From Charity Nwakaudu, Abuja
The Nigerian youth Ambassador to United States Dr. Raymond Edoh in this interview speaks on why Nigeria should create an enabling environment for the youths.
Tell Nigerians who you are and why is the affairs of youths uppermost in your heart?
My name is Dr. Raymond Edoh, the Nigerian Youth Ambassador to the United States and Secretary-General, Nigerian Youth Congress. I believe so much in the youth because I am a youth and secondly the youth occupies a high percentage of the total population in the nation. The working-age group of the nation is also dominated by youths, making a prove to this fact, in the electoral process, a large number of what will make anyone the winner, you will agree with me that 70 to 80 percent are youth, so the youth are the workforce of Nigeria and I happen to be one of them, so I believe in them so much and that is why my activities are within the scope of the young people.
Now most of the challenges bedeviling the country are said to be perpetrated by young people. What do you have to say about that?
If you listen to some of my previous interviews or press releases, I always charge the youths to stay away from crime and as we all know, a 70 year old cannot kidnap someone and even though they do, it can only be in collaboration with a youth. 70 year man cannot even handle a gun properly. If you observe very well, most of these crimes committed by the youths, they are not just committing these crimes, something led to it, sure I will point out a few, the youths are deceived to go under drug influences after which their drug influencers further influence them to do what they want them to do. Secondly, from my last press briefing, I talked about enabling environment for the youths. The government should be able to create an enabling environment for the youths to be able to carry out their various businesses. One of the ways the government can achieve the provision of enabling environment is by making sure that there is a cut down on taxes. Some months ago I got a report in my office somewhere around Edo state that in the market, there were multiple taxations where the local government, state, and federal will collect taxes. So you realize that at the end of the day you are paying what you did not make in your shops or businesses. So now, there was an agitation to that effect that everybody would have to be locked and I looked at it and said, yes! we have to call the attention of the governor to please look into this and see what he could do. So, when a youth doesn’t have an enabling environment just like for instance in your place you are doing business for profit and at the end of the day, you are not making a profit rather borrowing money to put into that business or to pay taxes or some of your needs, at the end of the day you have no option than to stop the business and when a youth doesn’t have a business doing, and no job to keep him going economically, the possibility of that youth engaging in crime is there because he or she needs to survive. That’s why I said if the government would give the youths an enabling environment trust me the whole banditry, kidnappings today will stop. Now we have seen many youths become or assume top political positions in the country and they are doing well. All that Nigerian youths need is enabling environment through the instrumentality of government windows, policies, programs, and others that would better their lives.
There is this argument that Nigeria youths are not mature for Nigeria politics, which is responsible for poor youth inclusiveness is low. What is your take on that?
I think I will say a very big NO to that. Because am a youth and am ready to occupy any position in this country, also capable to contest any elective position in this country and if the opportunity is been given to me i’m also ready to pick any appointment not just picking it,I will also perform in this nation. First and foremost I would like to say that the youths are the backbone of the nation.
The youths are the most educated, so if anyone is saying that the youths are not ready to occupy positions of authority then he is wrong. I think the only part am going to agree with is the financial challenge in contesting for political offices. We don’t have the money to spend on campaigns for different elective offices but my happiness is one, if you observe under the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari for the first time in the history of this country a lot of people who don’t have money, a lot of youths, a lot of poor people who are nobody who have no name at all, were able to get themselves to various political positions, unlike previous administrations that we had to spend a whole lot of money, and I can assure you somebody like me trust me I can contest a position without spending money and I will win.
