By Zayyad I. Muhammad
In his New Year address to Nigerians on January 1, 2021, President Muhammadu Buhari said his government had heard; listened and is committed to fulfilling the demands requested by Nigerian youths following the nationwide #ENDSARS protests. Although, the government has fulfilled most of the initial demands of the #ENDSARS protest, the most important demand is providing productive employment for youths and creating easy access for youths to participate in governance, politics and decision-making. Although, political-power is not given freely, one must work for it, but the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said Both formal and informal engagement of youth can be understood as political participation, and both are beneficial for a vivid and resilient democracy and should be supported.
President Buhari has acknowledged that young Nigerians are the most valuable natural resource the country has. He said: “Our young people are our most valuable natural resource, at home and abroad. Their ingenuity, creativity, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit is evident to all. Many of our young people are excelling in various spheres of life including sports, entertainment, information and communication technology, commerce and are globally recognized as achievers.” But, sadly, most young Nigerians feel under-represented in the Buhari government. What should President Buhari do?
In terms of political participation and engagement in governance, the President should appoint twelve (12) young people ages from the late 40s downwards, two (2) from each of the six (6) geo-political zones, as Senior Special Assistant with full cabinet status. This will greatly impact on the youths’ perception of the government and give the government the ‘strength’ to boast that, youth are adequately represented in the government. This will also create a strong link between the government and the youths, who form more than half of Nigerian voters and represent a significant percentage of the Nigerian population. Though, there are some youths currently occupying positions in the government, an addition of 12 more youths is an added 27% more representation of the youth in the cabinet. This would serve as an impetus for a good image and a sound political strategy for the All Progressive Congress (APC) towards the 2023 elections- the party would have something new to tell the Nigerian youths.
Concerning youth employment, the government already has some good programmes, like N-Power, SurvivalFund, Presidential Youth Empowerment Scheme (P-YES) etc. However, a veritable approach to tackle youth unemployment is agricultural entrepreneurship programme. It is good news that the Federal Government is already looking at that direction. The Government needs to re-model some of its agricultural programmes. The government can partner with the private sector to establish rice mills, poultry, fisheries, dairy, snailery and plantations etc in various locations in the country. The participating youths should receive hands-on training on how to manage the farms. After passing-out from the scheme, the farms should be transferred to them for management as entrepreneurs. The scheme should work in such a way that local councils and state governments provide land and other logistics, the private sector provides the fund while the federal government stands as the guarantor of the fund. This will be done through the issuance of either callable, par value or coupon rate bonds. The private investors or financial institutions who will participate in the scheme are not to give money directly to the governments in order to receive the bond-certificate, but it would be a kind of batter arrangement. The investors- either financial institutions or private individuals would setup the farms, and put in place all structures required for the farms to function optimally. After which a bond certificate equivalent to the pre-agreed cost, will be issued to them. The youths, to whom the farms are to be transferred, should gradually refund the monies back to the government. This approach will make the scheme sustainable and self-sufficient.
Youths played critical roles in the emergence of the Buhari government in 2015 and 2019. While the government has continued to incorporate young persons in the political system, there is still a long way to go. The recent protests by ‘youths’ shows there are still major gaps between the government and its agenda for youths on the one and, and young people on the other hand. The Buhari Government should take advantage of this situation because its opponents and the oppositions are already doing so.
Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Jimeta, Adamawa state. email@example.com, 08036070980