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1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Since the return to democracy in May, 1999 after almost three decades of military rule and over two decades of economic crisis, Nigeria is faced with the complex challenges of sustaining the nascent democracy. The infant democracy has refused to develop to childhood let alone maturity. In short, the learning process of Nigerian democratization is quite retrogressive. This is because, the emerging democracy does not in any way reduce unemployment, poverty, illiteracy, corruption, or conversely, create responsive, responsible and accountable government. This return to democracy in 1999 saw a lot of the old political lords from the military era resurface to try to hang on to power thus reducing the chances of the youths to participate in the politics and administration of the government. At the time they led earlier, they were youths as well thus raising the question of where the youths are in the politics and administration of Nigeria.
The emerging issues in Nigerian democracy today, are understood not only as an end to military rule but also as the establishment of responsive, responsible, and credible political institutions which will promote a government that is accountable, transparent, responsible, prevent corruption, respect human rights and rule of law and ensure popular sovereignty Jega, (2007).
In this respect therefore, the Nigerian youths should be seen as one of the most important segments of the Nigerian population and have enormous role to play.
The Nigeria sovereign nation, more than anything else, the greatest obstacle to the nascent democracy is the pervasive insecurity of lives and property, as evidenced by the spate of youth unemployment, armed robbery attacks, political assassinations, religious conflicts and exclusion of youths from political participation coupled with the seeming helplessness of security agencies to handle criminal acts Uhunmwuangho and Epelle, (2011). The situation is worsened by the increasing number of unemployed Nigerians, mostly youths, some of whom are ready recruits for criminal activities Nigerian Tribune, (2002).
The unending crises and deprivation of political participation of youths in Nigeria since 1999 is a major test on our nascent democratic experiment, as all efforts to ensure that youths are given their right place in the political dispensation has proved abortive. For some, it would appear that our brand of democracy has imbibed in the people, the culture of impunity while for others, it is political differences and intolerance that has fueled some of the violence that has erupted in Nigeria of which youths are the major actors. It is the position of this paper that politicians and all major stakeholders in addition to adopting any and/or all of the modern procedures for resolving youth restiveness, and given the right positions; there should be positive steps taken by the stakeholders in ensuring that Nigeria is given the due sustainable democracy and development in order to reflect the giant of Africa (Uhunmwuangho and Epelle, 2007). Nigeria with over 170 million people and with over 70 percent of youths cannot afford to lock out the youths in politics if she must compete with the rest of developed and developing worlds politically, technologically and scientifically with the developed world. The closing years of the 20th century and the early years of this century could have been described as the “influx of youths in active participation in politics.
Starting with the Harare declaration on the plan of action for youth empowerment of 1995 through the World Youth Ministers meeting in Portugal of 1998 to the Youth Ministers meeting in Solomon Island, the relevance of youth in contemporary development has received increased recognition in official circles (Mokwena, 2003). In Nigeria for instance, the National Youth Development Policy and its accompanying implementation strategy are testimonies to the renewed interest in the youth political participation and the developmental process (National Youth Policy, 2001). Thus, more than ever before, the youth which has often been described as the ‘period of possibilities’ has become the subject of intense policy discourse, Two major impetuses appeared to have converged to catapult the issue of young persons into the policy agenda of national governments as a compelling priority. The first is the global process of democratization, beginning in Southern Europe, extending to Latin America, Asia and Africa, and more recently to Eastern Europe (Almond, 2004). The second is the phenomenon of globalization and a phenomenon that has seriously challenged the capacity of nation-state to govern and which according to Heady, et al, embodied a transformation of the spatial organization of social relations and transaction (Heady, 1979). The combined effects of these global trends has confronted and dismantled authoritarian regimes in a decisive way, and at the same time rekindled the spirit of civil society in the political process (Suleiman, 2006). The youth as an important component of the civil society is in the process of self rediscovery in an era characterized by the intense movement of the social forces of democratization and globalization. As they interact with other actors in the social system, the youth express their interest and needs, they relate with relevant political institutions and political processes to articulate their views and promote shared interest (Suleiman, 2006).
In Nigeria, this process of democratization which started since 1999 to date has expanded the political participation of youths and provided ample opportunity for actors within the civil society to make their impact felt in the political and sustainable development process. In a nascent democracy like in Nigeria, grass-root apprenticeship rather than glorified ‘messenger’ under the tutelage of bankrupt and greedy political God-fathers offer the best training ground for the youths. The youth has been acknowledged as a formidable social force in this process, thus, youth are the most active segment of any society. Imbued with relentless energy, vigor and drive, the youth are the major catalyst for political and development process in any given society (Suleiman, 2006:98). As future leaders and key determiners of the peace and stability of society, youth are indeed the greatest asset of any nation (Adamu, 2003). With this, this research work therefore seeks to evaluate youth participation in politics and administration in Nigeria.