Then now, back to the part of the youth, I have every opportunity to work in any part of the world. I still choose to be here and my reasons for been here are nothing but to tell you that for me Nigeria is one of the best nations in the world. I have been to many parts of the world but there is something about this nation Nigerian, that is, the only country I can call my country. And I want to also use this medium to charge Nigerian youths and the 240 million Nigerians that, this is the only country we call our own and sometimes my heart bleeds when I see people all around most especially youths saying Nigeria is so badly, Nigeria is this, they say a whole lot of bad things about Nigeria and the Nigerian politics. I bleed right inside of me, but the truth is a lot of them will tell you their excuses why Nigeria is bad. However, Nobody is saying their excuses are bad, nobody is saying that they are wrong, yes, you could be right but the most important thing is that what is yours is yours. If you get to the migration department today yes every Nigeria wants to move to the UK, every Nigeria wants to move to the US but there is something, there are clauses that they don’t know and some of these clauses are the things that people are gushing experience and after experiencing all of these you will realize that yes, this nation is the best country for us, it’s the only country we can call ours. Now the mistake a lot of Nigerians are making and that’s why am saying and charging them to learn to be positive about this nation is, migration department will not take 240 million Nigerians, we should have that at the back of our minds. They can’t do that for us.
Nobody is going to build it for us. The Americans won’t build it for us, the UK won’t build it for us, France won’t build it for us. The only people that will build this nation is ourselves, so I am charging the youths to join hands with our fathers, putting our political, religious, tribal, state, regional differences aside to fight for a United Nigeria so that we can handover a united Nigeria compare to what would be handed over to us in the nearest future.
There is also this perception that the government is against the youth, thus this is not true, the government cant be against the youths. like I said, they are sentiments that may not be true those who said these things cited what transpired when youths came out to demand good governance during the #ENDSARS protest and how they are climbed down. Most of the youths now find voices on social media and they are insinuating that the ban of Twitter is part of the measures put by the government to curtail the expressive demands of the youth for better governance and we have the electoral amendment Act which has shot up the campaign budget for Presidency.
What do you have to say about these sentiments?
As youths, we all have God-given talents and when you have talents, they remain, nobody can take it away but what matters about talent is how you utilize it. Today if I want to go for the office of the President of Nigeria without having 1 million to myself for the campaign, I can organize a body to raise fund that will enable me to meet up because if you observe very well in other developing nations around the world if you even have such amount of money as an individual you would be investigated but what the developing nation does is you organize your campaign body and you go ahead if you are a good candidate and if the people believe in you, of course, they will raise fund for you, there is no way funds won’t be raised for you.
Coming back to the electoral bill amendment, you see, we have three ( 3)arms of government ; Legislature, Executive, and the Judiciary. Now, these arms of government are said to function in different scopes, so if an electoral law is been asked to be amended, it’s the responsibility of the legislative arm of the government to do so. The other arms wouldn’t ask why because that is what they are elected to do. If an electoral law is been passed today by the National Assembly, which is the body that deliberate and generates our laws, we can’t say no to that. I think I will only say that it’s a way of strengthening people, it’s a way of strengthening the youth to do that which they know how to do best which I earlier did mention as God-given talent.
Leadership is a sacrifice, it’s you telling people you know what? I love my nation and I need to keep or put my God-given talents to make sure that this country becomes a country of my taste. But a lot of people out there who feel oh you know what? government is a business where you go to make money, then they are wrong. People like this when they look at government, it’s going be a challenge to them but to me trust me even though if the amendment takes presidential whatever to hundreds of millions if you wanna utilize your God-given talent, if you wanna do it for the betterment of the nation, you will still raise that fund.
Are you still saying that the position of the lawmakers is in the best interest of Nigerians?
In the electoral law, the position of the government is not to favour individuals but to favour the government, and under the circumstances whereby numbers of people will come and say you know what? Oh, this thing needs to favour us then they are getting it wrong. On the issue of electronic transmission, I was against that and this is my reason why I was against that, you know there are places today you will not have anything like a fanatic. We have villages, there are some of our villages around today in this country that the moment you get there network disappears from your cell phones. So now, if they are saying elections has to be electronically transmitted then we are getting it wrong, then what about people who don’t even have a phone? The truth is we still have millions of Nigerians who don’t have access to the internet and these million Nigerians occupy a high number of voters. So are we saying that these people are not gonna vote? Of course not. So the issue of electronic transmission I was really against it because everybody eligible to cast a vote should be able to cast their votes in Nigeria. Does that mean if you don’t have access to the internet you can’t cast your vote again? It shouldn’t be and I actually wanna use this medium to also ask the National Assembly to look deep into this and see how they can do like a combine even though am not against the electronic transmission but there should be an adjustment also for a pro-who don’t have the network and then no fanatic to also be able to cast their votes. If you observe, like Hon. Faleke raised a point in the house during the motion, he talked about this and a lot of people made their input and if you observe most of their inputs are on selfish interest but I wanna let everybody know including the National Assembly, the law-making body of this country that governance is more than self business. Governance is a sacrifice, the National Assembly should know this. Governance is not a business, governance has nothing to do with your interest but rather a sacrifice. Today in your organization you are occupying a position, some years to come you won’t be there, the question you would be asked is, what were your legacies? What were your contributions? Did you hand over a collapsed office to the next person who took over from you? These are things we put in place or we try to look into and I always make the youths look into this that oh you know what? We are the ones to take over the government, they are our fathers they won’t be there forever. It will come to a stage they will say oh my child please come and occupy this position, I can’t do this anymore. And if we are doing this, are you guys gonna be handing over a collapsed nation to us?
