Boosting youth political participation through democracy peer education

Youth democracy activists in a group picture shortly after the training

The Organization for Community Civic Engagement’s three-day democracy peer education training drew youth democracy activists from across Nigeria’s northwest region

Youth democracy activists in a group picture shortly after the training
Youth democracy activists in a group picture shortly after the 3-day training

As part of its work on strengthening the capacity of Nigerian youth to engage with political actors and promote public accountability in northern Nigeria, the Organization for Community Civic Engagement (OCCEN) recently hosted a three-day democracy peer education training for youth activists from the states of Zamfara, Kaduna, Jigawa and Kano.

This is out of the recognition of the effectiveness of peer education among youth and which is not unconnected with the high level of trust youth enjoy among themselves. The training featured sessions on democracy, human rights, rule of law, political pluralism, political parties, representation, good governance as well as  accountability, amongst others.

The Organization for Community Civic Engagement (OCCEN) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to working with local citizens, and communities across Nigeria, to help them reach their full potential through promoting good governance, human rights and inclusive democracy that works for all.

“The idea of the peer education training program came about after our realization that it is easier for young people to learn from one another,” says Abdulrazaq Alkali, the national coordinator of OCCEN. “So, we are training the youth on democracy, human rights, and rule of law, among others so they can train their peers in their respective states.”

Sulaiman Usman is from Zamfara State Youth Awareness Association and was one of the trainees who said he had acquired tremendous knowledge about his rights as a citizen through the training which he said he will utilize in enlightening his peers so they are able to bring about change in the political leadership of Zamfara state.

“This is the best training I have ever attended on youth’s political participation; I have now fully understood the link between democracy, human rights and rule of law. I have also been made to understand why the manifestoes of political parties should be linked with the policies of the government,” says Musbahu Basirka of the Jigawa State Civil Societies Forum.

Basirka added that members of his forum who attended the training will be organizing a step-down training for their peers back in Jigawa state as well as organize series of civic engagements between political and community leaders and the youth of Jigawa through various town hall meetings.

Halliru Usman is another trainee from Kaduna state who said the training has given them the opportunity to awaken their peers in Kaduna on the need for them to begin to actively engage their leaders and called for the expansion of the scope of the peer education democracy training to other states of Nigeria.

Speaking on the critically-important role youth should play in democracy and governance, Haruna Wakili, a professor  from the Bayero University, Kano who was also the led trainer said the future of democracy and governance belonged to the youth  adding that youth were supposed to be the “vanguard in advancing democracy and good governance”.

“The future belongs to the youth; they should serve as vanguard in advancing democracy and good governance. Any talk about democratic culture and governance should begin with the youth; they must be educated and enlightened politically, they must be prepared to be able to face the challenge of leadership,” he says.

Wakili decried the fact that instead of actively participating in political and governance processes, Nigerian youth have been reduced to drug abusers and political thugs by politicians and thus were always willing to engage in political thuggery, on behalf of the politicians.

“You will see them (youth) following politicians and working as political thugs, and abusing drugs; they are not productive.  If educated properly they will know their rights as citizens, they will actively participate in running the affairs of their localities and country at large,” asserts Wakili.

At the conclusion of the training, the participants devised strategies for expanding the political engagement and influence of young Nigerians. And upon returning to their home states, the trainees were expected to organize step-down the peer education training for fellow democracy activists in their respective states.

With assistance from OCCEN, these democracy activists will then launch good governance campaigns in each of the four states. OCCEN, which is being supported by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), will develop a simplified democracy learning tool kit covering the basic tenets of Nigerian democracy and community mobilization and provide media support to assist these trainings and campaigns.

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