In his New Year address to Nigerians on January 1, 2021, President Muhammadu Buhari said his government had heard; listened and is committed to fulfilling the demands of the Nigerian youth following the nationwide #ENDSARS protests. Although, the government has fulfilled most of the initial demands of the #ENDSARS protest, the most important demand is providing productive employment for the youth and creating easy access for them to participate in governance, politics and decision-making. Although, political-power is not given freely, one must work for it, but the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said both formal and informal engagement of youth can be understood as political participation, and both are beneficial for a vivid and resilient democracy and should be supported.
President Buhari has acknowledged that young Nigerians are the most valuable natural resource the country has. But, sadly, most young Nigerians feel under-represented in Buhari’s government.
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What should he do?
In terms of political participation and engagement in governance, the President should appoint 12 young people not above 40, two from each of the six geo-political zones, as Senior Special Assistants with full cabinet status. This will greatly impact on the youths’ perception of the government and give the government the ‘strength’ to boast that youth are adequately represented in the government. This will also create a strong link between the government and the youth, who form more than half of Nigerian voters.. This would also serve as an impetus for a good image and a sound political strategy for the All Progressive Congress (APC) towards the 2023 elections.
On youth employment, the government already has some good programmes, like N-Power, SurvivalFund, Presidential Youth Empowerment Scheme (P-YES) etc. However, a veritable approach to tackle this is agricultural entrepreneurship programme. It is good news that the government is already looking at that direction. It, however, needs to re-model some of its agricultural programmes. The government can partner with the private sector to establish rice mills, poultry, fisheries, dairy and plantations in various locations in the country. The participating youths should receive hands-on training on how to manage the farms. After passing-out from the scheme, the farms should be transferred to them. The scheme should work in such a way that local councils and state governments provide land and other logistics, the private sector provides the fund while the federal government stands as the guarantor of the fund. This will be done through the issuance of either callable, par value or coupon rate bonds. The private investors or financial institutions who will participate in the scheme are not to give money directly to the governments in order to receive the bond-certificate, but it would be a kind of batter arrangement. They would setup the farms, and put in place all structures required for the farms to function optimally. After which a bond certificate equivalent to the pre-agreed cost, will be issued to them. The youth, to whom the farms are to be transferred, should gradually pay back money to the government. This approach will make the scheme sustainable.
The Buhari Government should take advantage of this situation because its opponents are already doing so.
Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Jimeta, Adamawa state