By Job Osazuwa
Ismaeel Buba Ahmed, lawyer, and youth leader, currently serves as a Senior Special Assistant on National Social Investment Programmme to President Muhammadu Buhari, and he is also serving as member, National Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Committee of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
In this interview with journalists on the sideline of the just concluded APC National Youth Lobby Committee retreat in Lagos, he spoke on how the youth wing is strategizing ahead of the national convention, resolving crises in the party, as well as re-strategizing for the 2023 election, direct primaries, among several other issues in the polity.•
What is the essence of the APC National Youth Lobby Committee retreat?
After the national youths progressive conference that we held in June this year, we set up regional and lobby committees to lobby stakeholders of the party in every zone in order to include young people in the processes of governance of the party activities, especially at the ward level.
The congresses have come and gone, we are waiting for the convention. This is a retreat to bring up all the reports, look at it and see where there is a gap and know what progress has been made and what needs to be done going forward.
The old guard are refusing to retire, what can be done to bring more youths into politics?
Lobby is part of it, participation is another thing. We have to encourage young people to participate in the political process, they should not shy away. They think some people are already entrenched, but there is nobody that is entrenched anywhere; it is just to try and push, that is what we are trying to do.
Why has there not been increase in the number of youths elected into public office despite the passage of the Not Too Young To Run Bill?
I don’t think the Bill gives automatic opportunity to the youths, but it is an opportunity to participate and it has done that and it is from participation that you slowly go into winning. It is not just instantly you win an election, you have to compete. So it would not happen that way they are seeing it. It is a work in progress; there is a legal framework now that depends on the field work.
How can we have more youths occupying positions in the party and winning elections across Nigeria?
We are working toward the general elections and next year’s national convention. To make sure that young people occupy positions in the NWC of the party and going forward, we pick up tickets in the party to run for office in 2023.
This is the whole idea about the strategy team and we are going to continue and hold the conservation.
Are you worried about worsening apathy in Nigeria’s election, especially among the youth?
It is because of lack of inclusion, lack of awareness; they believe that the system is for some people and not for them. Our job is to make them believe that the system belongs to them; so that we can all do the work.
What role can the youth wing in APC play in helping to resolve internal crisis in the party in some states?
Somebody in this gathering suggested having a youth reconciliation committee that would go to our elders and speak to them on the need for them to come together. So, it is something we are seriously ready to explore. We would explore and talk to our elders on the need for them to close ranks, come together and move the party forward and do something different. If they don’t have time to do that we would do that for ourselves.
Are we going to see the youth wing in APC throw their weight behind a youth presidential candidate in 2023?
No we may not say that, I don’t know what is going to happen in future, but what we are going to do is to make criteria on the kind of candidate we want, but we are not going to single out an individual unless there is an individual that matches our criteria.
Are you going to initiate a process to aid young people emerge as candidates at various levels in the APC for the 2023 general elections?
We intend to see that we have a lot of governors who are young people in 2023. We intend to see that we can have about 100 members of the House of Representatives emerge out of 360. We intend to see if APC can deliver about 30 senatorial seats to the young people. Then a lot of state Assembly seats should also go to youths.
What is your take on direct primaries?
I am a party member, the National Assembly has done their part, they have taken it to the President, and so we await the decision of the President on assenting to the Bill.
So, as young people, we are loyal to the President, whatever decision he takes. If he assents to the Bill for direct primaries, we are open to it, because we are the largest constituency in the party. If they do indirect or direct primaries, the party would choose the one that is better for them in any circumstances.
Are you in support of electronic transmission of election results?
I am in total support of such a measure; it would improve the electoral system in Nigeria.
Participate and win so that someone does not change your result half way. Electronic transmission is the best way to go. It increases transparency and transparency in elections helps young people.
A faction sacked the Buni-led committee recently, how do you react to this?
They are not known members of the party, it does not bother me.