From Joe Effiong, Uyo
The Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Niger Delta Affairs, Ita Enang, has warned leaders to stop profiling Nigerian youths ‘as criminals or cultists’ and other such ‘demeaning appellations’.
According to the presidential aide, such negative labels and the reluctance of the older generation to create space for the young people in governance and the economy have lowered their self-esteem and are largely responsible for the youth restiveness witnessed in the country.
Speaking at the weekend in Uyo at the National Dialogue to mark 2021 Democracy Day organised by the Civil Liberties Organisations (CLO) in conjunction with the Office of Senior Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Enang blamed the government for using and abandoning the youths without providing them with jobs.
He urged the government to apologise to the youths, saying ‘it is time to have meaningful dialogue with the youths of this state and country and practically give them roles and space in the Governance and economy of this state and country.
‘We should not profile them as criminals or cultists nor such derogatory nor demeaning appellations that give them low self or societal esteem.
‘Doing so ostracises them and embolden them to form camps, carry arms and do the worst. This please is in view of the peculiar times, and not the norm for all times. We should not profile nor stigmatise them,’ he noted.
The presidential aide, who also called for a national dialogue every five years to tackle the challenges the country faces, said the dialogue would help the six geo-political zones in the country express their grievances and reach a compromise that would help to move the nation forward.
Emphasising that the voices of discord and discontent across the country are getting louder and need to be addressed, Enang said the national conference would not take over the functions of the government but serve as feedback from the people.
Also speaking, a federal legislator representing Etinan, Nsit Ibom and Nsit Ubium federal constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon Onofiok Luke, cautioned President Buhari against ignoring the various agitations coming out from the South East and South West regions.
Luke, who is the Chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary, expressed disappointment that much has been said but nobody is listening to the various voices of reason in the country.
‘It is by coming together to share ideas and share thoughts beyond party lines, taking a bipartisan approach, bringing together men and women who have leaders touch, one solution or the other, one idea or the other that we could all fine-tune and push the agenda for the development of this country.
‘I have always been an advocate for a bipartisan approach to the problems of this country. The problem we are facing doesn’t know party, it doesn’t know region, religion.
‘Now the security crisis we are experiencing in the South East, we have had a case of that crisis in North West. We have had students kidnapped from Schools, and those students are not Christians, those students are Muslims.
‘We’ve had this crisis happen in states that are not APC, we have had it happen in states that are PDP. And the people affected by this crisis are the Nigerian populace. It affects our parents, siblings.
‘I am a firm believer in the unity of Nigeria, the unity of Nigeria founded on justice, equity and then founded on true federalism. And we can achieve this by every segment of this society seeing ourselves as equals.
‘The agitation that we have had, agitation for secession, for all sorts of things is because some sections of the country feel marginalised.’
Speaking on the theme of the dialogue – “Democracy, Insecurity and Unity of Nigeria” – the National Legal Adviser of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Barr Emmanuel Enoidem, who was represented on the occasion by Dr Tom Fredfish, made a case for an Igbo president, maintaining that the civil war was yet to be over until the Igbos are given the chance to produce the president of Nigeria.
State Chairman of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) Akwa Ibom State Branch, Mr Franklyn Isong, who set the tone for the dialogue said the essence of drawing participants across political, religious and ethnic lines was to demonstrate the need for a bipartisan approach to tackling Nigeria’s common enemies, economic challenges and insecurity.