The United Kingdom had spent £795 million to prosecute the #NotTooYoungToRun movement, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, said on Tuesday.
The Envoy also encouraged incoming legislators to support each other, particularly the relatively few females among them because “Nigeria will not move forward if the space for women’s engagement is not widened.”
According to her, while the UK would continue to support Nigeria in its determination for the emergence of young leaders, 75 per cent of those they supported won the 2019 election.
Laing stated these in Abuja during a programme organised by YIAGA Africa with support from UKAid and with the theme: “The Convergence 2.0: Nigeria’s largest gathering of young elected Representatives”, in support of the #NotTooYoungToRun Bill.
She said, “We supported the NotTooYoungToRun movement with £795 million to be precise and we will continue to support you. It is outstanding that 75 per cent of those we supported won the election. What matters is the future of Nigeria.
“I am extremely proud to be here, looking at nearly 300 young political representatives, reflecting the wave of energy and exuberance that has entered the Nigerian political space. Last December when UKaid supported the original Convergence, there were over 400 candidates. Approximately 75 per cent of that first cohort was elected, which is a remarkable feat.
“You have moved from ‘Not Too Young To Run’ to being ‘Ready to Run’, now it’s time to contribute. Your presence in this inaugural group of young representatives is about Nigeria’s future; it’s about inclusion, it’s political participation. It is really about how young people will lead the way and, specifically, how you will lead the way.
“This is why the UK has been a proud supporter of this movement, and we will continue to support you as long as you are prepared to lead. Your growth as political representatives will determine how much progress is made in all areas of life in Nigeria. So you now have a responsibility to engage in the state and federal legislatures on issues which affect the people who voted for you.
“You will make the laws and policies which will affect education, health, the economy, security, women, People Living With Disabilities – and remember, somebody championed the law which made it possible for you to run for office! The responsibility is on your shoulder to ensure that integrity, fairness, inclusion, and accountability become the hallmarks of your tenure.
“You might have needed support in order to contest the 2019 elections but, come 2023, be prepared to run on your own record of achievements. There will be days when you feel discouraged or you feel things are not changing quickly enough. The challenges facing Nigeria did not materialise overnight, so neither will the solutions. Be determined to be part of the change, however incremental it is.
“I also want to encourage you to support each other, particularly the relatively few females among you. Nigeria will not move forward if the space for women’s engagement isn’t widened. You now hold a special place in Nigeria’s history, but you need to decide whether you are content just being the first young group of representatives’, or you would rather be the first wave of change that brought a new dimension to Nigerian politics.
“This is the beginning of a journey. International partners such as the UK can only support you, but the responsibility is yours to take Nigeria to the next level.
“I wish you all the very best in the years ahead.”