By Oche Joseph Otorkpa
It was Michael Crichton who said ” If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree”. Knowing what has transpired in the past will provide a glimpse of what the future might hold. To state that young people will play a defining role in the 2015 presidential election is to state the obvious considering the fact that they constitute majority of the voting population. Now let’s take a look at the antecedents and credentials of the two major political parties and how young people fit into their plans.
The Peoples Democratic Party under the leadership of President Goodluck Jonathan at their convention elected 30 year old Abdullahi MaiBasira to lead the youths, while their counterparts in the APC selected a 54 year old former House of Representative aspirant to occupy the only position traditionally reserved for young people in political Parties. In addition the party is fielding the oldest presidential aspirant, the oldest governorship aspirant, and the oldest aspirant vying for a seat in the senate, Alhaji Shaba Lafiagi of Kwara APC who turned 74 last year. Before the Jonathan era, thousands of young and qualified Nigerians have consistently found it difficult to secure admission into Nigerian universities, lack of slots and over population forced many schools to turn back very qualified young Nigerians, a situation President Goodluck Jonathan considered unacceptable.
In a bid to correct this anomaly,the President swung into action and in one fell swoop constructed 12 brand new Universities from scratch sweeping thousands of young Nigerians into various degree programmes in the process.
He also placed food on the tables of many young people who became beneficiaries of employment from these new universities as academic and non academic staff. Worthy of note is the fact that 9 of these 12 new universities are located in Northern Nigeria was the literacy rate is at its lowest. His main challenger on the other hand did not build a single university while he held sway at Doddan barracks as Head of state. History tells us that he did not only disband the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) he also scrapped subsidised feeding in Nigerian Universities.
Another Fact that set President Goodluck Jonathan apart is his love for young entrepreneurs and their exceptional ideas, few months into his presidency thousands of young Nigerians received YouWin grants, to set up and expand their businesses. Till date no Nigerian can point to a singular innovation or youth programme executed under the regime of General Buhari. When President Jonathan came to power members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) could bearly make ends meet with the Meagre =N= 8250 they received as allowances, President Jonathan ordered an Over 100% increase in their allowances to =N= 19,500, his counterpart on the other hand is busy still justifying the cold blooded murder of youth corpers by his supporters in 2011.
Few years ago, the President discovered that the private sector was not willing to hire inexperienced graduates, he lunched a scheme where young people could obtain the requisite experience to qualify them for employment. This line of thought gave birth to the graduate internship scheme (GIS). Under this scheme graduates who have completed their National youth service are attached to a firm to gain experience while the government also pays the participant a stipend.
The agricultural revolution that has slashed Nigeria’s food imports bill by over 80 % is another testimony of the ability of young Nigerians if given the opportunity. The president’s confidence in the ability of the Nigerian youth has paid off with the massive involvement of youths in rice farming which contributed greatly in cutting down our food import. On the other hand, the opposition’s presidential candidate who informed INEC in 2003 that he had 150 cows seem not to have embraced new techniques and methods of animal breeding, this has left him with 150 cows after 11 solid years, this kind of stagnation is not what the nation requires at a time when crude prices are at an all time low .
In 2015 thousands of young Nigerians will become proud home owners for the very first time in their lives, thanks to the setting up of the National Mortgage refinance company by President Jonathan. This dream could however be short circuted in a Buhari Presidency. A look at his antecedents clearly points to that fact, he has a history of cancelling noble projects and never initiating any. A man who paid 500 million US dollars for cancelling Jakande’s lagos Metro rail project instead of paying 450 million USD to complete same does not look like a man who can lead Nigeria in the 21st century.
From Unity school rehabilitation to the setting up of Almajiri schools, from the massive engagement of young Nigerians in developmental projects to an unprecedented award of scholarship to Nigerian students, President Jonathan has shown great commitment and passion for the upliftment of young Nigerians irrespective of religion, background or tribe. His recent promise to implement the report of the CONFAB which adopted the 30% inclusion of young Nigerians in governance amongst many other noble recommendations is a clear sign that the President is not about to shift focus from his youth centred policies.
Oche Joseph Otorkpa is Publisher Tsuntsu Hausa Newspapers. He writes from Abuja.