When Would Buhari March For Us? By Muhammed Abdullahi
#March4Buhari was one of the many social media harsh tags deplored by the vast army of Nigerian youths who supported and campaigned for President Muhammadu Buhari, then a candidate of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC).
Using their expensive and the not so expensive phones and laptops, Ipads and Tablets, the youths influenced the electoral choices of many, monitored the movements of ballot papers and boxes, reported developments and results from polling booths across the country and kept vigil even at the national counting and collation centre in Abuja. The youths gave their all in the 2015 election not only in marching for Buhari but in actually marching Buhari to Aso Rock. The President himself is aware of the efforts made by youths in delivering victory to his party, the APC, hence he described them as “the true heroes of the opposition struggle”. But when would President Buhari reward these heroes? When would PMB march for the heroes who marched and orchestrated the victory of an opposition party for the first time in the political history of Nigeria?
Even after the elections, some of us have not stopped marching for Buhari. Just a couple of days ago, specifically on March 29, I wrote an article titled ‘Getting Tough Before It Gets Better’ in which I called on youths and other Nigerians to be patient with President Buhari as he works to deliver the change we voted for. A number of young people who read the article in question asked me how long they would need to remain patient. I had no answer. It is hard to come up with a response in defense of a President who, almost 10 months after he arrived the presidential villa, is yet to unveil any specific youth development agenda or initiative.
If we are to come up with reasons why President Buhari must not negate or undermine the youth constituency, the central issue would go beyond their contributions to his electoral victory in the 2015 elections.
A lot has already been said and written about the humongous youth population in Nigeria. It has been said that the population of Nigerian youths is double that of Ghana, higher than the entire population of South Africa and bigger than the whole of United Kingdom. But as huge as the Nigerian youth population is, only few are productive. Many are confronted with social problems caused by unemployment and poverty, hence a limit on their capacity to constitute a resource for the nation.
Someone said recently that Nigerian youths must stop waiting on government and instead think of what to do as private individuals to improve their lives. Fantastic advice, if you ask me. But outside thinking and fantasizing about what he would do if he can lay his hands on just N10,000 ; what can a youth who has no income of even N200 a day actually do. Even those youths who managed to become motorcycle and tricycle riders now spend hours in filling stations waiting to buy fuel so they can go in search of their daily bread. Government is supposed to be an enabler whose actions and policies support and give impetus to individual efforts and struggle. It is very easy to tell a young man just graduating from university to pull himself by the bootstrap and chase his dreams; but we must be honest enough to ask ourselves if such a man even have a boot to begin with.
In marching for the youths therefore, President Buhari must begin as a matter of urgency to provide the enabling environment for youth creativity to thrive. By nature, Nigerian youths are determined and resourceful; they only need the right atmosphere for the genius in them to manifest. The government of President Buhari must begin to provide the sort of environment that serves as a strong enabler for youthful aspirations and dreams.
In marching for the youths, President Buhari must begin to deviate from the past and current regimes of youth management to a purposeful and holistic youth development. Fortunately, the president has a document to rely on and draw immediate inspiration from – that document is the National Youth Policy developed in 2001 by the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Although not entirely a perfect document, the NYP would offer immediate and implementable ideas for delivering result in value-based youth development.
In marching for the youths of Nigeria, President Buhari must also begin to cultivate and nurture a leadership learning platform for the next generation. Change is meaningless if it is not sustainable, and I don’t see how change can live very far into the future if youths are not made partakers and part-owners. It is the realization that youths are the custodian of sustainable progress that made former British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disreali, to conclude that “youths are the trustees of a nation’s prosperity”.
Presently, the president has no adviser on youth matters. Although the need to reduce the size of government is understable, especially in the face of dwindling oil revenue and biting economic realities; there is no justification for denying over 68 million Nigerian youths representation in government. Yorubas have a saying that when an old man chases young people away from the idol he worships, such an idol would perish in no time once the old man is no more. There is need to have an inter-generational learning in leadership so that government ideals and ideologies are preserved from one generation to the next.
Relative to the issue of youth inclusion in leadership and governance is also the need to allow youths make inputs into policies that are targetted at them. I am aware that the All Progressives Youth Forum (APYF), an articulate and pragmatic youth group within the APC, has submitted a proposal to the government to initiate what is tagged the Nigerian Youth Economic Forum (NIYEF). I think it is quite important that the government of President Buhari support the establishment of the forum in order to serve the good purpose of harnessing the inputs and contributions of youths into major economic issues and policies. Considering their number and the valuable contributions they make to the growth of the nation’s economy; obtaining the perspective of youths in the process of designing policies would guarantee that the yearnings and aspirations of the most critical segment of the population is taking into consideration. Needless to say that one of the key reasons government policies and interventions in the area of youth development has continued to fail is the penchant of successive administrations to design and make policies FOR rather than WITH the youths. President Buhari must deviate from this path.
Youths, like children, have the capacity to see both good and evil in a person they love. The youths of Nigeria love President Buhari because they saw and still see some good in him that is not readilly present in most ‘professional’ politicians. When they marched for and with Buhari in the 2015 elections, it is owing to the belief that he would restore to them the years the locusts have eaten and give them back their lives. Mr. President would do well to realise that the love which made the majority of Nigerian youths to forget which part of the country they came from and collectively marched to the polling booths to elect him as president is fast waning, and they are beginning to ask questions. Before the love would turn to hatred, PMB must begin to listen and to march by undertaking fundamental and pragmatic steps that are capable of assuring the large army of Nigerian youths who trusted and voted for him that they have not marched or voted in vain.
Abdullahi (@mofolohunsho) writes from Kaduna.
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