The University of Abuja and University of Ibadan have emerged joint top winners at the grand finale of the University affirmative action debate competition, organised by YIAGA Africa for tertiary institutions across the country.
The youth affirmative action debate was initiated to empower youths in the knowledge of politics.
The two universities emerged at the grand finale of the debate in Abuja after defeating their other counterparts from the six geo-political zones.
While announcing the final result, a board member of YIAGA Africa announced, Ezenwa Nwagwu, said the affirmative action debate was part of the group’s commitment to promote democracy with youth inclusion as one of the thematic areas.
Ezenwa said that University of Abuja, University of Maiduguri, University of Ibadan, University of Calabar, University of Kaduna and Michael Opara University of Agriculture, Umudike, competed in the finals from the six geo-political zones of the country.
His words: “This is an opportunity for youths to lend their voices to democracy because military rule can give us schools, roads and even free education but there is only one thing it can’t give us, that is freedom.
“That is the ability to ask questions, I am excited that YIAGA Africa is creating a forum where young people who can be positive with issues, especially as we move toward a more difficult and trying period democracy. This is not just a trying period for Nigeria but all over the world.’’
Also speaking, the programmes manager of YIAGA Africa, Cynthia Mbamalu said the competition was designed to stimulate public discourse on youth affirmative action.
Mbamalu said that this had given young people the opportunity to amplify their voices on their right to political participation and building positive political culture and attitude.
“For us in YIAGA, it is beyond just talking, it is beyond just saying there is a need for youth participation, it is about taking action to actually get young people in government, to actually get young people representing the youth in government.
“But beyond, we look at how do we engage as young people because we have been accused of being unserious, of lacking focus and wanting to be handed leadership on a platter of gold. So, to change this stereotype, our attitude has to change. “Most of our leaders would not live as long as we would live. We have a lot at stake. So, as young Nigerians, we have to take a decision and say, ‘today, this is what I want to do for national development.’
“Young need people to set an agenda for our government, and the only way to achieve that is to understand our history, to be informed, to learn and understand what is happening in all sectors, so when we are engaging we are engaging with tons of knowledge, and that is why we are having this debate.
“We believe that before you step out, you must have done your research, because debate pushes you to read, to learn, to understand the argument you want to push forward.’’
In his own, a senior programmes officer YIAGA Africa, Ibrahim Farouk, said the youth affirmative action debate was initiated to empower youths in the knowledge of politics and also create an avenue to air their opinions on the matter.
Farouk said that the debates elevated the discourse within the university communities, especially as political parties selected candidates for the 2019 general elections.
He said that with these debate competitions, young men and women showed that debates remained as a viable platform for discourse on policy issues and provide an avenue to promote inclusiveness and garner the opinion of the young students.
According to him, the debate was an activity under the promoting inclusive governance for development project of YIAGA Africa implemented with support from Ford Foundation.