The U.K delegation braving the heat!
*left to right* Paul, Ryan, (Me), Courtney, Burphy & Kenny Imafidon
Two weeks ago, I travelled to Seville (Spain), where I represented the U.K at an International “Democracy and Youth Conference” (funded by the EU). I found out about this unique opportunity, thanks to the great work being done by the Amos Bursary. During the week long trip, my group took part in a series of debates along with other delegates from Malta, Spain and Romania. The purpose of the conference was to challenge young people on a personal, professional and cultural level. We discussed a plethora of issues, notably young people’s views about their countries participation in the European Union. We went on to present our research in the form of PowerPoint presentations and spoken word performances to the other nations,which sharpened our public speaking skills and broadened our perspectives on politics.
During my time in Seville, I found myself comparing and contrasting some of the political issues I was learning about to those I had been accustomed to hearing about growing up in a Nigerian household. The type of political conversation I would hear at family gatherings usually surrounded a few recurring questions: Is Nigeria an artificial state? How can some ‘Oyinbo’ person just draw a vague line on the map and call it Nigeria? Is division the best solution for Nigeria? Can people with completely different cultures and languages reasonably be expected to feel equally Nigerian? Will there ever be peace in Nigeria?
Consequently, although I live in the U.K my views on politics are largely shaped by Nigeria’s political landscape. My political perspective is heavily influenced by questions posed by my parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins and even grandparents at weddings and birthdays. My interest also stems from a personal desire to find answers to some of these questions I’ve grown up hearing. Among Nigerians, there seems to be a deep disconnect between those who serve in government and those served by government. I should point out that a mistrust of politicians tends to be quite universal. However, many Nigerians have chronic, deeply held and multi-generational trust issues when it comes to politics and politicians. These politicians ain’t Loyal!
Very many Nigerians desire to either become a politician, know a politician or to be seen with a politician. The reason being, in order to further your business, a lucrative contract with a politician is often required. In order to drive safely on pot hole ridden roads or even to avoid heavy traffic on locked roads, a politician’s government vehicle is required. In order to send your children to the best private schools abroad… you guessed it. Essentially, in order to live a life of comfort, becoming a politician (or a pastor) is prerequisite.
My experiences during the week felt a world away from many of the negative aspects of politics I was used to hearing about. It taught me the value of being proactive and engaging with other young people. I now wanted to get involved. For example, by seeing the right to vote, as an opportunity not a burden, to take part. By presenting our ideas to the other young people, we were able to critically analyse political and social issues, the importance of democratic processes and how to make our voices heard. Furthermore, we gained professional contacts, long term friendships and the opportunity to develop a new language.
I left Seville extremely satisfied. The young people I met were highly motivated, ambitious, confident and full of energy. Perhaps most importantly, I finally understood that politics isn’t just about money, contracts, power and corruption. Rather, the mutual understanding of one another, respecting each others differences and actively taking part. Overall, it was truly an unforgettable experience. Seville 2014 has undoubtedly taught me that Politics is for Young People too!