Saturday, 6 June 2015

Youths Set-Pace for President Buhari

As President Muhammadu Buhari settles down after his inauguration, Nigerian youths have charged him on the direction to take, GBENRO ADEOYE writes
Today, more than 54 years after we got our independence and 16 years since our return to democracy, the walk to true change has started. … I want to thank young Nigerians especially for this victory,” President Muhammadu Buhari said after his victory at the poll.

From the time Buhari kicked off his campaign till the time he won the March 28 presidential election, promises for the youths featured prominently in his speeches.
It is already one week since Buhari was sworn in and the youths, known to be a restive group, have been eager to see his promise of change manifest.
Currently, the outlook is bleak as several reports have painted a gloomy picture of the economic situation in the country, especially as it concerns the youths.
In its 2012 National Baseline Youth Survey Report carried out in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Youths Development, the National Bureau of Statistics said over 50 per cent of Nigerian youths were unemployed in that year.
“More than half, about 54 per cent of youth population was unemployed.
“Of this, females stood at 51.9 per cent compared to their male counterparts with 48.1 per cent were unemployed,’’ the report said.
From the survey, the population of youths (15 – 35 years) in Nigeria was estimated to be 64 million with the female folk taking a larger share at 51.6 per cent.
However, the situation is not likely to have changed much which explains the repeated calls by a cross section of youth groups and organisations for the new President to tackle the problem of unemployment among youths in the country.
Other demands made by youths on the government include calls to improve power supply, security and education standard in the country.
Speaking to Saturday PUNCH, the spokesperson for Ijaw Youth Congress Worldwide, Eric Omare, described the challenge of unemployment as the “greatest one facing the youths.”
Omare noted that Buhari would need to transform Nigeria from a “country that consumes goods to one that produces them” for him to positively engage the youths.
Identifying government’s failure to effectively manage industries in the past, Omare suggested that the Buhari’s government should provide an environment conducive enough to attract foreign investors and partner with the private sector to establish industries.
Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo
Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo
He said, “The youths of Nigeria expect this government to handle the issue of unemployment and that will entail the government to encourage the establishment of industries so that Nigerian youths can be gainfully employed.
“We know the government is a poor manager of businesses but it should be able to provide conducive environment for businesses to thrive. There are times that the government enters into partnership with private enterprises and may not necessarily be at the helms of the management of such enterprises.”
Omare also called for improved investments in the education sector, saying it would save Nigerian youths the stress and cost of seeking education abroad.
“The power sector is also a very serious area the government needs to look at; we expect the government to tackle the issue of power generation,” he added.
For these demands, Omare gave Buhari between six months and one year to begin to fulfil the promises.
Some of Omare’s positions were also shared by a cross section of other youth groups, including the Arewa Consultative Youths Forum.
The group’s National President, Yerima Shettima, similarly described employment generation for youths as a move capable of saving Nigeria from recurring violence, attributing the insurgency in the North-Eastern part of the country to high rate of unemployment among youths.
“Basically, the unity of the country is being threatened, soldiers of unemployment are increasing day by day and it is easy for jobless people to be recruited into all kinds of crime,” he said.
As a solution, Shettima called for improved opportunities for youths. But to achieve this, Shettima said Buhari’s government would have to be decisive and provide regular power supply to the populace.
He said, “There are things that the government can do now like tackling the issue of electricity. If there is a state of emergency on power with serious commitment to it, we will start having some stable electricity.
“Once there is stable electricity, perhaps opportunities will be there for many Nigerian youths. Many foreign investors will be attracted to Nigeria to invest, which will further create employment opportunities. If the opportunity is there for the young ones to get their daily bread, the rate of recruitment into insurgent groups like Boko Haram will reduce.”
Shettima noted that expectations are high for the new government; however, he urged Buhari to “tackle the electricity problem, insurgency and be seen to be a national government in the short term.”
“A government must be a Nigerian government and not a sectional government. Everybody must be part of the government and must be seen to be contributing towards the success of this government. It must not be hijacked by a few individuals, if it does that, then the trouble will be worse than what the previous government experienced,” Shettima said, vowing to lead a protest against Buhari should he fail to show the qualities of a pan-Nigerian.
“We are only trying to be more positive rather than being negative about whatever promises anybody makes. Successive governments have promised Nigerians all the good things of this life and failed. Nigerians are expecting too much from Buhari but I do not think it is possible to achieve everything he said.”
Similarly, the President of the Northern Youths Intellectual Forum, Oruma Abdul, charged Buhari on the provision of employment for youths with special emphasis on developing the agriculture sector.
National President, Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, Alhaji Yerima Shettima
National President, Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, Alhaji Yerima Shettima
He said, “We expect the Buhari government to concentrate on providing mechanised farming for youths. Niger and Ebonyi states can produce enough rice for the country. So, government can formulate a policy whereby Ebonyi and Niger states can concentrate on rice production while Benue State can focus on yam production and so on.
“Less than five per cent of Americans are farmers and they produce a lot more than we do. So, mechanised farming is the way out. Mining and agriculture sector can go a long way in engaging the youths. Government should also deal with the current challenges in the power sector and the insurgency in the North-East. You can’t separate youth unemployment from the problem of insurgency.”
Meanwhile, it is not clear if Buhari will include an unprecedented number of youths in his government as he had yet to make key appointments as of the time of filing this report.
But while Abdul was optimistic that “youths will be very much engaged in Buhari’s government,” Shettima was not as optimistic.
He said moves by his group to press for the inclusion of youths from different interest groups in Buhari’s government had been met with some disappointment.
“Unfortunately what we are getting is that they are making it more like a party thing. Some of the people around him are looking at the issue as a party’s affairs,” he told Saturday PUNCH, adding, “I do not think it has to do with the party alone because when you talk about a national party, you must also include other interests. To that extent, you have to carry a lot of youths along in your government. It is one thing for us to say this, but it is another thing for the government to listen to us.”
In the area of education, as part of his campaign promises, Buhari promised to target “up to 20 per cent of our annual budget for this critical sector (education) whilst making substantial investments in training quality teachers at all levels of the educational system.”
He also said he would “provide one meal a day for all primary school pupils,” which he said would create jobs in agriculture, catering and delivery services.”
However, the Senate President of the National Association of Polytechnic Students, Lukman Salaudeen, drew Buhari’s attention to the issues confronting polytechnic education in the country.
He called on the President to resolve the present dichotomy between the HND and the BSc degree, which he said should be urgently looked into.
Salaudeen also called on Buhari to resolve all pending issues of academic unions and implement them.
He said, “We expect the government to, as a matter of urgency, implement the report on the restructuring of education in Nigeria- the one that has to do with the dichotomy between the HND and the BSc degree.
“We expect the eighth National Assembly to pass into law the bill addressing the dichotomy in civil service. We also want the government to look into the upgrading of colleges of education and to upgrade some polytechnic to degree awarding institutions.
“Also, government cannot end insurgency without engaging the youths. So, it should resuscitate industries like Ajaokuta Steel Mill and textile industries that have been dead.”

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