Buhari Voices Optimism About Release Of More Chibok Girls

President Muhammadu Buhari has voiced optimism about the release of more Chibok schoolgirls who were abducted by Boko Haram insurgents on April 14, 2014.

Yesterday, Boko Haram freed 21 of the abducted girls in a swap deal that saw the Nigerian government release four detained members of the Islamist group. The girls’ release came after President Buhari departed Abuja to travel to Germany on a state visit.

In a joint press conference earlier today with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Mr. Buhari disclosed that his administration would continue negotiations with the Islamist terror group to secure the release of the remaining schoolgirls.

After speaking about the release of 21 schoolgirls, President Buhari noted that more than “100 more are still in the hands of the terrorists somewhere in the Lake Chad Basin area which include Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria.

“In getting these 21 out, we hope we will get enough intelligence to go about securing the rest of them.”

Mr. Buhari expressed gratitude to the United Nations for working towards securing the release of the abducted schoolgirls.

He reminded reporters that Boko Haram has killed no fewer than 37,000 Nigerians, adding that Nigeria has about two million people in Internally Displaced Persons camps. According to him, 60 percent of the internally displaced persons are women and children. Mr. Buhari disclosed that 60 percent of displaced children are orphaned.

“This is a major challenge for [the] government,” said Mr. Buhari, explaining that his administration has to provide education and health for the displaced people in addition to returning them to their villages and towns and helping to reintegrate them normal lives.

President Buhari thanked the German government for its humanitarian assistance and support for Nigeria in tackling the effects of terrorism.

Responding to a question about an interview granted by his wife, Aisha Buhari, to the BBC, the Nigerian leader urged his wife and the opposition to appreciate the depth of the problems he met on assumption of office.

He elicited laughter at the press conference when he jokingly said, “I claim superior knowledge compared to [my wife] and the opposition,” mentioning his three failed campaigns for the presidency of Nigeria over a 12-year period before he won on his fourth attempt.

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The “Most Articulate”: Gathering The Scattered Youth Voices By Rinsola Abiola

The Nigerian population consists of an overwhelming percentage of young people; while this is a good sign as it signifies the existence of a pool of active citizens who will drive development, the current state of the economy and the established trends regarding youth empowerment give genuine cause for concern. These prove that it is either the Nigerian government does not take young people seriously, or that there is a huge disconnect between the wants and needs of this most vital demography and the solutions proffered by leaders who ought to prioritise their affairs.

For a demography which is often referred to as the “Most Articulate”, Nigerian youths seem to have a great challenge in putting their needs and demands – and even solutions – forward. Why is this so?

A certain type of polarisation bedevils the Nigerian youth structure; with main youth agencies split into warring factions and advocacy being seen as a vehicle to wealth accumulation by said factions, it is, therefore, not surprising that movements like the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) and the National Youth Council of Nigeria (although the latter has always been an appendage of government) have lost their respect and authority. NANS, especially, which once had dynamic leaders and the power to grind all meaningful activity in the country to a halt, has now “evolved” to a booze-binging, incoherent-statement issuing association with the most lacklustre leadership no one could have dared to imagine – complete with a “secretariat” permanently stationed in a drinking spot in Abuja. For a body which claims to represent Nigerian students, this is beyond shameful.

Still on NANS, the group has strayed so far from its founding aims that its leadership now deems it fit to issue statements defending despicable characters, so low has this group sunk that it’s modus operandi is to make noise on behalf of that dreg of society with the deepest pocket; a once noble association has been reduced to a choir of hungry sycophants who sing in defense of anyone at all who offers a bag filled with money.

The National Youth Council of Nigeria, in the same vein, is that YOUTH body with members so ancient, one could very well mistake them for artefacts from another era. The Youth Council is THAT coalition of youths who mostly lack a clear source of income and have voluntarily become political jobbers and, in a manner reminiscent of NANS, have no qualms defending the indefensible at the right price. The Council has become so notoriously identified with inept leadership that not only encourages but partakes in graft, that international donor agencies view any and every proposal as the rest of the world view the infamous “Nigerian scam emails”. In fact, the Council is so redundant that save for members of the associations within its fold, most other Nigerian youths – whom they erroneously claim to speak for – are totally oblivious to their existence.

