The world marked International Youth Day August 12 with the theme – Intergenerational Solidarity: Creating A World For All. The National Youth Leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, Hon Dayo Israel in this interview with journalists profers incisive answers to an array of burning national issues. Below are the excerpts by ‘Seun Ibukun-Oni for DAILY COURIER
You have spent more than 100 days in office, what have you done differently for the APC youths in your party?
It’s been an eventful and impactful journey thus far, as we’ve adopted a three-pronged approach of Review, Reset, and Revitalize. As you may be aware, the emergence of the Senator Adamu Abdullahi-led National Working Committee to which I belong coincided with a pivotal time in our party and nation’s electoral calendar. We had to guide the party through a nationwide primaries process and mobilize resources for important elections in key states across different levels. We simply had no other choice but to hit the ground running, as we anticipated and prepared to.
Given the historic passage of the Not Too Young To Run Bill by the APC-led administration, we had a record number of young aspirants across the country. It was a seismic shift that reverberated across all political parties, including the opposition. I knew that we had to build on that legacy and once again set the pace by ensuring that our young aspirants receive the institutional support and backing they require to fully pursue their aspirations and emerge as candidates. So I engaged the party’s NWC and with the kind support of our chairman Senator Adamu Abdullahi, I was able to secure a 50% discount on nomination forms for all youth aspirants. It was a significant attainment that removed what would have otherwise been an insurmountable hurdle for most young people nursing ambition for elective office. Because of it, more young people were able to contest the primaries, increase their internal campaign and engagement budget, and clinch the party’s tickets. I also set up a Working Committee to engage State Governors and other party leaders across the country to facilitate support for youth aspirants cum candidates, and improve youth inclusion in the various levels of government. This remains an ongoing engagement.
Furthermore, as the National Youth Leader, I undertook the strategic and important task of conducting a comprehensive audit and review of the entire youth wing structure to gain a full perspective of our strengths and lapses and for a tailored execution of my ideas and plans to grow the youth base of the party and galvanize it to achieve the primary assignment of securing the emergence of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in the 2023 General Elections. It is an election that young people will determine and as the Chief Youth Mobilizer of our party, or perhaps Wing Commander as some like to refer to me as, I am fully aware of the immense responsibility this imposes on me and the wing in general. That’s why a comprehensive audit was necessary. And we’ve recorded great strides in this regard. For instance, we are presently registering and revalidating all youth/student-led/focused support groups of the party as part of a novel e-membership exercise designed to, for the first time, allow the Youth Wing to build an exhaustive databank of its members and affiliated support groups for productive harmonization of activities, data-driven planning and projection, and effective resource distribution and support. We simply will not walk in the dark or conduct the affairs of the wing arbitrarily. The exercise allows us to identify and address problems with surgical precision. The broader e-membership exercise, open to all interested young Nigerians at home and in the diaspora willing to join our party, will come with instant e-membership cards generated and delivered to the submitted email address. There is also the option of smart membership cards that will unlock great benefits for members in interesting areas. We are in the final planning process and will announce the full details shortly. To reset and revitalize, we have carried out a strategy retreat involving all the Zonal and State Youth Leaders of the party to chart a path forward for the wing, particularly as it relates to coordination and mobilization for next year’s election. I recently just arrived from what you could call a short tour of key cities in Africa and London, United Kingdom, where I engaged with Nigerian youths in the diaspora and presented the important roles we have mapped out for them as part of efforts to enhance the wing and win the election. Youths of the party have expressed excitement at the level of professionalism, clarity of purpose and vision, and inclusiveness that they have enjoyed since my emergence. I am very clear about my goal to ensure the participation of all and join forces with all relevant stakeholders to grow our wing, strengthen the capacity of our officers through tailored capacity-building efforts, and fully deliver the consequential youth votes to our leader and candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. We have several other initiatives in the works, several of which we will announce to the public in the coming days. You can keep your fingers crossed.
Theme of this year’s International Youth Day is Intergenerational Solidarity, do you think the youths of Nigeria have been treated fairly?
