The presidential candidate of the Better Nigeria Progressive Party in the just concluded presidential election, David Esosa Ize-Iyamu, in this interview with Kayode Fasua, harps on the need for increase youth participation in the electoral process. Excerpts:
How relevant is your Youth Revolution Movement (YRM) to Nigeria’s democratic development?
As has been demonstrated in the nearly concluded national election, the YRM is out to prepare Nigerian youths for leadership and governance, starting from active involvement in the electoral process: from voter registration, through standing for election, to effective leadership wherever they are. Simply put, YRM seeks to transit Nigerian youths from being passive onlookers at the electoral process, to being committed, active participants, who become the change they seek.
The YRM is neither violent nor militant, but a peaceful, yet firm and structured drive towards positive self-determination, national pride, social consciousness, and actual measurable change.
It is no secret that the youth population is the largest sub-group in our national demography, but the larger percentage of this subgroup exhibits severe apathy towards leadership, politics or governance. I don’t blame them really, as this has been a direct consequence of the lack of inspiring leadership that we all have experienced and groaned under, in our recent history.
I believe that the youths have to be given renewed hope in our country; they must truly believe in Nigeria again, and buy into owning this process of national re-evolution. Nigerian youths today are well informed and aware of the leadership role that youths across the world are taking in driving social, political and economic change. For instance, Nollywood was created from the scratch by Nigerian youths without government support. Same way, YRM is out to mobilise Nigerian youths to take the centre-stage in crafting the future of Nigeria.
In trying to wrest power from the older generation and give it to the youths, what do you intend to achieve?
Our mission is clear, and it is to prepare the Nigerian youths for leadership and governance. We intend to transform Nigeria into a country where the youths are empowered and recognised in the corridors of power. For starters, we plan to move the youths towards willing, enthusiastic and energetic participation in our electoral process. We will reach out to similar youth groups that are springing up across the country, to ensure that the impact of the youths are felt in this year’s ballots and beyond. We simply cannot miss this opportunity to take back Nigeria, and cause a rebirth of this great nation.
How do you intend to inspire the youth to wake up from the slumber of political apathy?
Well, it is unfortunate that the existing political class has made it difficult for our youths to have any feelings of inclusion. It is evident that the youth have been consistently disappointed with politicians’ promises. The massive gap between those promises, and quantifiable development, has fostered this feeling of political apathy. Sadly, this has dampened the desire for the majority of our youth to take the initiative for improvement or development.
Our youths are no longer moved by rhetoric. Their conversations on social media, on the streets, and in organised forums, show that they crave inspired, responsible, empathetic, and credible leadership. The YRM intends to inform, educate, lead, and sometimes incentivize the youths to action and into participating in the political value-chain. We will show practical and dynamic approaches to achieve solutions to national problems, and inspire the youths to take responsibility for those solutions.
So what is your modus operandi?
My position as the National Youth Leader of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria already puts me in the unique pedestal to be able to positively influence and provide guidance for over 17 million Pentecostal youths across the country. This existing numerical strength of the PFN youth-wing structure, gives me a strategic platform to mobilise the youths across the regions effectively.
For instance, last year, we rolled out the “#BeTheChange” initiative, where youths were mobilised to solve social problems in their localities. The idea is to entrench a new culture and way of thinking-where the youths can take positive action for change, as against always waiting for the government to solve problems or do something desired. We would guide them on, in the process of critical thinking that would help them take action immediately, to fix niggling social issues; be it in transportation, sanitation, environment, security, etc.
Youths and youth groups that are willing to join us can register on our website so that they can join the local YRM forums, where details of this political revolution will be shared, as well as the actionable steps for them to be the change. Clearly, getting PVC is essential to their participation in the electoral process; so the YRM actively drove PVC registration and collection before its closing date ahead of the ongoing elections, to ensure that the greatest numbers of Nigerian youths are ready to intelligently cast their votes, and enthrone a new team of competent, capable and patriotic leaders across the nation. We are just starting and we will soon get there. Already, we’re mobilising at least over 17 million PVC-carrying youths to bring about a genuine change in this country.
But will this plan be enough to ignite the youths’ interest in politics?
Our plans are based on strategic research, and are well thought out by teams of patriotic youths who have both training and experience in the relevant fields to the actualisation of these plans.
Further fora and town-hall meetings, both online and offline, are being scheduled, to ensure that we take on real feedback from the youths, as the YRM evolves and grows nationwide. Simply put, we are ready, and are confident of the success of the YRM.
Surely the task of real mobilisation of millions of Nigerian youth cannot be so straightforward?
You are right in the sense that we have a massive task ahead of us, but it is one we are well prepared for, and have invested time and thought, to strategise properly. Tension is high in the country, across religious, ethnic and regional divides, and this on its own presents problems to deploying national mobilisation of the magnitude that we envisage.
The good news is that we have the competent leadership within the YRM to significantly inspire commitment, passion and the necessary hard-work, which are crucial to achieving our objectives.
Besides, Nigerian youths have the numerical advantage in the electoral equations, and with resolve and determination, the YRM will guide the youths to take our national destiny in our own hands. The youths have the requisite education, street-level know-how, agility and energy, to peacefully, resolutely and uncompromisingly take on leadership roles.
As laudable as your objectives are, critics may say you are a flash in the pan?
It is normal to have nay-sayers, no matter what you are involved in, and the political arena is no exception. Our intentions are genuine and positive, demonstrably so too. We are committed to our cause, and will not be distracted by criticisms from those who are unwilling to be the change, or afraid of the coming change in the political status quo. We will use those criticisms to further stay accountable to our mission, and measure our progress always.
How soon can the impact of the YRM be felt in the polity?
We can and will change the system. As you could see from the last presidential elections, youth involvement had progressed a bit and we are not relenting ahead of future elections. In the short term, all our youth from age 18 to 40 (at least), will be mobilised to register and get their voter’s cards, identify with a political party, and this will cause the existing political class to pay attention, and on election day, we will come out en masse to vote intelligently.
Nigerian youths will no longer remain confined to the boundary of followership while unpatriotic, insensitive and incompetent politicians who make a mess of our collective fortunes as a nation. We will be a great generation that lays the foundation for coming generations to be even greater. We will determine our own future. So there is no going back on this. It is the time for the youths to reclaim Nigeria.
Nigerian youths will no longer remain confined to the boundary of followership while unpatriotic, insensitive and incompetent politicians who make a mess of our collective fortunes as a nation. We will be a great generation that lays the foundation for coming generations to be even greater