Thursday, June 21, 2012


By National President of The Young Journalists Forum, Ayodele Samuel Ayokunle at the NETAD Youths and Emerging Leaders Summit, in Abeokuta Ogun state . Introduction Youth make up an increasing share of the world population, and constitute a majority of Internet users in many countries and in diverse contexts. Yet the youth are often excluded from national and international decision-making structures that affect them. In Nigeria there are over 45 million young people. 90 percent of this population are not involved in decision-making process while less than 50 percent have access to one form of social media. Nigeria’s liberation struggle from colonialism benefitted immensely from the contributions of Dr. Herbert Macaulay, Ernest Ikoli, Chief H O Davis, J C Vaughan, Oba Samuel Akinsanya, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Tafawa Balawa, Obafemi Awolowo among others at their youthful age. The efforts of these youths led to Nigeria’s independence and again contributed in driving the struggles for democracy in the 80s and 90s. The youth have been in the forefront of good governance and demand for credible leadership in the country since the restoration of democracy. In this connection, efforts by the Nigerian students, over the years cannot be over emphasized. Before now, the youths have always been helpful in steering Nigeria in the right direction at critical moments in the history of the country. The contribution of the youths also featured prominently in the role played by Nigeria’s media in fostering independence and democracy. Notable young Nigerians played key roles during the 2011 general elections; using the innovative social tools that the New and Digital Media provides. It is therefore important that we define a pathway from critical points in history in the journey into the future. It is clear that Nigeria has no choice but to change for good. The time for positive is now! However it’s important to note that youth participation in governance often end at the polls as was the case with periodic elections in Nigeria. It is therefore crucial to state here that good governance’s starts from the poll, after electing our leaders and representative we must follow them up- engage them on policy decisions. The words “governance” and “good governance” appear frequently these days in our everyday discourse, in the developed world, the term does refer to the activities of government, but it is understood to go beyond government and to include the relationships between formal government institutions and its citizenry. The youths are very vulnerable to government policy and corruption in the system. It is important to point out that representative democracy does not necessarily mean that the concerns of the most vulnerable in society would be taken into consideration in decision making expect the decision makers are compelled to do so. Youth participation in governance entails mobilising young people to influence decision-making process and creating positive change in the local communities. It has been asserted that “young people have a right to be involved in the decisions that affect them. This is promoted in law, policy and guidance: the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Every Child Matters, the Children Act 2004, Youth Matters, Children’s Trusts guidance and guidance on inspections” (An Introduction to Involving Children and Young People, NYA, 2009). It is important that youth participation is meaningful - and that it involves a genuine opportunity for young people to influence decision-making process and bring about positive change. Meaningful participation is more than just consultation - where young people are asked their views - but adults retain all decision making power. Young people are getting increasingly informed and becoming a lot more critical about the challenges confronting their communities, many have demonstrated unmistakable clarity on current issues and expressed strong feelings about the way governments are approaching and handling these issues. Youth are equally not too rigid in their ways and are thus ready to embrace change and be at the vanguard of a rebirth in Nigeria. In order for young people to truly experience social justice, we must create societies in which young people are full citizens, empowered to meaningfully and effectively contribute ideas and make decisions. societies where every time decisions are made affecting young people or their communities, youths are there ready to contribute and take part in the decision making process. It is strange that even where the issues to be discussed directly affect youths, many times there are no young people at the table. One need only look at most education and youth development boards across Nigeria to fully grasp the extent to which youth are marginalized even when they are directly affected. The Power of the Social Media Tech-savvy young Nigerians should gear up to use BlackBerries, mobile phones and social networking services such as Twitter and Facebook to contribute to decision making process. As it was in the case during the April 2011 election, new media played an unprecedented role,Nigerian politicians actively utilized social media in their campaigns and sent bulk text and voice messages in unprecedented numbers to the citizens. President Jonathan declared his intention to run on face-book and subsequently became the second most “liked” head of state in the world after US President Barack Obama ( Therefore we can also use these platforms to monitor policy makers and influence their decisions. The key question is how do we influence governance at all levels in Nigeria using new media? To increase awareness amongst citizens, civil society actors and policy makers for the potential of new media as a tool for public good, we need to let the people know that a phone call to your local government chairman can bring a great change and influence his decision about your community- you are using a social media tool . Youth should be encouraged to start issue-based discussions on a bill before the parliaments on face-book or through tweeter that connect with the lawmakers and bring change by influencing their decisions. With camera phones, images of that bad road, dilapidated public building in your community could be shared on face-book walls and other social media platforms to attract attention of public office holders. But unfortunately, what we have today is needless celebration of public office holders via many social networks. Government officials are increasingly aware of new media tools that will allow them to communicate government activities and invite feedback from citizens. Thus our pains, concern, opinion could be communicated through this medium provided by social media not celebrating mediocrity. Conclusion The youth who are the users of social media must intensify constructive engagements of government and policy makers to savage this nation and promote the society at every given platforms available on the social networks. Thank you for listen (reading)