1.2 STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
The relevance of youth to the total political and developmental process of societal transformation cannot be over emphasized. The Department of Political Science and Social Affairs of the United Nations, while examining challenges and contributions of the youth towards the realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), observed that: Youth are making a difference as activist, as leaders in community development and political aspiration, and by their record level of volunteerism. In many parts of the world, they may be perceived as apathetic or disengaged, but this is largely inaccurate. Worldwide, youth are by-passing traditional form of political participation (e.g. voting) through their activism and volunteering (Youth and Millennium Development 2005:6).
There are indications that the youth profile in the Nigerian population has recorded tremendous improvement by the released statistical figures by Nigerian Population Commission (NPC) to 53 million (NPC, 2006). Apart from the issue of numerical strength, global trend is toward emphasizing the primacy of youth in the developmental process, with deliberate efforts by national governments to create conditions that will encourage youth to utilize their energies and resourcefulness for growth and sustainable development of their nations. It was in the light of this development that the Nigerian Youth Organizations in their memorandum to the last National Political Reform Conference maintained that: Nigerian Youth must have a voice and must be given a greater say to contribute in the way he is governed and allowed to play greater role in leadership and governance so that at all times, he is properly equipped to assume the mantle of leadership which inevitably must come someday (National Political Reform Conference , 2005:15)
However, the prevailing conditions in much of the developing nations, especially Nigeria, have seriously extenuated the potentials of the youth as agents of social change. These challenges range from the economic and social to the cultural. The treacherous triangle of poverty, illiteracy and unemployment in which the bulk of Nigerian youths are currently trapped, has severely challenged their sensibility and has in the long run given rise to what sociologists term attitudes of fatalism, resignation and acceptance of the situation (Haralambos, 2001). The persistence of these social problems has created an environment where youth are cheaply available for manipulation by self-seeking politicians. Poverty, illiteracy and unemployment are interrelated conditions that generate human needs and therefore constitute a state of deprivation. As the youth continue to remain in this state, there is pent-up emotions and untapped energies. They provide cheap labour to execute the design of political gladiators and ethnic champions. In an apparent indictment of Nigerian politicians, Togbolo observed: “They take advantage of the poverty-stricken nature of the country to exploit the people, politicians are fond of using the youth restive nature as a political strategy to have their way” Togbolo, (2006).
As a consequence of the foregoing, the Nigerian political landscape is replete with crass opportunism in which a handful of youth organizations are engaged in shameful romance with bankrupt politicians to destabilize the polity. These problems are thus the challenges of youths participation in Nigeria politics and administration especially in Awka North Local Government Area where there seems to be no prospect at all for their eventual recognition in the nation polity.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The general objectives if this study is to identify the challenges and prospects of youth’s participation in politics and administration in Nigeria.
The specific objectives of this study include the following;
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
The research questions for this study are as follows:
For the purpose of this study, the following hypothesis will be tested.
H0: Youths do not participate in politics and administration in Awka North L.G.A.
H1: Youths do not participate in politics and administration in Awka North L.G.A.
H0: Illiteracy, poverty and political factors are not problems of youth’s participation in politics and administration in Awka North L.G.A.
HI: Illiteracy, poverty and political factors are problems of youth’s participation in politics and administration in Awka North L.G.A.
H0: Education, Training, and delegation of authorities to youths cannot encourage youth participation in politics and administration in Awka North L.G.A.
HI: Education, Training, and delegation of authorities to youths cannot encourage youth participation in politics and administration in Awka North L.G.A.
1.6 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The researcher of this work realizing the challenges of youth participation in politics in Awka North Local Government and deciding it is pertinent to encourage their participation decided to embark on this study. This study will therefore verily educate and inform the youths about the need for them to be active participants in the politic of their local government.
This study would be beneficial to policy makers since it would provide them with the appropriate information on how policies that guarantees youths participation in government and politics can be achieved. The government would also use this project in determining how they make political and administrative appointments to ensure a reasonable representation of the youths in Nigeria.
The youths who are being studied will also gain a veritable knowledge on how and where they stand in Nigeria politics and administration thus seeking for a way forward. Students and scholars will also most importantly always consult this work for future academic purposes.
1.7 SCOPE AND LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
This study is focused on finding out how youths participation in politics and administration can be ensured in Nigeria especially Awka North local government area.
During the course of this research, there were some visible and invisible problems encountered notably in some areas of data collecting. The problems are as follows: Time was a problem as the time for the study was grossly inadequate. The researcher has to use the time allowed for lectures for research.
The choice of the right state for this research was also not an easy one as the researcher had to consider accessibility to information needed for the research.
Epileptic power supply and shortage of fund was also a problem to the researcher.
1.8 DEFINITION OF TERMS
Youths Participation: This is the involvement of those who are between the young age bracket considered as youths in the activities of the group or community or nation they belong to. This age bracket as identified in Nigeria is between 18years of age to 35 years of age.
Politics: The profession devoted to governing and to political affairs, it is the activities and affairs involved in managing a state or a government.
Administration: This is the act of meting out justice according to the law; it is the act of governing; exercising authority or overseeing government activities.
Prospects: This is the prediction of the course of a the future or a possibility of a success or expectations from a person, an act or a group.
Challenges: Difficulties, setbacks experienced in the actualization of certain goals or aims.
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