Democracy is a government of the people; especially: rule of the majority. Youth make up more than 50% of the total population in Cross River State. From this it is clear that youths form an important demographic in the democratic structure of the state. Can there then be a credible representative democracy in the state without effective youth participation?
The reality of the growing population of youth in Cross River State makes it imperative that efforts must be made to promote effective youth participation in democracy. Another important factor that supports this position is the creativity, innovation and energy that this demographic segment brings into the democratic process.
Cross River State Democracy Club and Cross River State Youth Parliament as proactive socio-political and modern democratic organizations are committed to promoting effective youth participation in democracy in Cross River State. The organizations where birthed to meet this need and are working closely with critical stakeholders to achieve it.
As organizations that promote and support the involvement and engagement of youth in their communities all around the state, we are concerned about the difficulties that youths face participating in every stage of the political process. Active political participation of youth is the basis for a well functioning society.
In a research carried out during the 2015 general elections aimed at determining the level of youth participation and to understand the challenges that prevent them from effective participation in democracy, we observed that the more youth are acquainted and engaged with democratic participation and democratic processes, the higher their level of satisfaction and involvement with their community.
We will now take a look at some of these challenges that prevent youth from effective participation in democracy.
CHALLENGES THAT PREVENT YOUTH FROM EFFECTIVE PARTICIPATION IN DEMOCRACY
There are many challenges that prevent youth from effective participation in democracy in Cross River State. Some of these include lack of adequate information, lack of trust in democratic institutions and empathy towards the political process, the high cost of the political process in the state and lack of necessary economic means that would allow them compete effectively. Let’s take them one at a time.
First, many youth in Cross River State do not have adequate information regarding the political processes in the state and how they can effectively participate. Some of the information that are required include provisions of the Nigerian constitution, contents of the national and state electoral laws, constitution of the various political parties and other rules and regulations guiding the political processes.
Second, due to the challenges we have faced as a nation in our democratic journey, many youth have lost trust in the democratic process, institutions and government.
This has resulted in empathy on the part of the youth towards the political process. This empathy and lack of trust is not only observed in the Cross River State but all over the nation.
Third, the high cost of the political process and lack of economic means has become a major challenge that would not allow youth participate effectively democracy in the state. Participation in the political process cost millions of Naira in Nigeria and many youths simply do not have such huge amounts to commit to the process.
Finally, the bureaucracy and the complication of the processes for the political participation also limit youth participation in democracy in Cross River State; the different levels of forms collection, filling and submission, filing of various documents required are cumbersome and limiting. All these are major challenges to youth participation that need solutions.
We will now attempt to proffer some solutions to these challenges
SOLUTIONS FOR EFFECTIVE YOUTH PARTICIPATION IN DEMOCRACY IN CROSS RIVER STATE
Cross River State Democracy Club and Cross River State Youth Parliament in line with their mandates are making efforts to seek solutions to challenges that prevent youth from effective participation in democracy.
Some of the solutions include improving information available to the youth in the state, building trust between youth and stakeholders, reduction in bureaucracy and reducing applicable financial charges in favor of youths in the state.
In order to achieve a healthy, participatory and credible democratic system, proper political education with emphasis on democratic participation is crucial. In addition to education, public enlightenment and awareness campaigns must be held regularly in the state to help in improving information available to the youth.
Cross River State Democracy Club and Cross River State Youth Parliament also recommend an increase in the number of youth involved in the political institutions, including the elective and appointive positions in government.
In this regard we must commend the efforts of His Excellency Sen. Ben ayade, the Executive Governor of Cross River State in appointing youths into various positions in government.
The next area of interest is the cost of participation in the political process. It is clear there is need to subsidize or totally eliminate some of the charges applicable in the electoral process in favour of youths in the state.
In addition, Cross River State Democracy Club and Cross River State Youth Parliament will also be unveiling innovative concepts to help source financial support for youth aspiring to elective offices in Cross River State.
Finally, we will also suggest a reduction in bureaucracy and the simplification of processes of political participation in the country. This may include employing modern technology in the processes and reducing the amount of paper work in favour of electronic processing and keying into use of bio data etc.
All these solutions are expected to help in promoting effective youth participation in democracy in Cross River State.
There is no doubt that improving youth participation in democracy will give greater credibility to democratic governance in Cross River State. All stakeholders must thus work together to achieve these objectives and ensure that youth participate effectively in the democratic process in the state.
Emmanuel Etim is President of the Cross River State Youth Parliament and
Cross River State Democracy Club.
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