I particularly like this year’s theme of the International Youth Day and I find it instructive given the phase we are in today. The APC has clearly shown leadership in the area of youth inclusion, equitable representation, and intergenerational balance. We passed the Not Too Young To Run Bill, thus giving young people the long-sought opportunity to vie for elective positions and take a seat at the table where important governance decisions are made. I marked the observance of the International Youth Day in Kwara State where one of our Progressive Governors, Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq has shown an exceptional example of what it means to empower young people and give them a voice in leadership and in other sectors. He set a record last year with the signing of the 35% gender inclusion Bill that guarantees a minimum of 35% representation to women in appointive positions. An unprecedented number of young men and women serve in his cabinet and as senior aides. The trend is the same in most of the Progressive States across the country, as our Governors have clearly followed the example of President Muhammadu Buhari in this regard. The Start-Up Bill has just been passed; a development that received the unanimous approval and commendation of young tech leaders who continue to make the country proud with their innovation and spread of prosperity. The legislation, drafted by the President himself, reflects and is a continuation of this administration’s efforts to target youth-led and dominated sectors of the economy with investments and enabling laws necessary for stable and sustainable growth. MSMEs and other youth-owned businesses have received training and grant support from the government. Through our social investment programs and skill acquisition efforts, we have provided opportunities for young people to acquire in-demand skills and earn an income while getting crucial work experience under their belt. The President reviewed the NYSC monthly stipend upward and has through various economic and capacity-building interventions, sought to create ready jobs for young people leaving the scheme.
Evidently, there is more work to be done. We can still do more to ensure greater inclusion of young people in leadership and governance, in addition to creating economic opportunities large and fast enough to gainfully engage as many young people who are yearning for one. But I strongly believe that the APC has shown good faith and backed our promises with action. And as far as intergenerational solidarity goes, young Nigerians will be making a wise bet to pitch their tent with Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a leader with the proven capacity to spot, nurture, and harness youth talent.
2023 general election is here and the bile, attacks and assaults are increasing on the social media; what is the youth wing of the party doing to make the campaigns issue based?
I think anyone who has been paying attention can point to the major source of the bile and attack that you describe. A section of the populace has strangely decided that only they must enjoy the freedom to express their partisan beliefs and promote their candidate. Anyone who expresses a contrary view risks suffering a vicious attack and harassment that sometimes leads them to fear for their safety. Their private information is released to the public without consent, with a clear intent to incite the visitation of harm upon them. I think this is all unhealthy, and as the leader of the ruling party’s youth wing, I have and will continue to engage certain stakeholders on the need to sanitize the media space and restore basic decorum and mutual respect. There is nothing new or unusual about the trade of divergent political opinions, perhaps even heatedly. Young Nigerians are passionate about this country and desire for it to make the right decision next year, whatever their understanding of that may be. But we cannot have a situation where a small section of the electorate will arrogate to themselves the power to determine for other citizens who they must support and how they must vote next year, under the threat of intimidation and harassment. It is both unhelpful and undemocratic. We will continue our appeal to their leaders to call them to order, while ensuring discipline and focus within our ranks.
ASUU strike is the biggest headache of the youths of Nigeria – Is the youth wing of APC involved at any level to end this protracted strike?
We are deeply concerned about this issue and have remained in touch with critical stakeholders to encourage a quick resolution so that our students can resume learning. As you may be aware, it is a labor dispute that dates back several years. Resolving the dispute, with certain inherited contentions, will require negotiations in good faith and a will to compromise in the larger interest of the understandably dissatisfied Nigerian students and beleaguered parents. I have met with the Honorable Minister of Labor, Dr. Chris Ngige; the President’s SSA on Youth and Student Matters, Nasir Saidu Adhama; and the Executive Secretary of the National University Commission, Professor Abubakar Adamu. I have also spoken with the National President of ASUU, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke to find ways to end the strike and what role we can play to achieve that goal. I am particularly determined to see our youths return back to the classrooms because of my appreciation of education as an important tool of self-development and nation-building, and my history as an educationist having served as a Permanent Board Member of the Lagos State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) before my emergence as the National Youth Leader. It is a matter receiving the full attention of the President and I am confident that we will hear the much-awaited news soon.
