“We must leverage on the wisdom of elders, people like Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the energy of the youth.”

This year’s International Youth Day themed – “Intergenerational Solidarity: Creating A World For All Ages”, to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, the world needs to leverage the full potential of all generations. Our Correspondent, ‘Seun Ibukun-Oni interviewed APC, North East Zonal Youth Leader, Jason Baba Kwaghe PhD, a seasoned chartered accountant, procurement, logistics, supply chain and finance professional with many years professional working experience on a wide range of national issues, ranging from youth inclusion; politics; the protracted ASUU strike and the 2023 general elections. Below are the excerpts of the no holds bar conversation:

The theme of this year’s International Youth Day is “Creating A World for All Ages”. Do you think Nigerian youths have been treated fairly?”

“Youths are going to negotiate from the point of strength, not the point of weakness”

You will agree with me that it’s going to be a mixed answer. Mixed in the sense that if you consider the social and entertainment cycles, you will agree with me that youths are doing wonderfully well. Today, people like Davido, Burnaboy, Kizz Daniel, Wizkid and to an extent Tuface Idibia are doing wonderfully well globally. When you check the Fintech (Financial Technology) industry, you will agree with me that Nigerian youths are doing well. Same also in the private business sphere especially, banking, telecommunication and the others but unfortunately in my constituency which is politics, youths have been relegated to the bottom of the pyramid. We seem to have lost ground. If you see the 18 political parties that we have, none of them is being led by youth either as chairman or secretary. None of them is also having a presidential aspirant who is a youth , that’s anybody below the age of 45. None of them has a presidential running mate who is a youth and most of the governors are above 50. So, you will agree that the youths of Nigeria have not been carried along in politics. Their strength, their youthful energy, their creativity, their innovation has not really been leveraged enough in politics and it’s very very unfortunate. I’m glad that the youth wing of APC is working towards that. Already, we have set out some programs in motion that will enable the youths to realize their potential, to realize that yes we own this country, especially if you see the fact that more than 80% of the people who registered for PVC are youths, people below the age of 45. Youths are going to negotiate from the point of strength, not the point of weakness, not just in APC but this country.

You have spent more than a hundred days in office, what do you think you have done differently for the APC in your region?

I negotiated for youths in various committees of the party. Youths participated in all the conventions that we have had right from the House of Assemblies to presidential and most of them are from the North East. I was able to secure that with the kind support of my leader North East Vice Chairman of the party, Comrade Salihu Mustapha . We were also able to get a number of youths to secure tickets for the State House of Assembly, especially in states like Adamawa and Taraba. A lot of people below 45 secured the tickets. Including the House of Representatives, we have so many young people with tickets. If you are aware, Senator Ishaku Abbo who is the youngest senator in Nigeria today is from my constituency. Against all odds, we were able to mobilize youths to ensure he secured the party ticket. Another point of divergence from what has been the norm is that youth are now part of the policy drafting, the master plan for the 6 gubernatorial candidates we have in the North East. Governor Babagana Zulum, Mai Mala Buni and others.

Most of them got nominees from us that are part of their policy drafting now, their master plan, we have input from the youth and when those those documents are released next month, you will see that a large chunks of it will be channeled towards youth empowerment and ensuring that youths are adequately catered for both during the campaign and after elections.

You mentioned that youths are not being carried along, who do you think is to be blamed?

“We have failed to negotiate from the point of strength, we have always negotiated from the point of weakness”

To be candid with you, the youths are to be blamed. We are so used to going after crumbs from the table. We have failed to negotiate from the point of strength, we have always negotiated from the point of weakness. We are so comfortable doing PAs, aids to politicians, we are not carried along, we don’t bring ourselves to the table to be part of the decision making process and that’s the point of divergence I’m talking about. Now, right from campaign, we have been able to secure youths slot from the policy drafting, that’s to tell you that even after elections, youths will also be a part of the policy making body of all these governors and hopefully at the national level because we are going to ensure that youths are given a key role in the presidential campaign council of and politics drafting of Asiwaju/Shettima master plan.

