SPEAKER of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, yesterday, painted a gloomy picture of the political terrain of the country, saying Nigeria had been under the stranglehold of men and women of a generation that had overreached itself.
The Speaker, who stated this during an interactive session with student leaders of Nigerian universities, organised by the National Institute of Legislative Studies, NILS, in Abuja, enjoined the students and Nigerian youths not to despair or feel helpless, despondent or marginalised.
He told the students that in their hands laid the promise of a great nation that would emerge from the ashes of current travails, to create a Nigeria that everybody would be proud of.
Reps set to pass Students Loan Bill
This is just as Leader of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, assured the 8th National Assembly, especially the House, would ensure the passage of Students Loan Bill to access higher education and give every student equal right to complete their education without financial hindrances.
He said education was a right and not privilege and that government should bring it to everybody in the country, adding that the essence of establishing education bank was to enable indigent students have access to loan without interest, which would only be paid back after the student had graduated and started work.
Meantime, Chairman, Nigerian Young Parliamentarian Forum and African representatives on the Board of Inter-Parliamentary Union, IPU, Rep Nnanna Igbokwe, representing Ahiazu/Ezinihitte Mbaise Federal Constituency of Imo State, said the essence of the interactive forum with students was to enhance better participation of young people on democratic process for them to understand the workings of parliament.
Stranglehold of men and women
The Speaker in his address, said: “This country belongs to you but it’s under the stranglehold of men and women of a generation that have overreached itself.
“The truth is that nothing will be ceded or conceded to your generation without a fight. In this endeavour, your voices mean nothing if you don’t have the votes.
“Therefore, all students in Nigeria must not only register to vote and cast their votes during elections, they must also ensure that their votes count.
Resistance to tyranny, good governance requires courage
Dogara further said that he held the strong view that the culture of peaceful protest, demonstrations and general activism was not only necessary in a democratic state but also, in fact, a constitutional right.
He added: “This ensures accountability of government to the people. Resistance to tyranny, crusade for justice and good governance require courage, patriotism and ideological purity.
“The culture of protest that I endorse must be uncompromisingly peaceful and non-violent. It must be based on selflessness and not aided by ambition or corruption. It must be for the right reasons and procured only by the purest of motives.”
On problem of education On the problem of education in the country, he said: “In Nigeria, it is estimated that young people between the ages of 15 and 25 make up 47 percent of the nation’s population. These numbers are predicted to increase further in the coming years.
“Despite their numbers, relevance and potentials, young people in Nigeria face significant challenges in many facets. First of all, the educational system in Nigeria is dysfunctional.
“This is reflected in the sad fact that only one Nigerian university is ranked among the top 800 universities of the world in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings for 2015/2016.
“Little wonder, parents have turned to sending their children to universities in other African countries, including Ghana, South Africa, Benin Republic, Uganda and Kenya, among others.
Dogara said youth unemployment in Nigeria had reached a crisis situation and that currently, the expansion of employment opportunities was far below the growth in the youth population.
He said: “According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), in 2015, Nigeria’s unemployment rate was at 23.9 per cent and 60 per cent of our population are youths, translating to about 80 million Nigerian youths.”