It is also rather sad that many youths jump on the youth advocacy wagon because they see it as a means to enrich their pockets and/or make the necessary connections with the ultimate aim of making money. It is very unfortunate that the collective agitation for youth emancipation is being used as a vehicle to financial empowerment.

Those who bear the negative effects of this polarisation and commercialisation of youth advocacy are the millions of Nigerian youths who neither belong to any of these superficial organisations, nor have the quality of life that they deserve. The real victims are the Yinkas and Susans and Anietes and Ahmadus who have no jobs and lack the means to obtain the capital they require to establish businesses. The real victims – the “most articulate” youths whose voices ironically go unheard – are the students in our higher institutions who have to live like refugees in hostels; who cram themselves in dozens into one room and sleep across the floor, inhabiting every corner like survivors of war in a refugee camp. The victims are the Nigerian students who, although are supposedly represented by NANS, bear the brunt of a failed educational system that places emphasis on harsh methods instead of qualitative delivery.

The victims are those youths who push barrows, those graduates who drive keke NAPEP to make ends meet, those youths who fall victim to terrorists without so much as an acknowledgment from the youth bodies who claim to speak for them.

A silver lining, however, thankfully exists.

For every hungry yoot, there exists another who is conscious and has good intentions backed up with a good plan; we saw many of this other type of youth during the just concluded elections. The level of youth participation in the 2015 election is a testament to the fact that Nigerian youths – at least, a large proportion of them – are ready to be involved in the process of driving positive change and establishing that youth stake.

The victory of the All Progressive Congress at the just-concluded polls cannot be divorced from youth support and participation, and this is why this demography must not be forgotten. The APC manifesto has a section on youth empowerment, and goes on to list highlights of plans for strengthening the economy, the educational sector and providing jobs, and it is essential that these be seen to a logical conclusion; the ONLY acceptable logical conclusion is successful implementation.

Another issue which concerns young people is governance, and for the interests of young people to be duly protected, then young people must be duly represented. Youth involvement in politics and governance goes beyond superficial appointments into offices where their skills will not be fully deployed; rather, young people need to be placed in strategic positions where they can garner the necessary experience and technical know-how required to hold leadership positions. It is also essential that a two-way communication channel be established between the government and the youths; this way, the trend of embarking on youth initiatives which make little to no impact will give way for a new era of youth consultation which will result in better, more effective initiatives and programmes targeted at Nigeria’s young people.

Affirmative Action has its attendant disadvantages but it does serve as a much needed palliative in certain circumstances. This current circumstance is one of such. Young people have fresh, bold ideas and the requisite qualifications to serve the country; what this demography now needs, is that window of opportunity.

If youths truly matter, and if we really are a part of today as much as we are an indispensable component of the future, then youth issues need to be prioritised. We need a reduction in the rate of unemployment, we need enhanced security, we need a better quality of education, we need access to loans to start up businesses. We need infrastructure – power, good roads, modern trains.

Above all, we need to know that this government truly represents change and is a departure from the norm; there can be no better indicator of this than for young people to be involved in every level of governance.

– Rinsola Abiola, a PR consultant, served as PRO of the All Progressives Youth Forum (APYF) from 2013-2014, and is currently the Secretary/PRO of the APC Young Women Forum (APC-YWF).

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#Pausibility: Voices From The Hallowed Chambers By Adebayo Coker

My dear President,

It will be too early in the day to start sending you notes but this is very important especially with the task you have before you. It is an enormous task and it is bothering me already how you will start. Just last week I asked that people should give you some space especially when we are awaiting some deliverables in about 80 days time. But as it is, my impatience to tone some words to you cannot endure a second longer.

Early March this year, I encountered one of the most gentlemen I ever come across in my short existence. He calls Jagaban Bola because they were contemporaries in Mobil. He acknowledged the sagacity of Bola on any given field of his interest. He was even jumping like a puppy while expressing his joy of being alive to witness your coming back to serve the nation. He congratulated my generation that we are so fortunate that we are going to have a feel of a man of integrity: a man like Buhari.

