Jude Feranmi is the National Youth Leader of KOWA party. Being. He left Pharmacy school after four years to study Philosophy because of his yearning to understand and study political philosophy in preparation for a life of service. A graduate of the prestigious Obafemi Awolowo University, in this interview with THE TRANSVERSE he spoke about youth participation in politics and his vision for Nigeria.
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TT: As youth leader of a nationally represented political party, how would you rate the interest level of Nigerian youths in the country’s political situation?
JUDE: First and foremost, thanks for having me share this platform. The question about the interest level of Nigerian youths in the country’s political situation is one that comes often. The way I see it, Young Nigerians form the majority of players in the political space. Starting from INEC, for example, most of the workforces for INEC are students and corps members. When it comes to rallies and mobilisation of votes for political parties, the people you mostly find there are young people. 63% of those who voted in the 2015 general elections are below 40. On electoral strategy, most consultants and strategists for political parties are young people. On social media, you find young people there controlling and engaging.
So from where I sit, Young Nigerians are already engaging politically. We just do not engage as leaders and don’t get to decide who ends up on the ballot box. We are the pawns of the political chess game in Nigeria.
TT: What factors do you consider to be responsible for the roles played by youths? In your own words, you said they are pawns in political chess game in Nigeria. Why is that?
JUDE: The enlightened Nigerian youth is not interested and that to a large extent it is not good for the country.
In the times when people who had shown leadership traits and were competent enough to drive our nation to prosperity today were young, they basically left the political arena to the young folks of their generation who were not as enlightened and faced business and other sectors. That is why we are where we are today as a country.
The main factor for me on why enlightened young Nigerians are not participating will be lack of conducive environment for their kind of persons. The political environment of political parties are majorly not conducive for young competent folks who are already focused on careers, impact and maximising their potential. This conducive environment does not exist and this is the major barrier. What needs to be done therefore is the creation of that environment where the young, competent, enlightened Nigerian can find conducive to participate politically. This environment will not create itself and that is what some of us are currently focusing on.
TT: What do you think of the #Nottooyoungtorun campaign?
JUDE: The Not Too Young To Run campaign is by a long mile one of the most important milestones of our generation when it finally succeeds. Our generation not only needs to be able to feel included in matters that affect our lives as youths and our future, we also need to start engaging in the leadership flow of our nation by running for office and committing to service at this time when we have the energy and the ideas to innovate our country and leapfrog into the future.
TT: Do you think such a concept is feasible in Nigeria? That young people will be handed at least some of the reins of governance?
JUDE: It is definitely possible and it is going to happen. There is already so much support for the bill not just in the national assembly but in the state houses of assembly and that is a strong indication of the chances that the bill has of passing. What needs to be reiterated now however is the influx of the quality of young people who will now begin to engage the system after the bill has been passed.
TT: Do you believe that the current crops of young people in this country are capable of effectively holding political positions?
JUDE: Yes! Everywhere else in Nigeria, we have young people disrupting the status quo, moving mountains and making things happen. The quality of our young generation is not in doubt. We have more competent young people than we did 10 years ago.
On the other hand, there are millions of young people who do not have jobs, have not taken up leadership in the past and cannot even feed themselves talk less of creating value and wealth for others. This category of people is the reason we cannot afford to continue to allow the best of us in our generation take the back seat. And to judge our generation using the worst of us as benchmark other than the best of us is injustice to the entire generation.
TT: Have you had any experiences, perhaps during your career as KOWA youth leader, that convinced of the readiness of Nigerian youths to take on the mantle of leadership?
JUDE: I have various experiences on a daily basis leading the National Youth Caucus of my party that convinces me daily of not just the possibility of taking the mantle of leadership but of the possibilities of maximising the potential of this great country. When it comes to acquiring power and gaining electoral victories, the singular bane of our demography might be actually believing that we have what it takes and that the power lies exactly in our hands.
At the National Assembly today, majority of the real work being done in the entirety of those hallowed chambers are work done by young Nigerians and the innovation you see, the ideas you hear are products of young people who currently work as aides. I have met young Nigerians across the country whose understanding of the challenges we face as a country and what we can do to overcome them will first, humble you and then make you sad. You’ll be left wondering why in spite of all the talent and the human resource that Nigeria has deposited in its younger generation; we are still where we are as a country.
TT: What would you say are the definite advantages of getting young people involved in politics and developmental issues, considering your knowledge of youth participation in the political affairs of other countries especially in the developed world?
JUDE: The average age of the world as it stands today is between 24 years in the developing world and 37 years in the developed world. We can conveniently infer here that the issues that the average human being care about today are issues that young people care about. To provide any sort of solutions to these challenges and overcome them in preparation for a future for the unborn generation, there is that need to see the issues from the average human being, who as we have seen is a young person.
For the developing world, it’s a little different. Nigeria for example has an average age of 18.3 years old and is still far back in terms of development, technology and the standard of living. In a few years time, the world will be a different place and the economics of survival will be dependent on how we are able to compete globally. To leapfrog into that future and survive, we cannot afford to rely on old ideas that are conservative and comfortable with the status quo.
These can only come from the kind of inclusive leadership that young people can bring to the table. Those who have elderly leaders have advisers who are not only way younger but way smarter.
TT: What strategies do you think will be most effective in promoting youth participation in Nigerian politics?
JUDE: There are a lot of strategies we can choose to deploy but for me, the primary strategy is the creation of a political platform where young people find it conducive to participate politically and not feel threatened or unsafe or useless. The other one is actually developing the kind of politics that is related to our demography and our innate characteristics as millennial. The traditional political setting will just not do anymore. If we are going to get young, competent people to participate more in politics, we are going to have to go to where they are and not wait for them to come to where we are.