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Plateau Assembly: The young man in the saddle




For political systems to be seen to serve their purposes, all parts of society must be included. When young people are disenfranchised or disengaged from political processes, a significant portion of the population has little or no voice or influence in decisions that affect members’ lives and interests.

A key consequence of this is the undermining of political systems’ representativeness. As disastrous as it could be, it is possible to avoid taking that road. To work effectively, life lines must be opened to all players and young people allowed to take the gauntlet to run in the political process. Here in Plateau State, Gabriel K. Dewan is one of such.

He was elected as member of the Plateau State House of Assembly on the platform of Young Peoples Party (YPP) and rose to become Speaker of the Plateau State House of Assembly last year. Since his assumption, he has left no one in doubt as to his capacity to deliver. He may have been waved aside by some power blocks, but he has trudged on, believing in his capacity to deliver.

Without a doubt, the Rt. Hon. Gabriel K. Dewan is making both the youth and state proud by his representation and track record as a young legislator and Speaker of the 10th Plateau State House of Assembly. And he deserves to be celebrated and appreciated.

To make a difference in the longer term, it is essential that young people are engaged in formal political processes and have a say in formulating the roles they are to play in politics. Inclusive political participation is not only a fundamental, political and democratic right but is also crucial to building a stable and peaceful society by developing policies that respond to specific needs of the younger generation.

For young people to be adequately represented in political institutions, decision-making and, in elections particularly, they must know their rights and be given the necessary knowledge and capacity to participate in ways that are meaningful and relevant at all levels.

If there are obstacles to participating in formal and institutionalized political processes, young people will always be disadvantaged and disempowered as many tend to believe that their voices will not be heard or not be taken seriously, even if they are heard.

The problem becomes circular as politicians may lose interest in responding to the aspirations of young people if they cannot win their votes. This, in turn, leads to young people being increasingly excluded from taking part in decision-making or in debates about key socioeconomic and political issues. That is, despite their sensitivity to the demands for social equity and justice, environmental protection and cultural diversity.

It is on record that in 2022, Dewan contested to represent Pankshin North in the House of Assembly under the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. But, sadly, after the primaries, he came a distant third. He was, however, not discouraged as he went ahead to contest again on a different platform. He had, shortly after his PDP experience, decamped to the Young Peoples Party (YPP) and got the ticket to contest in the 2023 general elections.

After he secured the ticket, not many gave him the benefit of the doubt as they laughed him to scorn. They didn’t think that he had the political muscle to wrestle power from either the PDP or the APC. But they got it all wrong as he beat both the candidate of the PDP and APC to clinch the ticket.

No doubt, providence lurked at the corner and smiled at him lavishly. Had he picked the PDP ticket and won in the general elections, the fate that befell PDP Plateau legislators at the Appeal Court in Abuja would have swept him along with the other sixteen members.

It has been stated by those who have followed his movement to the YPP that it was a divine intervention to help him prepare for the task ahead of him in the House. But the ways of God cannot easily be changed, they are prepared for a purpose.

As we look forward in to the 2027 elections, having seen his dance steps, the youth will now begin to work towards ensuring that Rt. Hon. Gabriel Dewan is returned a an elected member. More young people with competence, character and capacity should be on the ballot in 2027. There should also be an increase in both the proportion and quality of young people in governance and the decision-making process.

To have Rt. Hon. Gabriel K. Dewan lead the Plateau State legislature as Speaker is a clear indication that Plateau youths are formally and well represented in the political process.

As the youngest Speaker in the history of the state, Rt. Hon. Gabriel K. Dewan has actively contributed in bringing democratic values to Plateau State. This is very clear his contributions and alliances made with respect to the development of the state.

As a matter of fact, political developments of the past could have made the youth feel despondent and significantly frustrated. This is especially so if they are not included in formal decision making processes.

It is good to give kudos to the former House of Assembly members from PDP who voluntarily resigned their positions before they were removed from office by the Court of Appeal in Abuja late last year.

That development was like a thunderbolt never expected to happen, given that many political analysts had concluded that the takeover by the All Progressives Congress, APC, members of the House was a fait accompli. Since then, he has taken charge of proceedings effectively well.

It is to the credit of the Executive Governor of Plateau State, Barrister Caleb Mutfwang for his fatherly role in appointing an appreciable number of young people into positions of governance in Plateau State. They are yet to disappoint. They are, rather, adding value in their place of primary assignment.

Plateau State and indeed other electoral stakeholders have a great role to play in promoting young people’s participation in formal decision-making processes. For this role to be effective, it is necessary to understand the interconnectedness of the obstacles encountered by young peoples’ participation in these processes.

Globally, youth participation and representation in institutional political processes and policymaking is relatively low, despite advancements in political concsiousness. People from the ages of 25 to 35 are rarely found in parliaments, public administration and decision-making bodies such as committees on peace-building and constitution building.

On May 31, 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari signed the Not Too Young to Run Act into law. The Act expanded opportunities for young people to participate in Nigeria’s governance and politics by playing greater roles in elective capacities. That law has made the youth to play greater roles in Plateau State’s decision making process.

The Act amended the Nigerian Constitution to lower the eligibility age for candidates to run for president or offices of the Federal House of Representatives and the state legislatures, each by five years.

This means that the young people do not have to wait until they are 30 years old to run for state or federal office or 40 years old to run for president. More importantly, the Act increased opportunities for youth participation in governance and decision-making, above all.

Rt. Hon Gabriel K. Dewan has established a rapport with the young and the old since his school days. But that has been more so since he became Speaker of the House. He has assisted even more people in the last three months, knowing that things are difficult for most families. That show of understanding to assist is even more evident given that he is a young man who has shared his life more with the rural people than the urban dwellers.

The endemic social issues that face the society have become his major concern. Because these issues affect youth the most, he has more reasons to concentrate on leveraging these group of people so that they can engage in productive ventures.

He has also served as a breath of fresh air in the area of education and sports for the youth. Even before becoming a legislator, a sports competition which has had his imprimatur which has become a meeting point for young people from all the wards of his constituency.

The potentials of young people cannot be hidden. The Hon. Speaker is aware of this because he himself is currently in that age bracket. And being genuinely interested in lifting the burdens off the shoulders of his contemporaries as well as indigent families, the future is bright and hopeful for them.

As he continues to gain mileage on this journey, his generation has more to offer even in this age where people are disillusioned and frustrated by what they experience on a daily basis.

It is in his rising popularity and acceptance that even better things will come the way of this humble and amiable young man – Rt. Hon. Gabriel K. Dewan.

Dungritdi is the Media Coordinator of the Rt. Hon Gabriel Dewan Political Movement

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