation to young people by
adopting the World Programme of Action for Youth (WPAY), which is a global scheme to more effectively handle the youth issues and boost chances for their participation in society.
This commitment to youth participation was reaffirmed through UN General
Assembly resolution 58/133, which restates “the importance of the full and effective participation of youth and youth organizations at the local, national, regional and international levels in
promoting and implementing the World Programme of Action and in evaluating the progress
achieved and the obstacles encountered in its implementation”.
But despite this global protocol backing the imperatives of youth participation, the issue of ageism has continued to block the path of young people, especially in Nigeria, to actively involved in public affairs.
Ageism, according to the WHO refers to the stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination towards others or oneself based on age.
It is the view of many young people in Biu town that ageism impedes their right to civic participation in politics. They lament that due to ageism their opinions are not counted, even when they do, they are not taken seriously.
Abdu Ibrahim Shalangwa, a vibrant young man in Biu believe he has a lot of potential in politics but the old politician feels his age does not advantage him for a serious role other than being a thug.
“I have a lot of interest in politics but my first attempt turn out to reflect that the only place I have in the party I joined was to become a thug or to be treated as one,” he said.
“No one out there is ready to listen to my goals. All they believe is that I am there for the immediate gratification”.
Mr Shalangwa, a college graduate, said the lack of job opportunities and a space to serve in the political office made him take to the business of commercial tricycle riding in Biu.
“They made my political dreams shattered,” he lamented.
Ali Musa, another youthful politician in Biu said he vied for a political post but was rejected because of his age.
“I contested for office or councillor at the age of 25, in Zarawuyaku Electoral Ward, but the ideology that elderly people are more competent than youth has affected my chance of winning right from the early stage of candidate selection by delegates”.
Ali calls on members of society to understand the concept of competency and avoid using age as a yardstick in giving people the opportunity to serve.
Umar Sulaiman Adam, a 300-level student at Nigerian Army University Biu said his interest in joining politics died because of how other youths talked about their experiences.
“I get to understand that the youth can only be considered in the absence of the old and experienced individuals, which is unacceptable,” he noted.
“To me, the youths can be more passionate towards performing their responsibilities and more accessible to their people. I am urging the politicians to give youth the chance, not necessarily to take over the offices, but to give a semblance of a sense of belonging in the political arena”.
Though Hafsat Goni, who is not politically inclined had worried that age barrier affect youth participation in politics, in the sense that it has to do with individuals feeling, she however advocated that “youth should be granted the opportunity to occupy some offices in the upcoming election because Nigeria needs the support and leadership of vibrant youth that would bring national development in the nation”.
Despite the discouraging blockades youth suffer in their quest to be active members of the political class, not all of them seem to be backing out.
Mohammed Abdullahi said: “despite the obstacles, I am encountering in politics because of my age, as a young man who is pursuing his political career, I encourage myself not to back down, as I have developed a positive mentality that our parents in politics will someday understand that this country belongs to us and begin to give us the space”.
“We the youth must understand that Nigeria is ours to take care of; the next generation would be our children, whose bright future depends on our participation, not only in politics but in many aspects of the society.”
The Humanitarian Times has however observed that despite the thriving nature of ageism, some elders in the community have condemned the age barrier, as they insist that the older politicians should give the youth a sense of belonging in the political arena.
Alhaji Habu Ahmed, an elder and the Karma of Biu noted that “Nigerian youth have equal right to take part in politics as the elderly people, but it is very unfortunate that, some of the leaders forgot that the youngsters are also bound to the responsibilities of moving the country forward, which can only be accomplished if they have access to the government system”.
“As a politician, it is only through good mentorship that you can have a competent ambassador, and by granting opportunities and treating the youth as your own, you would live to leave a good legacy”.
The Biu Chieftain thereby called on youths to maintain good character, because a good politician chooses and grants the opportunity to those who can represent him as a decent and well-behaved person, and not the other way round.”
The respected elder admonished that while struggling for recognition in the realm of politics, the youth should also advantage of the opportunities to seek mentorship from the older ones.
“Youth should be sensitive when choosing mentors, by carefully and wisely looking at the interest of the person and what he wants to use them for. A good politics should not always be about money”.
Stephen Gana Mshalbwala said “Ageism has been in existence for a very long time in Nigeria, he laments that “I contest for councillor in 1999, in Sakwa/Hema Ward, Hawul Local Government, I was asked to step down for my uncle whom the party members believed is more competent because he is older”.
Mr Stephen said, “Young people deserve opportunities because competency has nothing to do with age, there are many youths who have the zeal to serve their fatherland but were curbed because of uncountable reasons on the ground and ageism is one of them”.
Also speaking, Dayyiba Ibrahim Kida, stated that, “girls at youthful age are restrain to participate in many aspect of life” she said “I am not into politics, but ageism when related to our cultural believes plays a significant role in youth inactive participation, particularly the female gender on how it brings about judging girls that are into politics as people of bad character”.
Ms Kida urged members of the society and parent “to grant opportunity for young girls to take part in the political environment”.
A traditional leader, Bulama Abubakar Sadiq Abdullahi Biu, in an interview, said, “Intergenerational solidarity is crucial in creating a better space for young people because a person at youthful age needs support to create meaning out of his/her life”.
“In the arena of politics, youth emerge in mass to support their candidates which shows their explicit interest towards politics, yet most of the politicians are not ready to accommodate their desires or give them the rightful support”.
Commenting on the ideals of IYD, Saleh Nuhu, a lecturer at the Department of Human Anatomy, Yusuf Maitama Sule University, kano, said, “United Nations Sustainable Development Goal encouraged that creation of policies, educational activities and intergenerational intervention as ways to decrease ageism globally”.
He said “in terms of regulations, age is in favour of youths participation, but looking at the political orientation of electorates in the country, youth were tactically excluded to be voted for, starting from the expression of interest, the amount slated for the purchase of forms was exorbitant for the youth”, he added that “young people are indirectly stripped off of the right granted to them”.
The renowned educationists called on the youth “to work towards showing their ability to govern because credibility is something integral in person regardless of age”.
Mohammed Sulaiman, the Head of Geography Department, College of Education Waka-Biu, also opined that the “Nigerian government has granted equal opportunity on politics irrespective of age, but financial crisis served as a boundary to youth participation at a certain level”.
Mallam Mohammed added that “ageism plays a significant role in youth inactive participation in politics because people prefer to vote for influential candidates who will give them immediate gratification rather than a youth with vision”.
Also commenting on the subject matter, Wutama Dari, a classroom teacher at Government Day Secondary School Biu, recalled that “a bill was signed into law in 2018 by President Mohammadu Buhari, on ‘Not Too Young To Run indicating that the parliament has reduced age limit for some elective offices in the country”.
“I believed that youth’s participation is paramount due to how vibrant and committed they can be in performing their duties”.
Nigeria ranks as one of the countries with the largest youth population in the world. Recent data by the United Nations indicates that over 70% of the country’s population is under the age of 30.
*Edited by Abdulkareem Haruna