I am delighted to stand before you in this august gathering to speak on the topic: Youths in Politics: The GYB Phenomenon. This event is in honour and celebration of the well-deserved appointment of my dear brother and friend, Honourable Mohammed Onogwu, the Chief Press Secretary to His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello
Let me begin by appreciating God Almighty for this day. Secondly, let me appreciate His Excellency, Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello (my Principal) for the rare opportunity given to me. I would like to appreciate the organizers of this memorable event, the University of Jos Alumni Association (Kogi State Chapter) for honouring one of their own, Hon. Mohammed Onogwu with this epoch-making reception and dinner.
This reception is a reflection of Onogwu’s personality, humility and service to humanity, dedication to duty, loyalty to his principal and maintaining unbroken relationship with his Alma Mata. In fact, the celebrant’s disposition and sustaining cordial relationship with friends he met in the sojourn of his career is the primary reason why I am standing before you today as the Guest Speaker.
Unprepared as this presentation may seem, I am desirous to take us on the path of practical and interactive engagement in the course of this presentation against a more serious and didactic academic discussion that may have been expected of me.
It has been my earnest desire to speak on this topical issue – “Youths in Politics: The GYB Phenomenon”. Due to time constraint and to avoid losing focus on the main substance of this discussion, it will be needless to travel on the rigorous academic journey to conceptualise the concepts of Youth, Politics and GYB phenomenon. However, for the benefit of this audience and particularly the essence of this gathering, the meaning of those concepts will become clearer as we progress with the instrumentality of the adopted practical and participants’ observation approach.
Viewing from the perspective of age bracket, all those that are above the adolescent age group but are not up to the aged group are regarded as youths. Those in this youth category are by traits very ambitious, energetic, enthusiastic, passionate, vibrant, vigorous, active and dynamic.
Historically speaking, the Nigerian politics had been dominated by the youths beginning from the struggle for independence by the nationalists, all through the first and second republics and during the successive military coups, politics and governance. In fact, virtually all the successive Nigerian leaders within the period were less than 50 years of age.
We are therefore tempted to ask the simple question of when the youth took the backstage in politics and governance in Nigeria. Why and what led to the change of baton from the youths to the elders? What can be done to change the narratives in favour of the youths to take active part in politics using the GYB Phenomenon as a model? This shall be the focus of our discussion.
Interrogating Youths participation in Politics
Politics in Nigeria has often been viewed with despicable demeanour and negative mindset. Most youths have always described politics as ‘a dirty game.’ They therefore clinically detach themselves from discussions on the participation in politics and governance. Due to their strong aversion for politics and political activities described as ‘dirty games’, youths leave their destiny in the hands of old politicians who force them to eat the crumbs where they are supposed to eat the full course. In other words, decisions about the future, prospect and development of the youths are left for the aged who are not willing to leave the stage.
Youths’ participation in politics offers young men and women the fertile opportunity to develop their society by polishing the economic wellbeing of their society and modernising governance and social values. Like in many parts of Africa and the world at large, youths’ participation in politics will engender good governance and instil enduring legacies and discipline.
Given the myriads of leadership challenges destabilizing, separating and threatening the unity of this country and the economic prosperity, it is imperative youths join politics for a better and more productive future. As can be seen currently and from the previous governments, there are high discouraging failures in leadership in the country. This is partly caused by willing elders whose age does not actively support their capacities.
There are high rates of crime, poverty and unemployment, and the youths are either the perpetrators or the victims of such crimes. There are several attempts by the old generation of leaders to gag social interactions which they see as threats to their existence. The advent of science and technology have clearly put the youths at the vintage position to take over the leadership of their clime.
How The Youths Took The Back Stage in Politics?
Frankly speaking, the youths did not take the back stage in politics as it may seem. However, it is the unwillingness of the aged who have been ruling from independence that have either been recycling themselves directly or by proxy that has relegated the youths to the background. The elders either directly or indirectly have suppressed the political consciousness of the youths. Recently, the youths have accepted their fates of not only accepting to be supporters but also to be supported.
Unfortunately, many Nigerians youths failed to realise that power is not given, power is taken. In other words, the ruling class does not willingly and sincerely extend invitations to a common man to be a member of the elite class. Rather, those who are members of the elite class especially the youths forced their ways into the circle. Example is GYB.
In addition, the sit-tight syndrome and monarchical spirit of aged leaders are parts of the reasons youths seemingly take the back stage. Another reason is absence of political mentorship by the aged political leaders.
Even as we are not at the stage of making recommendation, for youth to take active parts in politics and be recognized, they must possess the following attributes:
13. Positive rebellion
14. Agent of positive change
Youths in political governance will be able to take informed decisions, demand accountability and take active part in societal matters, especially in this ICT driven 21st Century.
Youths in Politics: The GYB Phenomenon
Using Kogi State of today as a case study, youths are creative, fearless, adventurous, and passionate. They are also innovative, can provide solutions, have the capacity to prevent insecurity, disunity, bad governance, and corruption. Indeed, this is what the GYB Phenomenon represents.
Prior to 2015 Governorship Election in Kogi State, the name, Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello was relatively unknown in the political circle. However, the name Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello was only known to few Kogites because of his business (“Fair Plus” Transport Company) and his exploits in public service.
In 2015, there were general disenchantment and total dissatisfaction of the performance of the government. Consequently, the people were yearning and clamouring for a change of leadership.
There were two major political parties jostling to provide alternative platform and governance (the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and All Progressives Congress, APC).
As stated earlier, GYB was relatively not too popular in Kogi State politics prior to 2015 Governorship election. However, through personal struggle, sacrifice and self-belief, he was able to assemble people of like minds, vibrant campaign team and the media to achieve political success and relevance without any known godfather.
