By Professor Kingsley Moghalu

A year ago, Nigerian youth organised themselves in the peaceful #EndSARS protests to demand freedom from police brutality.

Quite sadly, the bravery of the young compatriots was met with even more brutality. Like millions of fellow citizens, and indeed the youth, today, I especially remember those who paid the ultimate price for freedom during the protest. Their sacrifice will not be forgotten or in vain.

Nigeria’s young men and women face many fundamental challenges. The strength of their numbers (nearly 70% of our population) is supposed to be the country’s most productive asset.

But the failure of governance has turned this into a threat, and the EndSARS movement has witnessed efforts to silence the voices of our young people, physically and on social media including the “Twitter ban”. 

What Nigeria’s youth stands to inherit from incompetent government is a bloated public debt of over N35 trillion and still rising. The national youth unemployment rate is above 40 percent.

Nigeria’s young people are leaving the country in droves (the “japa” phenomenon) in search of greener pastures, including in smaller African countries, which sometimes involves very dangerous trips.

I note in particular the difficult conditions facing young people in Northern Nigeria, where millions of children of school age are out of school (a potential breeding ground for recruitment to terrorism) and a drug pandemic poses a serious social threat. And, despite their dominant number, the youth are grossly under-represented in government.

Agenda

In solidarity with their struggles, today I unveil my agenda for the youth. If elected as President in 2023, I plan to execute the following plan specifically for the benefit of the youth:

1) Start-ups funding scheme. My administration will establish a venture capital fund of an initial N1 trillion capitalisation, in partnership with the private sector, which will manage the fund.

The Fund will provide equity investment for start-ups and businesses owned by young Nigerian men and women, invest in massive skills training for them, and fund the process of taking the products of innovation  into the marketplace through mass production of such products.

This, with competent management of the economy, will create over 20 million direct and indirect, sustainable private sector jobs over a decade, stem emigration, and inspire diaspora return to the country.

2) Transitional unemployment support. We will provide transitional youth support for six months to one year for job seekers on the condition they undergo skills training if required, as a condition for accessing the temporary support package.

3) Inclusive governance. Youth representation in my government will be 50 percent. We will implement this in a manner that achieves the policy of our party, African Democratic Congress (ADC), to have a minimum of 35% of the cabinet as youth and women respectively.

My administration will strive for a cabinet that is 50% youth and 50% women at the same time by combining both gender and age demographics. This will achieve my vision for both gender and youth equity in the appointment of competent citizens into senior federal offices.

4) Leadership mentoring. I plan to offer leadership mentoring to the youth as part of the processes for transitioning to a competent, youth-led government in Nigeria.

5) Intergenerational equity council. My administration will establish an Intergenerational  Equity Council as a policy advisory body that will be tasked with embedding the youth in the economy and governance of the country. The council will work to bring into reality the promises of the National Youth Policy.

As part of its responsibilities, the council will memorialise the 2020 EndSARS protest and restore civic engagement and the right to protest as provided for in the Nigerian constitution.

6) Increased education budget. From the current 5 percent threshold, I plan to increase budgetary allocation for education to 20 percent. The increased funding will provide better remuneration for school-teachers, reform the curriculum to foster quality science and technology education, fund research and provide infrastructure and teaching/learning equipment.

We will ensure ASUU strikes become a thing of the past. Our root and branch reform of Nigeria’s education system will equip the youth with the skills and spirit of patriotism to colonize the future.

7) Police reform. My administration will undertake a comprehensive and constitutional police reform that will properly establish state police, train the police to respect and protect human rights, ensure internal accountability against excessive use of force and extra-judicial killing, institute specialisation within the police force which is absent today, increase the number strength of the officers, and provide significant improvement in the remuneration and welfare package of the service men and women.  

One year after the EndSARS protest, hundreds of the youth who participated in the peaceful protest are still being held in detention.

This is a violation of the country’s constitutional democracy. I, therefore, call on the authorities to release the youth activists without further delay.

A systemic resolution of EndSARS will be achieved only through the election of a competent leader that sincerely has the interests of the youth at heart.

Therefore, like the youth of Zambia successfully did with their “take it to the polls” campaign, Nigerian youth should get their PVCs and deliver 50 million votes in 2023 for a different kind of leadership in Nigerian than one that is oppressive towards them and lacks any vision for how the youth can take charge now, of a future that rightfully belongs to them. 

Being a statement by Professor Kingsley Moghalu(OON) a presidential aspirant of the African Democratic Congress, ADC, October 20, 2021., (Oxford Martin Visiting Fellow University of Oxford).

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