Ibrahim Abdullahi was senate president of the Children Parliament, Federal Republic of Nigeria from 2005 to 2007. During his tenure, he represented Nigerian and African children on different platforms, including the United Nations. Abdullahi, 22-year-old student of the Nigerian Law School, Abuja spoke with OLUOKUN AYORINDE on his aspiration to be president of the National Youth Council of Nigeria at the election of the body coming up on Saturday
How active were you during your tenure as president of the Children Parliament?
I joined the Nigerian Youth Parliament in 2008 when the late President Umaru Yar’Adua inaugurated the pioneer NYP. I was the youngest member of the Parliament then and made good use of the opportunity to air my views on national issues affecting young people, that is, those from 18 to 30. Shortly after that, I left for the United Kingdom to read law at the University of Reading. Even in school there, I got involved in the activities of the Afro-Caribbean Society. After my foundation year, I got elected as president of the university’s branch of the African Caribbean Society.
I’m back to the country and I feel obliged to join the movement for a new Nigeria. I know it is quite a struggle, but then we have two options; it’s either we relax and watch as we are being ruled by fools or take drastic steps that will lead to the changes we want.
With people who are 60 years and above putting themselves out as youths, do you think young people like you have any chance to lead the youths in Nigeria?
If we continue to watch them from the backseat to do whatever they are doing, they will continue doing it. So, real youths must step up and demand our rightful position in the scheme of things. We must let everybody know that young people must be given the chance to lead because there is no society that can have sustainable development without giving its youths leading positions. For any development plan to be sustainable, the next generation of adults who are young people today must know what it is all about. That is how we can have continuity in politics and in development. That’s why young people must be actively involved. Young people are invaluable assets that must not and cannot be shoved aside
Many people believe that the National Youth Council of Nigeria which you are aspiring to lead is a platform for getting cosy with politicians and earning cheap money. Are you not bothered by this perception?
Yes, it’s a big problem. The National Youth Council is a very powerful body. It is true that the Council has been enmeshed in a lot of controversies, but these are things that happen in organisations. But there is also the utmost responsibility of restoring the confidence of the youths in the Council and there is no better way of doing that than using the platform of the Youth Council itself. That’s why credible young people should begin to get on board the Youth Council. It should be a Council for young people who by virtue of their education and experience are in good positions and capable to represent the interests of other young people. The Youth Council must be devoid of partisan politics. These are the reasons why a new generation of leaders should be aboard the Council. I know there is the problem of people whose ages are not even in the range of youths using the platform of the Youth Council to do a lot of undesirable things. But it is because the young people allowed it to be so. Many young people don’t even know that the Youth Council exists. We must create that awareness. We must let them know that the Youth Council exists as a platform for them to air their opinion and for government to adopt a more serious approach to tackling problems confronting young people.
What will be your agenda if you become the President of the Youth Council?
First, we need to restore people’s confidence in the Youth Council. We need to turn the Youth Council into a platform that young people can use to demand from government the true dividends of democracy. The Youth Council will also be a platform for ensuring more opportunities for young Nigerians in the area of entrepreneurship, education and leadership. A lot of Nigerian youths are capable; they have the expertise and knowledge to aspire to leadership positions. They don’t have to wait until they are 40 or 50. The youthful age is a period when an individual is vibrant, most vocal and have all the energy to achieve things. Young people contribute to the workforce of the economy and the Youth Council must start to make these things happen. Real changes must happen. We want to be the new face of hope for the Nigerian youths. That is why I am aspiring to lead the National Youth Council of Nigeria.
How do you think the Youth Council can help in solving the problem of unemployment which is one of the major worries of young people in Nigeria nowadays?
The Youth Council needs to embark on a big campaign to ensure that jobs are gotten on merit because there are many well-qualified people that cannot even get the jobs. In Nigeria, we do not have a system that empowers young people to be self-employed. I know that governments at all levels are trying to introduce vocational trainings, but I think it has not been well-prioritised. The Youth Council should make sure that tackling youth unemployment is on top of its agenda of government because the issue of unemployment is a serious one. It can lead to the collapse of the economy. As much as we need to create more jobs for young people, we should also be able to show them that they can also create jobs for others.
For instance, in England, the educational system empowers young people to be on their own. A lot of young people even decide right from school that they want to own their own businesses. They have access to loans from banks. But in Nigeria, I can’t recall meeting any young person that has told me that he or she got a loan from a bank to start a business. Even as developed as the United Kingdom is, the current Prime Minister is trying to encourage young people to go into business. Though the Youth Council may not have the political power to put these things in place, they have the voice and access to get to the leaders and make them make things happen.