By Suleiman Arzika & Hauwa Ibrahim
YOUR Excellency, your path to the presidency has been long with many twists and turns.
None of us can fully comprehend what you have gone through the past twelve years to reach the current exalted position of the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Knowing what you believe and what you represent, we supporting you from the sidelines can only feel that your presidency signals an unlikely rebirth of our country. Much has transpired to create the space for this political moment in our country’s history.
You understand the “seriousness of the legacy” we are currently living. The structure you stand on is built on the strong will and loyalty of the Nigerian people. Yet, there are fault lines of security, corruption and unemployment, which continue to weaken and divide the country.
By 2015, Nigeria was at a breaking point. Whether one voted All Progressive Party (APC) or Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) there was a consensus that something had to change. It was the youth demographic who articulated this not only with energy and passion but also with commitment. They found their dreams articulated in the promises of the Buhari presidency, especially the call for honesty and the belief that necessary, difficult changes would be made without fear of the “vested interests” that seem to have captured and imprisoned Nigeria’s development. Mr. President, you were fortunate to have Nigerian youth believe in and mobilise support around you on an unprecedented level in our political history. Despite the doubts of their parents and various other obstacles, they were committed to and delivered your victory.
“It would be a misstep to believe that going forward the simple correcting of mistakes carried out by the PDP would be enough. The promises made to youth particularly around youth unemployment must be acted upon with both care and urgency. This is valuable energy and goodwill that can be harnessed to ensure that the important and difficult work ahead is not only done, but also done with accountability.
Mr. President, you have the ability to engage with this demographic in direct and committed ways through social media and telecommunications. This generation needs to be connected to through the avenues where they are consumers, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and be asked their opinion through group text messages and conference calls. It is evident that the youth are organised and reachable through various organisations that support your presidency. While they still believe in your promises, there needs to be a re-engagement. Youth are for the most part, the ones that got you elected and they are the ones that can help you generate real change in Nigeria if policy changes are focused around and through them.
For a long time now the system of government in Nigeria has been alien to the people. The gap between the government and those governed has widened and the citizens are often fundamentally at odds with those holding political appointments. This has led many Nigerians, especially the parents of the youth we speak of, to view government as a “fat cow to be milked” rather than a body that they can and must take an involved role in influencing. By focusing on youth engagement in tackling unemployment, corruption, and security you will be helping everyone have faith in the political process and all citizens will begin to engage more deeply in the political process.
Focusing on the issues of youth unemployment and governmental corruption are direct ways to address deeper problems of security. The ability to develop a true sense of freedom and security can only come from being part of a sustainable society. Economic stability and the confidence in a merit based systems of employment, rather than relational means of employment, are both ways to ensure the confidence of Nigerian citizens. Therefore, addressing corruption within employment is necessary.
In order to begin to do this, we need to know a thorough accounting of who is currently unemployed in the country and those in diaspora who want to come back home. A proactive initiative, independent from government, should be undertaken to do this. Different methods, at a grassroots level, such as surveys and interviews over social media and the call to a return or report to the wards, Districts and local government centre, Nigerian embassies and missions abroad can be used to gather information in a national/international database that consists of potential workforce and their skill sets. This can be used specifically to coordinate a base of employable youth.
By coordinating a database of those who are looking for employment, the government also has an opportunity to actively and transparently engage capable citizens to be employed in local, state and federal positions as well as allow a vibrant private sector to thrive. This is a key initiative to cut down corruption in government and help citizens feel that there is an equal opportunity for skilled citizens to be fully involved in political/non political positions. This is especially true in terms of appointment of members of cabinet at different levels. There needs to be a transparent database of all of the highly qualified (and not so “qualified) Nigerian citizens (willing and desirous of moving Nigeria forward) to restore a true sense of authenticity.
While a database such as Sure-P exists (other governmental programmes may exist), and therefore the government may have an established system, the administration should focus on a database of the Nigerian workforce that is independently managed. This ensures that there is transparency in who is hired in governmental positions and open up the field for private entrepreneurship. Such other data can also be improved, in an independent manner, by modeling the database and programme similarly to programmes such as “JobCorps” in the United States. This would not only provide a comprehensive way for open positions to be filled, but also allow a platform for the youth workforce to gain additional training and education around employability. The building and strengthening of this database will also be beneficial in recruiting young Nigerians in the diaspora to return to the country and be part of the country’s development.
An additional way to reduce youth unemployment, cut down corruption and build stronger security is by looking at how youth can be better involved in the police and military. The Police are the face of a Nation. There is already a need to grow the numbers in the ranks of the police and army. There is also the common experience of Nigerians being taken advantage of by the Police.
This is done by the same police that is responsible for providing assistance, protecting/enforcing law and order to the public in time of need. But how are individuals to have trust in the Police Force based on some of their actions? Recruitment of youth who have been specifically engaged in supporting your campaign promises around anti-corruption should be undertaken so that there is a cultural change of transparency within the ranks of the police and military while giving them the dignity they deserve.
*Mrs. Ibrahim, a lawyer, resides in Boston, USA & Arzika, an ICT entrepreneur, is based in Abuja.