For the 2023 general elections, it’s here and there are bile, attacks, and assaults, they keep increasing daily on social media. What is the youth wing of the party doing to make the campaign issue base?

Well, when your candidate do not have plans, it’s very easy for you to result to insult, it’s very easy for you to result to dragging people unnecessarily on social media. We are going to be different, in the sense that we are going to ensure that Asiwaju master plan is adequately communicated to each and every Nigerian. When we have agenda on ground, when we have programs on ground that we will use to market our candidate, we won’t have time to be engaging the Obidients, I know you didn’t mention name but I have to because they are the ones doing this. You will agree with me that they are just living in a kind of imaginary world. They don’t have programs they can use to market their candidate, all they are doing is to insult everybody, that I can assure you will not happen in the youth wing. We will make sure we market our candidate without insulting anyone.

The ASUU strike is one of the biggest headaches for the youth right now, is the youth wing of the APC involved at any level to put an end to this protracted strike?

Last month, we were with the Minister of Labor and Productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige, we had a very long and productive meeting. We informed him of the challenges we’ve been having with the youths as a result of this ASUU strike. Most of the negative publicity we have been getting regarding our presidential candidate is associated with this prolonged strike. We told him why we needed to call our younger one back to school so that they can be adequately educated and be taken off social media.

Just a day after our meeting with the minister, President Muhammadu Buhari gave a two weeks ultimatum to him which expired this week. Hopefully, from next week, we will see tangible actions from the president. After our meeting with Senator Chris Ngige we had another meeting with the National Association of Nigeria Students (NANS), and the Executive Secretary of National Universities Commission and Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and we pleaded with them to please call off the strike and let us continue with the negotiations. I want to assure Nigerian youths that we are not resting on our oars, we are doing everything humanly possible to get our students back to the classrooms. By the expiration of the ultimatum that the president has given to the minister things would have gotten back to normal.

The Muslim -Muslim ticket of your party is a thorny issue in the country, what is your take?

The 2023 general election is going to be a watershed in the history of this country, it is going to be the closest race in the history of this country

The political party has made a decision and as an exco you don’t expect me to fault it or go against it but to support it. However, this is something I’m personally affected. I’m a Christian from the North, someone like me should be on the ticket and believe you me I understand the grievances of my constituency; Rt Hon. Dogara is like a father to me, Babachar David Lawal is more than a father to me and Senator Abbo is my boss. So you can see that those agitating against the Muslim-Muslim ticket are people that I know there political worth. They are people that we can not underestimate their worth and political contributions to the growth of the party APC but Nigeria as a whole. I don’t have any contrary opinion to what they have put out there in the public but I will call on President Muhammadu Buhari, the national chairman of our party and the presidential candidate Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to ensure that they call them to the table and address their grievances. The 2023 general election is going to be a watershed in the history of this country, it is going to be the closest race in the history of this country and we can’t afford to lose anybody. We can’t afford to lose a large voting bloc like the Northern Christians and the Christian Association of Nigeria. We must find a way to call them back, to assuage them and get their buy in.

What would you be expecting from the candidature of Tinubu/Shettima for Nigerian youths going into 2023?

I will plead for the Nigerian youth not just the APC youth if we win the election in 2023 which I believe we will win. Like the theme of this year’s International Youth Day, “Intergenerational Solidarity: Creating A World For All Ages”; We must leverage on the wisdom of elders, people like Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the energy of the youth. They must ensure that our contributions are taken into consideration to give the youths of this country a better deal. Nobody is alienated, the neglect of the youth that was the stock in trade of the pass leaders must not continue under his presidency. We have seen how Asiwaju has mentored a lot of people such as Babatunde Fashola, Sanwolu, Aregbesola among others and we have seen what Kashim Shettima has done in Borno state. I was privileged to be in Borno state for seven years out of the eight years of his administration, he has mentored a lot of people. We have seen the Kaka Gimba, Shehu and Zulum , these are people that Shettima took from the classrooms and made who they are today and I believe they can scale it at the national level if they emerge from next year’s election.