His words gave me a further push to love and respect you more.

But sir, how do we handle these many ‘political miners’ around you? No doubt they were instrumental to your emergence; as much as they are political assets to you so are they greater liability to the integrity path that we know you always tread. Sir, there is no way these guys will not stain your fine linen. Please sir, wisely keep them where they belong.

There is a former Vice President who hitherto has gone into political oblivion of some sort but now, he is back in town representing and nominating. I am sure you know his antecedents. Sir, if a man works for 50yrs in an oil company, earning the best salary and incentives that may be, what one of your party leaders display cannot come from such ‘hustle’. They abound around you sir. How will you and your party face it if your own searchlight will beam on others and not light your own house? Please and please tell them to give way so that we may see you. They are not transparent.

Let me quickly remind you and APC that PDP’s loss was due to their sheer political arrogance, not because Nigerians saw a better political party in the real sense of it. The same is already playing out in your party as someone is arrogating too much to himself. Self- seeking is not the best phrase to capture such incontinence. Though some of us see clearly that you are not a party to such party, but the doom will be too destructive such that your years of public service may be consumed by the implosion which we are already witnessing so early in the day of your party. I am not in support of any act of insubordination, especially against constituted authority and I am sure party discipline will be upheld against any infraction but for grown up men and women (though infantile sometimes) to be spoon-fed in the name of godfatherism being portrayed as party headship is not at all good for this democracy of ours, no matter how much nativity we may bring into it. I want to believe that was what the ‘party candidates’ suffered. Even though they appear robustly better and more experienced than the elected officers, the liability of being called ‘anointed candidates’ put them in contention with their colleagues who saw an opportunity to stem the extension of the greed of a particular party chieftain in their midst.

The politicians around here are not known for any ideological stand. Scheming is their major understanding of politics. That is why a sense of common sense can be suspended in the face of common sense to allow nonsense to freely reign. Be that as it may, that a man is ambitious and he goes all Machiavellian about it isn’t in anyway treacherous. Not at all. What is treacherous is the foul cry of the people who have before now seen nothing wrong in the grandmastery the medical doctor showed his own father and political benefactor. What is treacherous is the shout of arm- twisting by those who did not see a bank robber before now. What is treacherous is the sorrow expressed by the same set of people who had been joyful before now that they already have a hold on Ilorin Emirate courtesy of the defection of Bukola to APC. What is treacherous is the flight of Special Fraud Unit that left Lagos Airport with no passenger on board en route Ilorin Airport looking for looters. (There is a drought-infested borehole around Adebola Street in Surulere, Lagos : a constituency project of a member of the House of Rep) What is treacherous is the market cry of a loss when in truth nothing could be said to be missing when an armed robber visited a pick pocket: Ole gbe, ole gba!

The most treacherous in all of these events is the law or the system that is always blind to the emergence of robbers, pickpockets, rascals, paedophiles, jesters, prostitutes and suchlike in our hallowed Chambers in the first place. Of what dignity is such a conglomeration?

“Saraki is a traitor!” was a common sentence on the lips of many analysts. The leftists or the rightists, (whichever way they were tuning from) would reply, “no, he is not”. Some said they are waiting to see the caliber of people the President would bring on board to work with him. Some said this list is too slow in coming but that they are hopeful they would not be disappointed eventually.

In all, I listened to people on the street, the ‘common man’ knows what he is talking about; in clusters they discussed the beauty of this new emergence in our politico-scope. The analyses and the conviction that comes with each analysis gladdens me that in no distant time people will realize that they won’t have to wait for a general election before they sack a government that they don’t like. That will be my ultimate joy in this whole democratic development and I am sure you will be gladdened by that too as that could be likened to the locomotive that brought you in.

I am glad I am witnessing the blossoming of democracy in my fatherland. We are really advancing.

I will continue my prayers for you.

 

Adebayo Coker is a wordsmith. Societal Fragments, A Man Like Me: Noteography Of A Father To His Son and Wobbled Words, Stories Inspired By Real Life are his published works. debayocoker@gmail.com @adebay_c

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