The Muslim -Muslim ticket of your party is a thorny issue in the country, what is your take?
The position of the party is clear and I think most Nigerians share our view that at this time, what the country needs above all else is competent management to overcome the challenges that confront us. We need to create new jobs and economic mobility for our bulging youth population, and weather the storm of a global economic downturn in the face of oil’s continued volatility and a world in search of energy options. It is a time of great peril but also of great promise and opportunities. Whether or not we emerge stronger and better positioned for future disruptions will depend on our set priorities and focus. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu believes in Nigeria’s diversity, as evidenced by his remarkably inclusive public leadership records. His choice of Senator Kassim Shettima, who is widely respected for his feats as Governor of Borno State, was not done out of spite nor does it serve as a testament of his resolve to run a sectional government if elected. Rather it was a decision based purely on the principles of good and open governance, as he explained in his announcement speech. Christians and indeed adherents of other faiths that come together to make Nigeria’s beautiful and globally admired social fabric have nothing to fear; Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is a dye-in-wool democrat who will defend and uphold the rights of all and lead a country committed to the spirit of fairness and equity.
Judging from the number of youths that emerged as candidates of your party at different levels at the just concluded primary elections, will you say the campaign for more youth inclusiveness in politics by your office is yielding positively?
Most definitely. It is not immodest to say that our party has changed the country’s political landscape, and this office has played a critical role in that. We not only amended the constitutional provision limiting youth participation, but also removed a major financial obstacle and had Governors and party leaders who responded positively to our request and advocacy for the support of young people to fly the party’s flag in key positions. A culmination of all of that is what you see in the record number of young candidates we have contesting on the party’s platform in 2023. No other party has done more than we have to demonstrate its commitment to youth empowerment and involvement in leadership and governance. And by the grace of God, the youth wing will guide these victories to the finish line in 2023 with a total and comprehensive win in all the contested positions. We will bring our message to Nigerians and our fellow youths and we are confident that they will appreciate our sincerity and the exceptional competence and promise of our young candidates.
No doubt, Nigerian youths are aggrieved, they are really not happy with the current government. Many of them are finding it difficult to let go of the memory of #ENDSARS and the state of the nation presently, especially in terms of security and economy. In what way do you think this will affect APC in the forthcoming 2023 general elections and what efforts are being put in place to placate the youth?
I think that we must always show perspective in how we appreciate issues and make inferences. There are challenges with security and economy, but I think that a number of young Nigerians can see what this administration has done and continues to do, at both the national and sub-national level, to address these problems and bring about lasting changes. Ever since the ENDSARS episode, the APC has won state, senatorial, and other elections in different parts of the country, including Lagos, my home state, with youths playing key roles in that victory. My Governor, Mr. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu enjoys a stratospheric approval rating among young Lagosians who are the direct beneficiaries of his investments in infrastructure, health, education, jobs and opportunities, among others. The same is the case in most of the states controlled by the APC. We must understand that politics is, first and foremost, local and certain hastily discounted factors in fact play highly influential roles in how people perceive and assess the ruling party and its administrative efforts. It is not enough to base the state of the party and the strength of its relationship with young Nigerians on the sentiments of a tiny segment of the population, even if those sentiments are indeed valid and worthy of serious attention. Nigeria does not begin and end on Twitter.
That notwithstanding, a number of young Nigerians clearly wish for positive changes in the aforesaid areas and the youth wing has begun the process of engaging and reaching out to them to re-emphasize the commitment of our party and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to frontally and decisively tackle these problems. Those who have interacted with us have given positive feedback, largely because we have a great candidate in Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu whose antecedents and documented records inspire confidence. We will cast our net wider and intensify these efforts when the campaign is formally declared open by INEC. I believe that we will do enough to persuade those who presently disapprove of our handling of these specific issues, restore their faith in the party, and galvanize young Nigerians in the north and south for our party and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in 2023.