What is Nigerian Youth Congress doing about these multiple agitators in the country?
I want to use this medium to say to Nigerians most especially the youth, be proud of Nigeria don’t condemn her, don’t lose hope in Nigeria. When there is agitation, when there is condemnation by individuals, yes something is leading to that, they could be self-interest, it could be frustrations from the government, from individuals but remember that is just a view and a view is not a decision, it’s not your decision, it’s not my decision so I call all of the agitators either Yoruba, Igbo or from the Hausas those are all views but am charging every young Nigerian today to be proud of Nigeria never to lose hope in Nigeria.
You would agree with me, we have a high number of Nigerians who are highly educated, highly exposed, we have high numbers of Nigerians who are into various businesses all around the world and we are not on the boredom rather we are always among the best so if we are in this category then we should be able to compete with another part of the world. However, I am not against anybody agitating, agitating is part of the rights of every human being. So anybody could agitate but it’s their view
and it will only become a decision when everybody in Nigeria comes and says yes, this is what we want.
How can the government make àgriculture attractive to the youths,now that the country is talking of diversification?
As an economist, I will tell you that where I came from everybody is a farmer and if you observe very well like Benue state, the food basket of the nation, you have up to 90 percent of family members who are farmers. Even myself here with you I am a farmer and I thank the President for his quest to encourage the agricultural sector in Nigeria, which a lot of people have benefited. Certainly all cant benefit at the same time, but in the process of time, everyone will. Anybody who says to you, yes you can view America from this part of the world that oh you know what everybody is good in America, all the farmers are doing great, all the farmers are on average, yes you could say but the truth is to those of us who are there who knows little about them, we research and put a lot of things together to be able to talk to people with authority using facts, figures, and our experiences. They are not excellent the way we think they are. So at every effort, the government is putting in place we should appreciate and encourage them to do more.
What do you have to say about illegal arms and ammunition in the country?
Most of the illegal arms in circulation today if you observe closely, a lot of the people that are arrested by the police or other security agencies, most of the arms you see from these people are either from customs or from immigration or the civil defence. These arms are been taken from the security operatives. And what happened after the #Endsars or during #Endsars a lot went wrong and some of the things that went wrong were all these arms going missing, we have a lot of these arms in public that is missing in hands of wrong people. These arms are been used to commit atrocities like banditry, kidnapping, and all societal verses. In this regard, I am appealing with the government to do more in terms of security. This is not a job of just the police anymore, am calling the Nigeria Navy, the Nigeria Army, the Nigeria Air Force, the Custom service, the Immigration, and all the sister agencies in Nigeria to look into this and see how they could get all these arms back to the owners which are the security agencies because arms been in circulation in the hands of wrong people is a collapse to the nation. So the security agencies should please do more.
Do you have any political ambition for 2023?
Like I said earlier that, everybody in a position of government today, they are all our fathers. Our political differences are not in the interest of the nation but rather our collective efforts will be in the interest of the nation. What if we join our hands together with them as our fathers, trust me we gonna make this nation a better one. So if the opportunity is been given to us from our various constituencies or by appointment by the Federal Government, of course, sure we would be there, we would contribute our quota to make the nation a nation of our taste.