by / Wednesday, 27 September 2017 / Published in Blog, Latest posts, speeches



It is with a sense of fulfillment and joy that I welcome you all to the Africa Regional Conference of the Young Parliamentarians Forum (YPF) holding here in the National Assembly of Nigeria. May I also place on record my profound gratitude to the Young Parliamentarians Forum of the National Assembly, Nigeria and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) for giving the National Assembly the opportunity to host this Conference in Abuja, Nigeria. It gives a sense of fulfillment in that it was just about two years ago, precisely July 7th 2015, that I inaugurated the Nigerian chapter of the YPF.

2. I am delighted to be part of this historic gathering being the first time young members of African Parliaments will be coming together in a regional Conference under the Inter-Parliamentary Union. I must also add here that it is a pleasure that Mr. Martin Chungong, the Secretary General of the IPU is here with us, I believe this is his own way of expressing the spirit of youth resident in him and a way of showing the inflecting support of the IPU for the emancipation and development of young persons in Africa.

3. I also want to welcome all young African Parliamentarians, members of State Houses of Assemblies, Commissioners and Special Advisers for youth and sports developments, youth groups, the Civil Society and the Diplomatic corps. I thank you all for gracing this occasion. I have taken time to go through the programme of this Conference and I can confidently say going by what I have seen, that this Conference is expected to be highly illuminating. The theme of the conference, “Empowering youth: Enhancing political participation for more inclusive and Peaceful Societies” is very apt and speaks directly to the issues of the moment

4. The other topics for discussion such as: youth engagement and building peaceful societies, countering violent extremism, countering poverty and economic marginalization as well as eliminating inequalities and promoting good governance, are matters we must all address if we must meet the yearnings of our people. These topics are not only appropriate at this time but also worthy of discussion especially amongst youth and their representatives.

5. The issue of empowerment of Africa’s youth cannot be overemphasized. Government has a duty to develop clear policies and programmes for youth development and get the young ones involved in the planning, formulation, execution and supervision as a matter of necessity and clear demonstration of government commitment in creating a tolerant and inclusive society. Any nation that fails to set an agenda for its youth must have wittingly or unwittingly outsourced that responsibility to the youths to set one for themselves, and that nation should be ready to bear the dire consequences in terms of social and political costs. This is a luxury African nations cannot afford because Africa has the fastest growing and most youthful population in the world at the moment.

6. The rising political insecurity, violent extremism and crises ravaging Africa is another issue that should be of concern to us as lawmakers. I want participants at this conference to carefully examine the relationship between youth unemployment/underemployment and upsurge in criminal activities, extremism and armed conflict on the continent. I equally crave the indulgence of delegates and other participants at this Conference to not only proffer solutions to the challenges raised, but as Members of Parliaments and drivers of positive change, we must go back to our different countries with the hunger and spirit of pressing for domestication and optimal implementation of the outcomes of our deliberations at this conference.

7. Let me warn that the democracy we practice just like education guarantees nothing. It only provides you with the opportunity to succeed and the risk of failure. In as much as most governments are being encouraged to be involved in youth engagement, young people on their own part must be sensitive to the fragile nature of democracy, especially in the African environment. We must not allow ourselves to be used as instruments of political or economic instability; rather every young person must wear a robe of vigilance as eternal vigilance is the price we must all pay in order to safeguard our democracy and the liberty that it offers. May we through a gathering like this build a sustainable force made up of young persons across the continent that would arrest our retardation and retrogression more succinctly captured in the very words of Walter Rodney as, “development of underdevelopment”. I have no doubt that the youths of Africa have the potentials to leverage on new technologies to unleash their innovative skills in order to redeem Africa economically. Indeed the hopes and aspirations of Africa depend on the quality of education and progress of its youth.

8. Further, I wish to commend the IPU for the call and initiative of urging the creation of youth caucuses and advocacies in Parliaments. For us here in Nigeria, The Young Parliamentarians Forum has been a huge success. It has served as a driving force for the Nigerian Parliament in pursuing youth-friendly Legislations, Motions and Advocacies in the past three years. The climax is the passage of the “Not too Young to Run” Constitutional Amendment Bill by the National Assembly with more than the required two-third majority of Members. Lastly, it is no news that Africa is in need of selfless leadership, therefore, you must begin to tune your mind to how best you can serve your country and it should start at this conference. To lead tomorrow you must be prepared for it today. What is the essence of fighting for leadership positions not prepared for?

9. I believe that it is a curse to have leaders that were not prepared for their positions. While preparation does not guarantee that the person so prepared would succeed in leadership but lack a preparation is surely a guarantee for failure. This is partly the curse of leadership in Africa. It will take the youth who must build solutions for tomorrow’s problems today to rise to the occasion and end this palpable leadership curse on Africa. So many generations of Africans have had their youth stolen from them by the very people they called leaders. The time has come and now is the time for us to empower and free the creative energy of our youth if the outcome in Africa must be radically different from what obtains at the moment. This can only be achieved through networking among African youths such as we are doing today.

10. In conclusion, permit me to once again to commend the National Assembly chapter of the Young Parliamentarians Forum under the able leadership of Hon. Raphael Igbokwe for putting together this event. Let me also reassure the IPU of our unflinching support to the Forum and let me end my speech by urging other African Parliaments to follow up the recommendations of the IPU by setting up the YPF in their various parliaments. I urge this august Assembly to be guided by the Resolutions adopted at the 122nd IPU Assembly in Bangkok on April 1, 2010, entitled: “youth participation in the democratic process”. This Resolution if implemented by African States has the potential to solve, most if not all, of our problems.

11. I wish you a fruitful deliberation and please do enjoy your stay in the beautiful city of Abuja, Nigeria’s Capital.

12. Thank You and God bless you all.

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