As the torch-bearer of the youths, Governor Yahaya Bello broke the chain of limitations placed on the destiny of many Kogi youths, especially in politics. As a youth, he took the bull by the horn and dared the odds. Prior to his venturing into politics as a youth, Governor Bello knew that he was going to dare the monsters of retrogression and impossibility facing the youths. He broke the barrier to provide good leadership model.
Kogi State in the past was famous for tribal, religious, clannish and social divisions which GYB sees as blocks that must be broken. To get a place in government then, one must have a father, uncle, relative or a godfather that was well-to-do, and must have attained certain age somewhere around 50 years of age or more. Today, GYB Phenomenon has killed godfatherism in Kogi State politics. Bello makes use of his youthful opportunity in politics to put an end to limitations by giving opportunities to all Kogites irrespective of their age, class, clan, tribe or religion.
Governor Bello understands the principles and practice that underpin good governance. He knows that a good government is participatory, responsive, result-oriented, equitable and inclusive. GYB Phenomenon brought about the most transparent staff audit and screening in the history of Kogi State, which removed set of workers who should have retired from the service of the state but chose to alter their dates of birth annually. GYB courageously challenged the entrenched cabal to give rooms for youths to be employed for maximum productivity.
GYB believes in the present and future growth of the country and offers himself freely as a beacon of hope for the youths. He is today arguably the most versatile politician that binds people of tribe, class and status together in unity, love and oneness.
His Excellency has overtime, proved the willingness and the zeal to achieve results by having young minds at leadership positions. GYB Phenomenon is the energy, ability, will and capacity to provide opportunities and mentor youths for future glory.
Governor Yahaya Adoza Bello recognizes his constituency which is the youths. This is evident in the opportunity given to them to aspire for positions as elected and appointed political leaders. He leads the road as a beacon for others and softens the ground for youths to emerge. As someone from a humble background, he creates opportunities for room for children of Mr Nobody to emerge and be integrated into the political system.
The GYB Phenomenon recognizes the importance of women, thereby inculcating them into politics. It is a record-breaking resolve as the first Governor to have a female ADC. He is also the only Governor from the 19 Northern States to have a female as Secretary to the State Government (SSG). The GYB Phenomenon facilitated women in all the 21 Local Government Areas of Kogi State as Vice Chairmen and have women as Leaders of legislative arms in the Local Government Areas.
GYB Phenomenon has over 80 percent of the youths in the cabinet, ranging from the Deputy Governor, Chief of Staff, Special Advisers, Senior Special Assistants and Heads of Agencies and Parastatals. In fact, the celebrant of today’s occasion is a product of GYB youth-benevolence.
GYB Phenomenon mentors mentees who are now mentors to other mentees. It creates opportunities for economic, social and political benefits.
Beyond the youths, GYB Phenomenon takes equalization and leadership quality to its zenith. In other words, GYB sees capacity in people and not in their gender, tribe or religion. He builds people to replicate the leadership model he gives.
Just recently, His Excellency, Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello approved the composition of the Kogi State Youth Development Commission which is geared toward the implementation of sustainable youth policies. The Commission is headed by one of the youngest staff of Kogi State Polytechnic, Mr Lawal Ozomata James together with other young and vibrant members. This, and many other youth-oriented programmes by Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello bear eloquent testimony that he is one man that understands what the youths need and want.
The time has come for the youths to reject the reduction of their values to mere thuggery, violence and destruction. If youths could be brainwashed to accept destruction of property, killing and kidnapping as norms, they can as well be sensitized to embrace politics as a way out of bad governance, maladministration, corruption and unemployment.
If youths must succeed, they must first be ready to take part in politics. Power is not given; it is taken through determination and tactful legitimate means.
My charge for the youths, therefore, are
1. Youths should not wait to be called upon to be given power.
2. They should use the instrumentality of the ballot box to attain leadership positions.
3. They should not destroy their tomorrow by their activities of today.
4. They should be courageous.
5. They should be fearless.
6. They should be audacious.
7. They should not be afraid of mistakes, because it is from mistake you learn.
8. They should not count how many times they have failed but their focus should be on their success.
9. They should not count the number of trials and failures but the prime target should be success.
10. They should allow themselves to be mentored.
11. They should identify their own, queue behind them and rise from the given the opportunity.
12. Youths must be ready to work with models and mentors like Governor Yahaya Adoza Bello.
13. They should discourage parochial, divisive and sectional sentiments such as tribe, religion and clan in their relationship with others.
14. Above all, youths must learn to be unifiers
As it is clear, GYB Phenomenon does not only build an enduring legacies and laid good foundational model for other politicians to copy, but has also created an avenue that will ensure succession of youths in governance for many years.
Governor Yahaya Adoza Bello is young and he is getting it right, Chief Edward Onoja is young and he is getting it right, Pharmacist Jamiu Asuku is young and he is getting it right, CPS Onogwu Mohammed is young and he is getting it right, and many others out there that are mentees of GYB are young and are also getting it right. The choice is yours to be part of the youths that are getting it right with the GYB Model or remain to be dictated to by the lord masters that are not ready to create equal opportunities for all.
I wish to thank the organisers for finding me worthy of this tasking assignment and the opportunity to speak about the strides and giant impacts of my Boss on the youth participation in politics and governance of our dear state and Nigeria at large…
It is my hope and belief that the GYB courageous and exemplary leadership exploits will spur the youths to take their pride of place in the affairs of our dear country as we prepare for another phase of political dispensation in 2023.
Once again, I thank you for your rapt attention and may God bless you all.