Femi Gbajabiamila, speaker of the house of representatives, says federal character should include age, religion, gender and not just ethnic background.
Speaking at the Young Parliamentarians Forum (YPF) strategy meeting in Abuja on Saturday, Gbajabiamila advocated for a legal framework that will change the federal character principle for appointments in the country’s constitution.
He said the idea of basing such appointments on federal character in line with states of origin or religious leaning has not helped in the pursuit of the development of the country.
“I think we should consider an amendment in the constitution to the definition of federal character, because when we talk about federal character within the context of appointments, infrastructure and the rest of it in the constitution, federal character, as it is, is limited to where you are from, like your ethnicity.
“In other words, the constitution says that appointments and all those other things shall be based on federal character, and federal character as we know it now, we have the Igbo, we have the Hausa, the Yoruba. There should be a geographical spread.
“I think it’s time that we expand the definition of federal character because the character of a nation is not just based on your tribe. It’s based on religion; it’s based on where you are from; it’s based on your sex; it’s based on your age.
“So, when you are talking about federal character, you look at all those things and they are what make up the federal character. You talk about so so percentage of women, so so percentage of youth; that is the true meaning of federal and I think that is what should be reflected in the constitution.”
The speaker, however, noted that the education of the youth should be the centre point for the development of the country.
“I do intend to reconvene the house to consider a couple of very important things that will affect Nigerians, like the electoral law, the PIB and more importantly, the bills that are already in the system concerning the development of the youth,” he added.
Gbajabiamila said the house is concerned about how to find solutions to challenges affecting the youth, with focus on creating employment, and encouraging the involvement of young people in politics.
“I will speak with the clerk of the national assembly to quickly figure out how we can get a secretariat for young parliamentarians where they can sit and put heads together beyond the chambers of the house of representatives,” he said.
In her remarks, Cynthia Mbamalu, executive director of YIAGA Africa, who noted that the #EndSARS protests have started the process of a new Nigeria, urged relevant authorities to ensure youth education and participation in government.
She also called on the national assembly to look into reducing the age at which the youth can vie for elective positions in the country.