One of the key objectives of the Cross River State Youth Parliament and Democracy Club is inculcating democratic values among youths in the state.
In this article, we will take a look at how we can achieve this objective which we believe will help in advancing democracy in the state.
Research has shown that youth make up more than fifty percent of the state population. The youth also represent the essence of the present and future leadership in Cross River State as well as constitute a large chunk of the decision making groups in the state. This makes the youth a very important demographic in the state.
The role of youth in democracy must not be limited to being used as thugs to rig elections and snatch ballot boxes, but they must be a driving force behind democracy and their participation must be a continuing engagement with the process of democratic governance. To achieve this, youths in the state must inculcate democratic values.
Democratic values can be defined as the fundamental beliefs and constitutional principles which guide the democratic government put in place in a particular society.
Democratic values support the belief that an orderly society can exist in which freedom is preserved. Liberty, equality and justice represent basic values of democratic political system. The rule of law also forms a fundamental value in a democratic system.
The evolution of our democratic experience has been marred by uncivil political behaviors that range from political apathy to electoral fraud.
The attendant effect has been lack of popular participation, and disengagement of many Nigerians, particularly youths, from the political processes.
The lack of development of democratic values is one major obstacle that has marred democratic consolidation in Nigeria. For Democracy to grow and take roots in Cross River State, effort must be made to inculcate democratic values among different demographic segments in the state including the youth. The youth must be encouraged to learn and practice the tenets of democracy.
In order to achieve this important objective, first, youth in all their dealings must be encouraged to adhere to and internalize the democratic values of liberty, equality and justice. In institutions, organizations and daily life, as much as possible they must be democratic and civil.
They also are expected to play their functional role by participating in the democratic process in the state. This participation depends on their awareness, adherence and internalization of democratic values.
Secondly, the youth must learn to engage in democratic conversations on issues that concern them intelligently. Democratic conversations and debates are essential part of democracy. Debates and conversations bring enlightenment; they help us understand all angles to an issue with a view to building consensus.
Even if a consensus is not reached and the majority has their way, the minority will also have a say. This helps in the sense that by being able to contribute to the debate, the minority feels carried along in the decision process and does not have bottled up grudge.
Third, we must encourage youth to learn to accommodate people with different shades of opinion in the society as this is a fundamental pillar of democracy. Just as our faces are all different, our opinions are bound to be different too. But we must learn to live in the space that accommodates all. This can only be achieved by being accommodating and understanding that everyone has a right to think differently.
So, for any democracy to be sustained, it is essential that its citizenry, especially the youths, possess the requisite skills, demonstrate the above mentioned values, and display the behaviors that accord democracy.
To participate and do so well in democratic activities, the youths must possess a good grasp of democratic values which will aid, guide and direct their conducts in the discharge of their civic responsibilities. That means that democracy is nurtured and sustained only when democratic values are rooted in the minds and actions of citizens.
The disposition that form democratic ethos are not inherited or passed down through the genetic mode, it is required that each generation of society learn civic facts, explore democratic ideas and values, and connect such concepts to the responsibility of citizenship. Such disposition must be fostered and internalized by word, study and by power of example.
It is clear then that effort must be made to create opportunity for youth to learn, explore and practice these democratic values in the state. In line with this, the Cross River State Youth Parliament and Democracy Club will organize an annual democracy lecture and booth camp for youth in the state to help inculcate democratic values in the next few years.
These democracy lectures will feature presentations by a crack team of seasoned resource persons, subject experts and leading democratic leaders within and without the state.
The booth camps on the other hand will feature gatherings for practical democratic experiences including mock elections and youth parliamentary sessions.
We believe that these initiatives will help inculcate democratic values in youth in Cross River State and in turn promote the advancement of democracy in the state.
The advancement of democracy in our state has the promise of immense benefits and is worth striving to achieve by all stakeholders.
The sustainability and growth of democracy in Cross River State depend on the civic consciousness of the youth and the success in inculcating democratic values in them. Youths in the state must thus learn how to develop support for democratic values and rule of law.
Emmanuel Etim is a development consultant based in Nigeria,
President of Cross River State Democracy Club
and Cross River State Youth Parliament.
Email me firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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