The Youth Group for the Nation: A Brief History of the APYF By Alwan Hassan
Fresh-off the boat from the 2011 General Elections, it all started as a joke. A young political novice by the name of Ismaeel Ahmed, joined forces with two young men in Kano to start an organisation whose sole aim was to re-orient Northern Youths politically — in preparation for the 2015 elections. This organisation was called Rindinan Changi, and its key members were Ismaeel Ahmed – the eloquent and charismatic Barrister, Salihu Tanko Yakassai – a spirited man of the pen, and Nasir Adhama – the energetic organiser who would later become President Buhari’s Special Adviser on Youth and Students.
As I said, they were fresh off the boat from the Congress for Progress Change’s (CPC) electoral defeat of 2011, yet, these young men started planning ahead against 2015 in order to ensure that we – as Nigerians – got it right the next time.
In this regard, in 2012, Ismaeel Ahmed, paid a visit to Buhari to tell him about their newly-constituted pressure group. However, having seen that a national spread was necessary to wrestle power from the centre, Buhari advised the young man to make their group a “Youth Group for the Nation” – informing them that there would soon be a political merger.
On hearing this, Barrister Ahmed set out to Abuja to begin the work of recruiting and convincing young people that were disgruntled with the inept political and governance status quo. In Abuja, he gathered a group of young men – some of whom he knew, some of whom he was introduced to – and they sat in a room for hours debating what the merger would mean for Nigeria, wondering what role they would be given to play as young people in the merger, and discussing what the objectives of this “Youth Group for the Nation” would be.
The Ten young men in the room on that day were: Ismaeel Ahmed, Abubakar A. Jibrin. Aj – the cerebral economic analyst; Barrister Oscar Obi – who would later become the Senate President’s Special Assistant on Youth; Mohammed Edota – who was deliberate and meticulous in all things; Barrister Aliyu – the boisterous lawyer; Auwal Musa, Abu Sadiq, our first media guy and our best among our bloggers, Aminu Datti, Aminu Baba Ahmed who introduced Ismaeel to me, and myself, Alwan Hassan.
At the end of the meeting, in a tiny office in a oft-overlooked garden in Garki 2, Abuja, the young men in the room agreed that the sole prerogative of the “Youth Group for the Nation” would be to “Take Part to Take Charge.” They also agreed on one more thing, to name the group: The All Progressive Youth Forum, otherwise known as ‘APYF.’
At this point, with many months to spare before February 2015 – when Nigerians were scheduled to go to the polls – and with a team to coordinate the efforts of the APYF back in Abuja, Barrister Ismaeel went wild. ‘Wild’ in and of itself might be an understatement when put in the proper context, but I will try to paint a picture. You see, the All Progressives Congress (APC), was registered in February 2013 after much wrangling amongst the constituting actors – the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the CPC, and the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP). However, by January 2013, the APYF already had 6 Zonal Coordinators, 20 State Coordinators and over 500 members.
By April 2013, when the APC was still in the process of finding its rhythm, the APYF already had 25 State Coordinators and thousands of members cut across the various parties that came together to form the APC.
The election season started sometime in late 2013, when political powerhouses from other parties started reading the talisman’s on the walls and decided to pitch their tents with the APC. At this time, individuals like Rinsola Abiola – who would later go on to serve as the Special Assistant on New Media to the Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara – became the National Public Relations Officer of the Forum. Others like Ife Adebayor and Mohammed Brimah – now Special Assistants to the Vice-President – worked on coordinating the activities of the forum in the South West, while Salihu Tanko Yakassai became the North west Zonal cordinator, and a member of the National Working Committee of the Forum.
Others like Olu Onemola, the content developer of the forum also came on board. Olu would go on to succeed Rinsola Abiola as the National PRO of the Forum, and be appointed as a Senior Legislative Aide to the Senate President after the National Assembly inauguration. Bashir Ahmed, who was recently appointed as the Personal Assistant to President Buhari, Fatima Kakuri, the Special Assistant on Gender to the Senate President and Barrister Myani Bukar, the Special Assistant on Legal Matters to the Vice-President bolstered the ranks of the forum, and augmented the efforts to give the youth a platform to air their views, debate their perspectives, and work towards a common goal at the National level.
Fully understanding that inserting pressure at the centre was insufficient to actualise positive Change, at the state level, as the National Field Director, myself and Barrister Ismaeel, who was now the Chairman of the Forum, worked on empowering our State Chapters to not only contribute to the national objectives of the party, but to re-orient young participants in the electoral process to vote with their hearts and not based on the pocket-change they were given by political actors prior to the balloting process.
At this point, the rest is history. What started out as a mandate given to one young man by the then-General Muhammadu Buhari, has evolved into a progressive pressure group with hundreds of thousands of members in basically every local government area of the Federation, Commissioners in countless states, and active policy and decision-makers in key Ministries, the Presidency, and the National Assembly.
Although we have come a long way – taking part in the political process, in order to take charge of it someday – we still have an even longer way to go. Ask any of us and we will all tell you the same thing: “We are just getting started.”
-Alwan Hassan is the National Field Director of the APYF.