Mr. Kefas Tigga is the Chairman of Nigerian Youth Congress in Nasarawa State. In this interview with CHEKE EMMANUUEL, he speaks on youths’ participation in politics and governance, lessons of the #EndSARS protest and government’s plan to remove subsidy on petroleum products
How are the youth taking advantage of the Not Too Young To Run Law to get to leadership positions at the various levels of government?
Prior to the advent of the Not Too Young To Run Law, the Nigerian youth have always complained of how they have been maginlised in the political arena, a situation they believe is backed by the law. But at the signing of the Not Too Young To Run Bill into law, the narrative then changed for the good. Today we have more youth who have built confidence towards contesting elections at various level of governance.
For instance, the last national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), produced for the first time, a youth in his twenties as the national youth leader of the party, and in Nasarawa State, we can see that during the last Local Government elections, at least not less than 60 per cent of the aspirants who contested for local government chairmanship and other positions are all from the youth constituency.
Sometimes, beyond participating in elections, the youth have to build confidence to participate in politics to enable them hold political appointments as against just collection of stipends. This explains why most of the appointment of Governor Abdullahi Sule is concentrating majorly on the youth because of their involvement at the various levels during the campaigns and the elections. And I believe the 2023 will unveil more youth contesting for various political offices.
Is there hope of a Nigerian youth becoming president in 2023?
I will say yes and no at the same time. Yes, because we the youth have shown readiness to take over the mantle of leadership from the old folks and indeed majority of people believe that the problem of Nigeria can best be attended to by the youth. Some of this understanding came from the fact that the postindependent Nigeria was mostly built by the youth, Yakubu Gowon who took over in his 30s to almost all the leaders in the 70s and 80s where all young military officers. The youth have more ability to take greater risk than the old folks; the youth have more energy compared to the older folk, who are slow in taking risks.
Even if such will be for the betterment of the society, they take unnecessary time due to their past experiences and their inability to understand the current digital age. However, I will say no because the youth have shown they are not organised at various levels of their operation and preparedness for leadership.
Most of youths are not thinking about a united Nigeria but rather region, religion, ethnicity and other sentiments that have been implanted in them. When you check, the average youth in Nigeria doesn’t believe in the Nigerian spirit of a united nation and this explains why most of our agitations are regional or religious base rather than Nigerian agitation.
What are the practical things the youth are doing to change the narrative of easing out old politicians out of power?
The youth are participating at the various levels although it is not easy as some of us who believe in the true development of our communities are sometimes labeled with all sorts of names because of our confidence. They say we are arrogant, stubborn, stupid and disrespectful. Some will even call you son of a nobody simply because they are privileged. All these are targeted at discrediting the spirit in the individual, so that he or she must follow them on their path. This is possible because of the template the old folks have set for themselves, while taking advantage of the ignorant ones to see their ways as the norm of the system, dodging from the realities and the true nature of our land.
As a youth leader, what is your take on the #EndSARS protest that was spearheaded by youths?
The #EndSARS protest came with it a regional language, and my reason is simple, it was carried out by celebrities and most of them are in the South. Why you didn’t see Nasarawa youths participate in the protest was because we don’t have c e l e b r i t i e s in our state and the ones in the South don’t want to relate with us or even those who are from this part of the country are not thinking of coming back home to organise our people for the future. As such, their protests are not necessarily our protests because we are operating at different levels of reasoning. Also, our experience with the police in this part of the country is a bit different because our culture and religion control us more than the usual ideas of individualism and self-help. The police here are somehow friendly to our youths but that doesn’t mean we don’t have some bitter experiences with the police. I have had my own share of police highhandedness but when I reported the case, I ended up pleading the superior officer to forgive the officer because he realised he was wrong and if they are to take action, he might lose his job. I did so immediately I realised that the guy may have families depending on him and if he is out of job, he will further increase the challenge of the unemployment we are facing in the system and also as a trained officer, he might become dangerous to the community. I think the security personnel here are generally good and our youths are equally good in obeying the law. Also, there is that fear of the unknown; our youth here are mostly dependents and will not want to protest against the same house that is feeding them. Our source of income is mostly from the government; the private sector is actually not encouraged around this axis, so do you think it is possible to fight the hands that are feeding you? Another reason is the fact that Lagos, Port Harcourt and other states that participated fully in the protest have greater concentration of enlightened youths who have greater exposure with the develop countries and as such a majority understand how some demands are put together in a society.
Did the #EndSARS protest address some of the issues agitating the minds of Nigerian youths?
To some extent yes because the #EndSARS protest showed that the youth have the capacity to mobilise themselves for a common purpose. Today, we hear about police reforms, the salaries of the police have been increased and some few demands met out of the many that were later spelt out as the demands of the #EndSARS campaigners. That was why I said earlier that the protest was much of the South and not necessarily for us in the North Central because we were not consulted to know what our demands from the government are. Some people just sat down and assumed that their problem over there should be our problem over here.
What is your take on the Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government’s plan to remove subsidy on petroleum products and the proposed payment of N5,000 to vulnerable Nigerians?
That’s a joke I believe. Some people want to misguide the President into another mess. But frankly speaking, the removal of subsidy isn’t much a bad idea if done with sincerity and good strategy because our economy is seriously in bad shape due to some of this indices and the fact that we keep putting legitimate money into the hands of the same people that are ripping our economy, but such must be done with caution because the greater challenges will hit back on the masses. As for the payment of N5,000 to vulnerable Nigerians, it is completely not a welcome idea. What will N5,000 do for you in a month? I will rather say this removal should be done in phases and that the N5,000 should be channeled to the various community development projects that the masses can see and benefit from. May be, community vocational centers, if not the scheme will just be another avenue to put money into the hands of some few people who are eager to steal from the government.
What is the contribution of the youth to the Nasarawa project under your leadership?
The Nigeria Youth Congress came into existence to correct some of the ills in our society and since then we have tried to work on the psyche of our youths from just knocking at government offices, seeking for money to doing meaningful for themselves. We also joined in mediation during the rift between labour and the state government and shortly the strike was called off. Also, as you can see, I am the founder of the Naspreneur-Hub and what we do here is to encourage our youths on modern business operations and how to engage in self-development than depending on the government for everything.
What is your massage to Nigerian youth, particularly those in Nasarawa State?
As young people, let’s not join the wagon of corrupt practices, let’s not get too comfortable with the present abnormalities, let’s correct our intentions and work together towards making our communities look better, feel better and work better. Let’s continue to participate in governance, let’s continue to create opportunities and not only wait for them because our future is right now.