The 16th edition of the annual Daily Trust dialogue took place on Thursday last week, January 17 at the Nigerian Air Force Conference Center and Suites, Abuja. The event had ‘Youth and Democracy: The Nigerian Challenge’ as its theme. The choice of the theme was informed by the ‘Not Too Young To Run’ Act of 2018, which inspired youths to participate in politics and win elections into political leadership positions in Nigeria.
The Dialogue, under the Chairmanship of Professor Jibrin Ibrahim of the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), had as Guest of Honour the Emir of Gombe Alhaji Abubakar Shehu Abubakar III. The speakers were Senator Dr. Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed, a former PDP presidential aspirant; Mrs. Maryam Uwais, Special Adviser to the President on Social Protection Plan; and Mr. Samson Itodo, Coordinator, Not Too Young to Run campaign. Prominent Nigerians that also attended the Dialogue included Minister of Youth and Sports Barrister Solomon Dalung; Minister of Environment Alhaji Suleiman Hassan and former Minister of Education Ambassador Yarima Abdullahi. Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Is’haq Modibbo Kawu, Sardaunan Katsina Senator Ibrahim Ida; Chief of Staff to the Senate President Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed as well as representatives of the governors of Gombe and Niger States were also present.
Chairman of the Board of Media Trust Malam Kabiru Yusuf said in his welcome address that Nigerian youths pose a growing threat during political campaigns and elections in Nigeria. He said “the huge number of youths, who are mainly unemployed or trying to eke out a living in the informal sector of the economy, are easily mobilised as thugs by politicians during elections.”
Dr. Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed, on his part, accused the Buhari-led APC administration of hypocrisy, saying “any government willing to find solutions to the current problems must not promote corruption under the cover of assumed integrity, condone nepotism and fraternity, look away from insecurity and terror, and lack simple economic management competence.” Minister of Sports and Youth Development Solomon Dalung however responded, saying it was unfair to make sweeping allegations of corruption against the President Buhari-led administration and he challenged those making such allegations to provide evidence. Dalung said he understood Baba-Ahmed’s frustration because the latter was schemed out of the contest by dollars at Port Harcourt.
Coordinator of Not Too Young to Run movement Mr. Samson Itodo said “Older politicians should not cling on to the positions meant for young people.” He said there is a crisis of youth identity in Nigeria as some people in their 40s believe they are youths while the law recognises youths as people within the age range of 18 to 35 years. He said “young people are assets to every society because any society that wants to make progress must invest in the youth.”
Special Adviser to the President on Social Protection Plan Mrs. Maryam Uwais said youths’ participation in the democratic process can only improve the quality of democracy if the youth are adequately informed, exposed and prepared for public office. The Emir of Gombe on his part warned that the country should be ready for the consequences which, he said, may not be palatable if it fails to provide an enabling environment for youth to contribute meaningfully to Nigeria’s national development. Prof Ibrahim however warned the youths that leadership is taken, not given.
The consensus opinion among speakers at the event was their lamentation over the absence of an enabling environment that would guarantee meaningful participation of youths in politics. While government has a duty to remove the present generation of Nigerian youths from the list of vulnerable persons, the youths must also rise to take advantage of every opportunity that will prepare them well to assume leadership positions in the near future. On the whole, this year’s Daily Trust Dialogue was a very valuable addition to national discourse on a very timely theme.