The kind of support that politicians and political parties receive from the youth are not being equally reciprocated, this is according to Honorable Shiaka Musa Sama, the Independent Member of Parliament (MP) of the Fifth Parliament of the Second Republic of Sierra Leone representing Constituency 104, Pujehun District.
He was speaking in an exclusive interview with this Reporter following a presentation and discussion on “the general situation of the youth in ECOWAS Sub-region” delivered by Dr. Siga Fatima Jagne, the Honorable Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender, at a plenary sitting held on Tuesday March 30, 2021, during the Fifth Legislature’s, 2021 First Extraordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament, in Freetown from 29th to 2nd April, 2021.
According to Hon. Sama, who also doubles as a Member of the Sierra Leone Delegation to the ECOWAS Parliament, Dr. Jagne’s presentation highlighted the true but grim picture of gross neglect for young people by politicians. She urged the government and politicians to walk the talk on youth interventions.
Her submission was however challenged by some Lawmakers in the Community Parliament who asked her for facts to substantiate her generalized assertion that politicians do not care about the youth. They argued that some politicians elsewhere are doing tremendous work for their young people for which they must be applauded.
“In the first place, the Member of Parliament from the Gambia that did not agree with the position of the Commissioner was not listening,” Hon. Sama said, advancing that:
“The Commissioner did not say governments or politicians do not care about the youth. What she was saying is that because the youth make up the majority of our voters; because the youth are the most active voters and political parties survive because of youth, they are the most active members of all political parties; what the Commissioner was saying is that the sort of interest that youth show in political parties, the sort of interest that youth show in projecting their political parties, the sort of support that politicians and political parties get from youth, the politicians are not reciprocally supporting the youth and I think I agree with her. We have a lot of youth that need empowerment. If you go to the streets now, you will see a lot of youth roaming .” Hon. Sama said.
He continued that there is a good number of school-leavers with university requirements but they cannot proceed with their education because of difficulties adding that there are youth who are unemployable that need skills training. He said, “ during elections, whenever you hear about violence, about ninety percent of participants are youth and these are people who are usually used and misused by politicians. They are given drugs, weapons to fight, made to beat up people, burn houses but, after elections when some of the politicians win, they abandon the youth.”
Hon. Sama said his biggest takeaway from the Commissioner’s presentation was her emphasis on “ the need for governments in the sub-region to do more to empower youth.”
“We see a lot of lip services to the affairs of youth, we see a lot of youth dropping out of schools, we are seeing a lot of youth going to prisons, they are on the streets, so what African governments need to do especially the ones in the West Africa sub-region, is that they should plan programmes for the youth, programmes that could empower the youth in terms of small business startups, skills acquisition that will make them employable. That is what we want to see African governments do. Politicians should stop given attention to youth only during elections and transport them to institutions and centers not only to voting centers after that they are forgotten. I think this has to change and as I said during the debate, that when we have a lot of youth dropping out of schools when a lot of youth are on the streets or in prisons, it becomes a security threat because when youth are jobless, without money and are not engaged, what they do is to turn to criminality. I think one way to popup our countries is to stop paying a lip service to the affairs of the youth. We have to empower and help them to become responsible citizens because the youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow. If we have youth that are neglected, we have problems running our countries in the future.”
Hon. Sama said that ECOWAS countries must tilt all efforts towards empowering the youth because there cannot be any two ways about it. As was seen from the presentation of the ECOWAS Commissioner.
He said what should be expected as new in the resolutions of the ECOWAS in empowering youth is, “ first it has to start with mental liberation – we have to think about it and discuss it. We at the ECOWAS have started the debate, more and more people are seeing the need to empower the youth. At the ECOWAS level we have had a lot of seminars, fact-finding missions around the issues affecting the youth as challenges, so in terms of planning the ECOWAS has set the agenda. What we need to do now is to work our talk. We need to put strategies in place that will ensure that we work our talk.”
“One big problem remain to be corruption, I know that even as it is, countries have been channeling a lot of funds on youth affairs and interventions but most of these funds are not being used for the intended purpose, so one thing that we have to fight for governments youth interventions to succeed, it is to fight corruption and make sure that monies allocated for programmes are used for the intended purposes. This debate is ongoing and I think many more people are accepting the fact that the future of our countries is in the hands of our youth and for us to have progressive ECOWAS Countries to sustain development and gains made so far, we have to empower the youth,” Hon. Sama said.
By Melvin Tejan Mansaray