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No Government has marginalised the young like Buhari’s — Georgina Dakpokpo
Barrister Georgina Dakpokpo, is the national chairman of the Young Democratic Party, YDP, a party that formally entered the country’s political space in 2016.
Before her emergence as national chairman of the YDP, she was the party’s running mate in the Edo State governorship election in 2016. A lawyer of 15 years standing, and now in her early forties, Mrs. Dakpokpo in this interview asserts that she is with the exception of about two persons the oldest in the national executive of the party which among others aims to give a channel to the expression of the potentials of the young in the country.
The lawyer cum politician speaks on the call by Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida for fresh air in the political space.
What was the motivation for the registration of the party?
Sometime in 2013 a group of us came together and were discussing the political situation in Nigeria and realised that there was no opportunity for young people and that the existing parties did not envisage young people in their plans. So, we said let us come together and do something that would represent the young people.
What exactly do you mean by Young or are you targeting only the young?
The term Young is actually a dual representation. One, it talks about the age of our democratic experience, which is relatively young; and also we are targeting young people and older people who are young at heart and care about the young people and who believe in the strength and ability of the young people to actively and purposefully participate in the government of Nigeria.
What is your reaction to the calls by Presidents Obasanjo and Babangida for a new breed of politicians?
Starting with Obasanjo, there is nothing that he said that is really new. It is something that the citizenry have been talking about for a long time, something that even politicians and political parties including YDP have talked about for a long time. By the position he holds in the political landscape, he has been able to amplify it and of course because of his knack for writing letters to the powers that be and the resultant effect; so it made much impact. So, there is nothing new, and it actually represents what the young people have been saying for a very long time.
Having President Ibrahim Babangida say the same thing is of great consequence because these are two former generals talking to a former general. It is welcome, it is something that is expected, but what I don’t particularly support is President Olusegun Obasanjo actively getting involved in a movement or a coalition. He had said to us just before 2015 that he was tearing up his party membership card and that he wasn’t going into active politics any longer. So, why is he doing this now?
Is he going back on his words? He is someone that I respect; he has so much political clout, both nationally and internationally, so he should be careful not to make a ridicule of that esteemed position.
Do the young have the potential to fill the gap as desired by Obasanjo and IBB?
Absolutely, we do, but I also believe that we cannot do it alone. We need these older people, but it is now that they should allow us come into power, now that we still have the privilege of them being around so that if we are doing things out of place, they can direct us.
The young form the majority of the population in Nigeria. The young have over and over again proven themselves to be industrious, to be innovative and to be at par with their colleagues internationally in other areas of life. So, if they are given that opportunity in government, I am sure that they will be able to explore.
But the young have not been particularly locked out in the political process in the mainstream parties?
As I said earlier, the young people form the bulk of the population, but if you look at the proportion of the young who have come to reckoning, it is actually nominal. So, we want to be in more executive positions, in more elective positions, and I don’t think that there is any other government like the present government that has seriously and severely maligned the young people in elective and appointive offices.
We keep on having these old people over and over again. Let them stay back and give advice. The case of the Nigerian ambassador to the US is another thing. That man (82 years old at the time of his appointment) should be resting; he should be travelling from country to country on a cruise and enjoying his life.
There has been a technical lockout of young people. They say young people, come and use the young people as errand boys and maybe as a reward give them one position that will not influence what they have originally planned at the top. We need more young people at the top.
What are the challenges facing the young in the political landscape?
The major challenge is financing. These old people have been in power over and over again, they have amassed a whole lot of wealth and most of it not legitimately, and unfortunately, Nigerian politics is highly monetised. The young particularly do not have a chance when they go into elections with these older persons who have amassed wealth illegitimately.
How optimistic are you that your initiative to enthrone the young at heart in leadership will turn into a success?
In the next election, we will make some advances, but YDP is not just a political party, but it is a movement. We are hopeful, and we don’t want to deceive ourselves, we may not get there in 2019, but we are on the path towards setting a standard.
Do you have an age limit for membership or for those who desire to aspire to political office using your platform?
Certainly not! That would be against the Nigerian constitution. Everybody and anybody from any walk of life in any age bracket are welcome to be members of Young Democratic Party, YDP. The name is just a representation of our ideals; it doesn’t mean that it is strictly for only young people.
How do you react to Senator Jonah Jang’s reported assertion that the Senate is not meant for young persons?
Laughs. The constitution does not say so. It is just like this zoning thing imposed on us by the PDP. That is what he believes, but it is not constitutional.