Editor's note: Founder, Open Dialogue Initiative, Abdullahi O Haruna, writes on the efforts so far made by the Muhammadu Buhari administration to address the knotty issue of youth inclusiveness since the year 2015 when the president assumed office.
It was Mary Mcleod Bethune that rightly stated that:
“we have a powerful potential in youth and we must have the courage to change old ideas and practices so that we may direct their power towards good.”
If the events of the past few weeks have taught us any lesson, it would be that the Nigerian youths now constitute a powerful voice that can no longer be ignored. But the major challenge confronting the Nigerian youth is whether this energy is been channeled for a positive or negative cause? The answer to this question is as controversial as the question itself. This may not be a popular opinion but, beyond confrontation, the solutions to the mirage of challenges confronting the Nigerian youths lie in engagement and this is where open dialogue looms into relevance.
To isolate the youths from the critical process of political decision making is to create a recipe for disaster and this is why the recent interface between the vice president and young parliamentarians couldn’t have come at a better time. Those young men and women were democratically elected by a constituent and they represent the yearnings and aspiration of Nigerian youths. The neglect of the problems and concerns of the Nigerian youths predate the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. Regardless of your political affiliation, the truth is, this government has made a deliberate effort to ameliorate the sufferings of the Nigerian youths through social intervention but the question persists, is it enough?
During the recent visit of Young bi political parliamentarians to the vice president, the vice president acknowledged the fact that:
“There are indeed important issues to be addressed while noting the crucial place of youths are not just a demography but they are in the majority, stating that, what we need to do for that vast majority is what we must we do for our country. We must find a way so they are represented as effectively as possible.”
The Nigerian youth do not expect the government to solve all of his or her problems, the least they expect from the government is to periodically engage them. In other words, the government doesn’t just sympathize with them but empathize with them. During the upheaval occasioned by the protest against police brutality, Vice President Yemi Osibanjo did his outmost best through the platform the social media presence to make sure that the youths not only understand that their agitation was just but also bring to their knowledge that the government listens to their voice, their concerns are being taken into account and steps are being taken to implement their demands.
In his contribution at the meeting, Honourable Luke Onofiok, from Akwa Ibom state, also commended the courage exhibited by the vice president in honestly addressing issues in the wake of the nationwide protest.
The truth is, you can’t build a country in isolation of the youths. All over the world, the incorporation of the youths into the governing structure of society has become the norm and Nigeria shouldn’t be an exception. The misdirection of the #EndSARS movement and subsequent mindless looting of public infrastructure is a warning and also a pointer to the fact that the average Nigerian youth, if his or her energy is not channeled towards a positive cause, their negative energy may consume us all.
Youthful inclusion not just in politics but the critical process of political decision making is no longer an option but an imperative. Now, more than ever, Nigeria's political outlook should be a government for the youths, by the youths, and for the youths. Incorporating the youths into the governing structure of the country is now a must. Beyond rhetorics, a deliberate attempt must be made to include the youths in the vital process of political decision making that affect their lives. The youths are no longer voiceless, but their voice and energy must not be channeled towards a negative cause. We don’t need another #EndSARS movement to understand the Nigerian youth is aggrieved. It won’t be fair to assume that the President Buhari administration is not doing it best through social interventions deliberately targeted at ameliorating the sufferings of the youth, but, more needs to be done.
Records I stumbled on gives in chronicle the list of Buhari administration’s efforts towards the youth since 2016.
March 2016: The N10 billion Youths Entrepreneurship Support (YES) project was launched through the Bank of Industry to empower youth with loans to start businesses. In the same June 2016: the N-Power scheme was launched to address the issues of youth unemployment and help increase social development. December 2016 saw the Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria (YOUWIN Connect) was restructured and relaunched under this administration to connect young entrepreneurs to local and international markets in order to expand their businesses.
The year 2017 began with the January launch of The MSME Clinics was launched for owners of small/medium-scale businesses to be able to easily access solutions to their business. Beneficiaries of these clinics include young entrepreneurs. In April 2018: Vice President Yemi Osinbajo took a tour of tech start-ups across the country, some of which include Ventures Platform, CC-Hub, Andela, Flutterwave, Farmcrowdy, Paystack amongst others. June 2018: N-tech software scheme under N-Power was set up to train 10,000 software developers for the local and international software development market. July 2018: Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo visited Silicon Valley and Hollywood where he spoke with global industry leaders in information technology and entertainment and pitched Nigeria’s tech ecosystem
In July 2018: Vice President Yemi Osinbajo met with Google CEO Sundar Pichai where he discussed how the federal government and Google could collaborate and enhance the utilization of digital technology in Nigeria. Barely a month after from an offshoot of the meeting between Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Google launched its Google Station in Nigeria for youth to take advantage of recent technological innovations across the globe.
June 2019 saw the Central Bank in collaboration with the Bankers’ Committee as part of efforts to boost job creation for the youth set up a Creative Industry Financing Initiative (CIFI). Focus sectors were Fashion, Information Technology, Movie, and Music.
2020 the year of uncertain manifestations saw the government setting up the MSME Survival Fund under the Economic Sustainability Plan to enable vulnerable MSMEs to meet their financial obligations and in turn, safeguard jobs in the economy in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. September 2020: The launch of the payroll support under the MSME Survival Fund is to assist small/medium scale businesses and self-employed youth meet their financial needs in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
October 2020: The Presidential Youth Empowerment Scheme (P-YES) was launched to create 774,000 jobs across the local government areas in the country. October 2020: As part of the implementation of the Economic Sustainability Plan, the administration is undergoing payment of N30,000 one-time grant to 330,000 artisans across the country under the Artisan Support Scheme. October 2020: The administration also launched the formalization support scheme where 250,000 MSMEs will get free registration of their business names under the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).October 2020: The administration launched the N75 billion Nigeria Youth Investment Fund (NYIF) for youths with solid entrepreneurial ideas to be able to get affordable loans and start their businesses.
If these interventions are anything to measure then we can conveniently say the path with the Nigerian youths have been mutual and beneficial.
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EndSARS: Nigerian youths keep vigil on the streets, demand Police reforms | Legit TV