Nigeria desperately need leaders with capacity, character to manage change ― Gbajabiamila

•Says "we need to reconceptualise how we practice politics and how we govern" • Flags off Legislative Mentorship for 74 youths from 36 States

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila on Monday disclosed that Nigeria desperately needs Leaders with the capacity and character to manage change.

The Speaker stated this at the National Assembly complex, Abuja, while speaking on the theme: ‘Youth leadership and the future of democracy: Harnessing the power of young people in Nigeria’, during the opening ceremony of the Legislative Mentorship Initiative (LMI) scheduled for 1st October to 5th November 2022.

While acknowledging that in Nigeria and across the world, we are experiencing rapid and relentless changes across every facet of our lives, the speaker noted that “some of these changes are technological; others are economic and political.

“There is also a great deal of demographic and population change. All are happening at the same time. It is clear to anybody paying attention that the old equilibrium is unsettled, and the rules of the old order no longer apply. What is less clear is what happens next.

“Whatever happens, Nigeria desperately needs leaders with the capacity and character to manage change.

“The consequences of the changes happening in our world today will depend on how we respond, the decisions we make, and the ideas we choose to invest in. The quality of our decision-making in politics and governance will define the course of our country. Whether we achieve progress, prosperity, peace, and security for all our people depend entirely on the capacity and competence of our political leadership.”

While observing that the LMI mandate is to develop the leaders who will shape the future of our country and the world, Hon. Gbajabiamila averred that although many young people are eager to make a change, they cannot change anything if they don’t understand and participate in the political and governance process.

“We aim to involve more young people and direct their energies into something tangible contributions to good governance and national development.

“The legitimacy of the democratic system of government derives from and is sustained by the quality of outcomes, social opportunity, economic prosperity, national security, the rule of law and protection of individual rights.

“When democratic self-government falls short of these expectations, it frays the social consensus and public support necessary to sustain it. In many critical ways, our best expectations of democracy have not been met for various reasons. The question for our consideration is, ‘what does this portend for the future of democracy in Nigeria?’

“On the 29th of May 2023, a new President will be inaugurated, and we will mark twenty-four years since Nigeria’s return to democratic rule. A significant portion of our population today are young people who have no experience of a military government and are not conditioned to see democracy as an absolute good for its own sake.

“They bear no allegiance to politics and politicians, and their judgment of governing systems and institutions is determined by whether those individuals, systems and institutions meet their expectations.

“For these young people, Nigeria has been a democracy for all or most of their lives. As more of them come of age, they are questioning the systems and structures of politics of governance and challenging flaws and limitations as they see them. They are not as inclined as generations before them to excuse the failures of democracy because the alternative of military rule is worse.

“And they will not accept incremental progress when radical reform is necessary and possible. This is a good thing. It is also a dangerous thing. Nations are redefined and re-rejuvenated by the deliberate effort to reconsider the underpinnings of nationhood and remove deep-rooted assumptions and practices irreconcilable with the desired future,” Hon. Gbajabiamila noted.

He maintained that “it is unrealistic to expect our nation’s youth to commit to sustaining a democracy that hasn’t lived up to their expectations. To nurture democracy in Nigeria, we must make a concerted effort to reconceptualise how we practice politics and how we govern.”

He also underscored the “urgent and overwhelming need to reform the approach to policy-making across all levels of government in Nigeria. Young people are losing patience with the incrementalist approach we have long adopted and adhered to. They are looking for fundamental restructuring and outside-the-box thinking. Can you blame them? We must consider that unconventional approaches are required in many areas of our national life to bring us closer to the full promise of our nationhood,” he stressed.

In his remarks, Director General of the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS), Professor Olanrewaju Suleiman who expressed concern over the poor perception of parliaments among the three arms of government worldwide, noted that as the “direct representatives of the people, the institute of the legislature is not only the cornerstone of democracy but the most accessible and accountable to the people.

“It is easier for citizens to access lawmakers than the executive, who are often shielded by higher-level protocol and security. As part of their representative functions, legislators are required to hold town hall meetings and other constituency outreach activities.

Through this initiative, therefore, the speaker has once again demonstrated commitment to institutional strengthening and democratic governance.

“I congratulate the successful interns and challenge you to take this new role seriously to understudy the legislature and how it functions, the relationship between the legislature and other arms of government and the law-making process, as well as the strategic role of the legislature in promoting accountability and holding the government to account, mainly through its oversight functions.

“Additionally, this internship offers you a unique opportunity to deepen your knowledge and skills and, hopefully, an interest in a career in the Legislature.”

Speaking earlier, LMI Director, Dapo Oyewole, explained that 74 participants were selected out of over 4,000 applicants from the 36 States of the Federation, for the Legislative Mentorship Initiative programme.



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