I am delighted to deliver this keynote address on the regional conference of young Parliamentarians in Africa under the auspices of the Young Parliamentarians Forum of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).
The memories are still fresh on how the Honorable Speaker of the House of Representatives and my humble self, inaugurated this forum in this same conference room two years ago. That singular action made us to become part of history, a feeling of providing leadership in legislative advocacy, consensus building and living up to the feelings, aspirations and developmental agenda of young person’s not only in Nigeria but across the continent of Africa.
History is once again being written today on an International scale, courtesy of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and Young Parliamentarians of the National Assembly and their counterparts from Africa sister countries as well as Honorable members from Nigeria’s State Houses of Assembly.
Today, we host prestigious members of African Parliaments and members of the global community not to mention the unexpected but highly appreciated presence of Mr. Martin Chungong, the Secretary General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. We welcome you all to Nigeria and we hope you will relish the ambience of the Capital city of Abuja and its diverse mixture of Nigeria’s cultures.
I cannot agree more on the strategic importance of the theme of this conference in national development of our countries. Your presence to us, is an undeniable justification of the resolve of the Nigerian National Parliament to take a confident walk on the trail of achieving socio-economic and political inclusion of the Nigerian youth, a collaborative effort that is crucial to achieving good governance and development. More importantly, the effort of the National Assembly is targeted at making the youth initiators of positive energies for global peace.
The agitations of Young Members of the National Assembly, youth groups and Civil Society organisations for the inclusion of young persons in leadership and in the decision making process, is not just one of those instruments adopted by pressure groups to attract attention but a demand for initiating and sustaining good governance and development. Therefore, when these agitations were expressed in form of a request for the reduction in the qualification age for running for Public offices, the leadership of the National Assembly saw it as an opportunity to change the leadership temperament in developing societies, an opportunity to prepare for the future of Africa as a socio-economically and politically developed continent. It gladdens my heart that the National Assembly reduced the age qualification for running for Public offices to as low as 25 years and we believe this will be enshrined in our Constitution after the entire amendment process must have been completed.
Inclusiveness as it relates to the theme of this Conference is a panacea to achieving peaceful societies, however where injustice, poverty and lack of political will for reform are paramount, political engagement and inclusiveness of youth will achieve very little or none at all.
As members of parliaments, we will have to be more committed to enacting legislations and giving legislative backing to policies that will eradicate poverty, exhume and expunge injustice in our society and help in the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Obviously in Africa, the concentration of political leadership must shift from playing “politics of perpetuation” to developing the education sector, building a sustainable, localized and industrialized economy that can create jobs for the teeming population of Africa’s youth. It is shocking to note that according to the African Development Bank Report, over 25% of African youth population is still illiterate. Fellow parliamentarians we have an enormous task before us.
In identifying with the ideals of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the leadership of the National Assembly of Nigeria had supported the Young Parliamentarians Forum which has remained very active and served as a strong platform of interfacing with youth constituencies of our country. We commend their work under the leadership of Honorable Rapheal Igbokwe, Chairman YPF.
In the same vein, we had given institutional support to the establishment and functioning of the Youth Parliament of Nigeria by providing funding and office space in the National Assembly for their operations and legislative sittings. This is the first of its kind and a further demonstration of the commitment of the leadership of the National Assembly to enhancing youth inclusion and preparing them for leadership by exposing them to the decision making process.
I am convinced that this gathering of future captains of the ships that will navigate Africa’s development will continue to cooperate and work together in partnership with the Inter-Parliamentary Union and our national parliaments.
We thank you for the interest shown in Africa’s development, we will definitely avail ourselves of the advocacy opportunities offered and I am sure the outcome of the deliberations here be beneficial to all.
Your Excellences, Secretary General of the IPU, my brother Legislators from Africa and the State Assemblies, it is therefore my pleasure to declare this Conference open.
Senator (Dr.) Abubakar Bukola Saraki, CON
PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE
FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA
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