Coming from a prominent political background, Hafsatu Ali Shinkafi runs an NGO that focuses on youth empowerment. Olawale Ajimotokan put her in the spotlight
I am Change founder, Hafsatu Shinkafi is leading the conversation on finding new role for youths in the Nigerian landscape. Her passion for the development and empowerment of the youth was manifest through the interview she gave at her Abuja office.
The estate developer is the daughter of the late Umaru Ali Shinkafi, a former Director General National Security Organisation (NSO) and a presidential aspirant during the botched Third Republic.
She also expressed contempt for political leaders for neglecting youths, who constitute the largest group in country, lamenting that many youths lack jobs and are often bypassed in the scheme of things.
Shinkafi read International Relations at International University of Geneva, Switzerland after doing her one year foundation course in the UK.
Last month, her NGO convened a symposium at the Baze University, Abuja to X-tray the challenges of the youth in the country. The theme of the discourse was: “Role of Youths in Politics and the Future of Nigeria”.
The initiative had as panelists, the founder of Youths Initiative for Advocacy and Growth (YIAGA), Samson Itodo, the President of National Youth Council of Nigeria, Bello Bala Shagari and the President of Student Council at Baze University, Rabi Mohammed.
The interactive session ventilated on the challenges youths are facing in Nigeria and sought solution to them.
“One of the things we discussed at the panel was, at the beginning of our country as a nation, it was the youths that were running the affairs. So why is it that it has changed now? So we are concerned that it is the elders that are ruling while youths have limited opportunities. The education system has collapsed, security is shattered. We are living in fear. That is one of the issues we brought up during our discussion. Why is that we have not been led properly the way they experienced, the way they were led by the past leaders? All they tell is to go and do it by yourselves,” Shinkafi fumed.
She also berated some politicians, for habitually conscripting youths as tools to commit political violence, to the extent of inducing them with intoxicants and hard drugs to fight on the street.
Shinkafi advocated for the enlightenment of the youths on the harm of these acts and for them to realise that they are only used by politicians, who will dump them once they get what they want and are elected into offices.
She similarly warned of the danger the country culd face for neglecting the youth, who are about 80 million and who constitute about 60 percent of the population.
“Our population is dominated by people under the age of 30, we cannot afford to neglect them because the numbers are absolutely huge. Japan has an aging population and a large number of their population are Octogenarians. On the other hand, we have the resources and demographics, which are unfortunately wasted because of lack of programmes for the youth. The education and the health sectors are in tatters, while we have one of the worst crisis in terms of girl child enrollment in school. We can’t continue to have people who are 90-80 year-old ruling a population that is 60 percent and below 30 years,” she stressed.
She offered that it was in order to extenuate the myriad of challenges bedeviling the youth sector that prompted her to set up I am Change in September 2015.
Shinkafi clarified that the NGO is self-funded and was founded to uplift the disenfranchised youths of the society and to ameliorate their challenges, such as lack of education and issues of health and drug abuse.
I am Change has no affiliation to any political party, she said. In September last year, the NGO undertook a project in Sokoto State with a grant received from the Sir Ahmadu Bello Foundation which it used to train about 100 youth in solar panel installation, IT skills and leadership.
Shinkafi also highlighted that given the unwholesome reputation of some NGOs, accessing foreign grants was becoming difficult because the donors all assumed their funds would not be used in the right way as much of the donations put into the country had not been judiciously expended.
She disclosed the inspiration to pursue youth employment came during her visit to the Red Cross in Geneva as an undergraduate. To her the trip was an eye opener that it is possible for ordinary people to make a change for the betterment of the society and the people.
Shinkafi similarly admitted she had found herself in trouble waters with her I am Change identity, which someone had ignorantly associated to be an appendage of the ruling party’s Change mantra. She insisted her NGO’s name has no political leaning whatsoever, adding that “Change” is a universal term.
“If you look around the world everybody is using ‘change’. It is unfair to box me into a political slogan controversy because I chose such a powerful and universal word for my organisation. That identity got me into so many troubles, you won’t believe it. Somebody once challenged me, because he erroneously linked us to a political party”.
She, however, defiantly insisted she would stick by the identity, saying once people begin to understand what the meaning and how powerful the name is they will also get on the train.
From a family that is synonymous with politics, Shinkafi gave a nod that reinforced a probe seeking to know if she is political given her background.
Her response:” Yes. I actually have politics all over my genes .In fact I am fully political. I used to joke I smell politics, but for now I have no interest in politics or in running for political office or election, but I am not saying I won’t practice politics all together. Right now, this NGO is my priority. And to also make a living is another priority of mine. I am into real estate that is what I do”.
She disclosed her dream in the next five years is to grow her organisation, have a bigger work force that would have impacted many people in the entire country, including southern Nigeria.