By Mashood Abdulrafiu Agboola
Every 12th of August, International Youth Day is celebrated worldwide, following the recommendation of the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth as endorsed by the General Assembly in 1999. It is a day set aside to create a chance for incorporation of young peoples’ voices, actions and initiatives, as well as their meaningful, universal and equitable engagement, according to an online publication – IELTS Centre. The theme for this year’s edition was “Youth Engagement for Global Actions”.
More than any other age group – kids or senior citizens, youthful age occupies a critical position and remains a backbone of any society. Their dominance worldwide and strength are not for fun but to make impacts. In a free society, the demography (persons within the age bracket of 15 years and 45 years) has roles to play on social, politics, economy, peace-keeping, governance and new technologies among others.
Going by this year’s theme, there is however more to it than merrymaking. Youths do not seem to be making a headway in their hustle for “succession” – a setback many analysts attributed to two fundamental reasons: One, majority of youths are not seen to be courageous and confident enough to man a stewardship. Two, many incumbents, who are predominantly aged, seem to be unready to vacate their seats, which, in other words, poses questions on vacancy, though their argument, by my finding, is premised upon the fact that youths are rated low and not ripe to wear the legacy shoes in entirety. Question that easily comes to mind is that if the elders are not willing to quit, how do they think their future will look like? At the same time, it may be unjust to crucify them for a perceived selfishness provided the young ones too are yet to match their (elder) exclusively salient qualities – zeal, focus, piety and lack of greed.
Let’s get it right! The frequent calls for youth engagement is righteous and timely, but some preconditions are naturally attached to achieving that. It will be agreeable the fact that their maturity alone takes them nowhere; leadership requires also the expertise, exposure, apparition, ability, consistency, sense of responsibility and a sincerity of purpose. These are basic weapons to rule the world, and which had worked out for some of our heroes like General Yakub Gowan, Olusegun Obasanjo, Muhammad Buhari, who were in their 30s and 40s when they became the heads of state. This same applied to the former Senate President, Anyim Pious Anyim ((39), former Speaker House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole (34), former Governor of Cross River state, Donald Duke (38), former Governor of Abia state, Orji Kalu (39); incumbent Governor of Kogi state, Yahaya Bello (40) as at the time of assuming their first ever exalted offices.
Other youths (then) of that category were the late AGF AbdulRazaq, father to Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq of Kwara state, who aged 40 when he became the state Commissioner for Finance in 1967; Muhammad Lawal (41) as Military Governor of Ogun state in 1987; Bukola Saraki (41) as former Governor of Kwara in 2003, and Theophilus Bamigboye (45) as former Military Administrator of Bauchi state in 1996.
Nevertheless, hope is never lost on youths of today and the upcoming ones. A reason why some forward-looking leaders acceded to the calls for grooming them as successors, and the consensus of whom (leaders), including the vehement protests by youths themselves, eventually birthed the “Not Too Young to Run” Law. The law, effective from 31st May, 2018 when President Muhammadu Buhari appended his signature to it, sought to promote the participation of young persons in public offices by reviewing down the age qualifications for elective seats from presidency, governorship, senate, house of representative membership to state houses of assembly. The time for youths to step up their aspirations is now!
Back to the celebration, Kwara state, like any other state in Nigeria, had marked the day with lots of excitement and reassurance for expectant youths, given the government’s renewed enthusiasm to pursue its avowed advocacy for productive engagement of the young persons. Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, for instance, dedicated a state executive council meeting (held on August 13th) to commemorate the day. He took the responsibility by tasking his cabinet members to “come up with innovative ideas” that could yield youths more jobs in their respective constituencies. It is not as if the government is taking action afresh. Added to this, the youth friendly governor held a virtual meeting with some youths, on the same day, to show his genuine concern to the plight of the teeming youths, tasked them on innovative ideas and actionable plans as well as reassured them of continued support to enable them realise their potentials.
Obviously, AbdulRazaq led administration has had to its credit many youth-friendly projects in sectors like Enterprise, Agriculture, Youth and Sports, Women Affairs, Transport, Environment and Education, because it knows and notes the implications of rendering youths idle. The benefits came their way either in forms of employment, empowerment, or credit facilities.
In education sector alone, at least 8,304 final year students of Kwara indigenes got their bursary for 2019, sequel to the #50m the government earmarked for that purpose. Also, 89 law students received #100,000 each as support amid their expenses at Law School. The government’s push for more young entrepreneurs had also informed its partnership with Google and Wootlab Foundation to organise a free virtual training for 2000 youths on basic digital skills, being a digital component of its Social Investment Programme (KWASSIP). It looks forward to covering a total of 30,000 trainees in the next three years.
Recently, Governor AbdulRazaq announced reduction of tuition fees (for two major courses) of the International Vocational, Technical and Entrepreneurship College (IVTEC) centre in Ajase-Ipo with the mission of mitigating the financial burden on the affected parents and to maximize enrollment of youths for technical education. Added to this success story is perhaps the fact that it has laid to rest the outcry of yore – as it affected the past government – regarding justification for charging what they considered as unbearable fees.
ICT Innovation hub and visual arts centre are other areas the government is looking at by which to, when completed and operational, spur assemblage of talented youths and pave way for their easy talks with global communities. It is high time we faced the reality that white kola jobs are not forthcoming for the teeming job-searchers. In the light of this, a responsible government will not but invent other available and best options to fix them in order to drive the state’s economy and guide against criminal tendencies.
Above all, If anyone is still in doubt as to where precisely is the place of youths in AbdulRazaq’s government, his cabinet makeup is there to tell more. The Governor defied all criticisms and went ahead to write his name in gold continentally, having allocated at least 60 percent seats for youths, none of whom have proved below the expectations. How else could his government have proven its trust and preference for youths? His unique approach to governance was dated back to the dawn of his reign when he “launched” a zero tolerance for hooliganism that had long been mistaken for political faithfulness or loyalty in the eyes of former public office holders in kwara. Where are those “good boys” of late today? They are neither dead all nor bedridden. They had only regained their senses and found something gainful doing, thanks to the newly created decency in our political environment in the state. I am gladly a youth!
Agboola is Deputy CPS, Government House, Ilorin.