By Chukwudi Nweje
Mayowa Alakija is the Youth Ambassador of United Nigerian Forum of the All Progressive Congress (APC). In this interview, he spoke on the need for youths to register as members of a political party and other issues.
You were appointed Youth Ambassador, United Nigerian Forum (Extended Western Alliance) of the APC, during its inaugural meeting, recently, what is that about, what is the vision?
The United Nigerian Forum has been in existence for a long time; the Western Alliance was only re-launched because it was not very pronounced, thus the appellation Extended Western Alliance. The vision is to engage with the youths and everybody to make sure we build a better Nigeria. The truth is that for you to get anything done, you have to engage with the youth, elderly and even children. You have to work with these segments of people across the society to make an impact.
What are the responsibilities expected of you?
My responsibilities include but not limited to bringing the youths into the mainstream. If you look at the role of youths in national affairs, you will agree that they have not done enough; therefore, there is need to engage them to take an active interest in the affairs of the country because we can no longer sit on the fence, neither can we continue to blame the elders for the situation of things. The youth must position themselves and prove that they have something to offer. My major responsibility therefore will be to engage the youth and convince them to become active participants in national affairs. Youths have the responsibility of changing the negative perception of Nigeria in the global community because the impression they have of youths outside the country is that of yahoo-yahoo, which doesn’t define the identity of the Nigerian youth or Nigeria as a nation.
The APC has indicated that it wants to triple its membership base during the next registration exercise. What are you doing as youth ambassador of a group within the party to make that dream a reality?
Unfortunately, millions of Nigerian youths are not members of any political party. Hundreds of them do not have voters card, those that have voters card do not come out on election day to vote. Some of them have the impression that politics is about social media, but election cannot be won on social media, but by active participation in politicking. So, I am going on a massive membership drive at the grassroots across the country. The message is that the time has come for youths to be actively involved in politics. The Not Too Young to Run Act is not enough because though the act has been passed, if you are not a member of a political party, you cannot take part in politics. I will not only drive the youths to register as members of the APC, but I will also ensure that when the election proper comes, they will come out to vote. You cannot lay claim to being part of a political process when you did not play any role in the emergence of the government. So, I target to get at least seven million youths from across Nigeria to register as members of the APC during the membership drive.
Nigeria has the largest concentration of youths in the world; the Not too Young to Run Act has opened up the political space, yet the youth are still not actively engaged in the political process. Do you think social media is enough to change their perception?
There is a systematic approach to that; you need to engage them first, then you create the awareness and then convert them; it is when you convert them that you will make them see reason on the need to vote. Perhaps, the reason why youths don’t come out is that they don’t believe in the system. But when you don’t believe in the system and decide to stay back without participating, you will not make any difference. So, after we create the awareness by social media, we will also go to the grassroots and reach them one-on-one; we will make sure we have a representative at every ward and local government who will constantly engage the youths.
Considering that money plays a significant role in Nigeria’s politics, what chances do the youths have?
There is a level you get to that people will vote for you based on your integrity without money. It happened in 2015 when President Muhammadu Buhari was elected; he didn’t have the money to throw around but people clamoured for him based on his integrity. Upcoming youths can take the same approach by building their names and gain the confidence of people based on what they have done within their immediate community. When they build up their integrity and personality, it will speak for them whether they have money or not.
What positives can youths harness from the EndSARS protest?
One of the positives is that it has created consciousness. 2023 is nearby and youths should get involved and not miss it. Youths cannot achieve 100 per cent success through protests alone. Every war that has been fought ended at a negotiation table. In 2023, youths need to come out and contest for political offices and that can only happen if the youths register to become members of political parties. Youths have already created the consciousness that they are a force to be reckoned with and that they always come out again and protest if things are not done the right way. However, they must strengthen that consciousness with active involvement in politics.
The APC came to power in 2015 with three major promises, to tackle insecurity, grow the economy and fight corruption. In six years of the APC administration, Nigeria has not recorded any marked improvement in these areas, so why should they vote the APC again in 2023?
We will be deceiving ourselves if we say the APC as a political party has not done well. There may be some lapses but overall, the party has done wonderfully both at the state and federal level. If you look at corruption, there has been a big reduction because the administration put in place so many policies that the previous government was unable to, like the Treasury Single Account (TSA), which led to better accountability and management of funds. In the economic sector, those who feel the economy is not doing well should remember that the price of crude oil which the country depends on has dropped drastically compared to what it was during the last government. Today, this administration is talking about alternative revenue by focusing on agriculture and local production, and it is yielding results; the last closure of the land borders encouraged local production. On security, we can see that the era of terrorists taking over the whole local governments in Borno State is gone. It is a step-by-step thing, but the administration will get there. The APC has done well and its chances in subsequent elections are bright.