Troubles, challenges of youth leadership in Nigerian, by Bello Shagari

Bello Shagari

It is not a story I should tell this early, but I cannot keep it for any other time. Perhaps someone else should narrate it, but I have figured out that no one else will do so at the moment, because those who understand it do not care, and those who may care, do not understand the situation. Well, I can claim to understand it, and I have no choice but to care, because as a youth leader and the president of the Youth Council of this esteemed nation, I believe it is my responsibility to narrate our story.

Youth Leadership is among the most difficult responsibility one can shoulder, except if one is self-serving alone. I often tell people that it is easier to be the Commander in Chief of a country than to be a youth President which they find very amusing; wondering why I had to make such exaggeration. It is an exaggeration indeed because even the youth leaders are led by the Commander in Chief, but I feel that it is the best way for people to understand the magnitude of the difficulty of the job especially in Nigeria.

The Youth Leadership in Nigeria traditionally is shouldered by the National Youth Council, which is the umbrella body of the Youth Organizations in the country. It serves as the mouthpiece of the Nigerian Youth. When the Youth Council speaks, the Nigerian Youth have spoken. It has a governing body and structures all over the Nation, and obviously, no single organization has it’s following.

But for over 13 years, the organization has been in crisis and unable to elect a National executive council to run the affairs of the country. Because of the vested interest of some youth leaders who have always seen the council as a platform to build an empire and eat from. The council is so addictive that once you are in, you remain in it for the rest of your life. Most of its leaders often believe that the council is their personal possession and very few think differently. It is a total reflection of the Nigerian State, where a group of cabals feel that the National cake is theirs.

As a result, it becomes difficult for anyone to come and break the cycle and change the existing tradition. Meanwhile, due to the crisis which persisted for years, the breakage became an avenue for some people to take advantage of the Nigerian Youth leadership and opportunities for their own personal advancement. People began to move about claiming that they are the genuine leaders of the Nigerian Youth in the name of the council. Multiple elections were held and multiple leaders were declared by different groups as their Presidents. They began litigating one another here and there. As I narrate this story, the Youth Council has several pending litigation cases in court.

At one time, a minister was fired as the Minister of Youth for failing to conduct a peaceful and credible election which gave birth to different factions as a result of political interest from higher offices. If the National Youth Council was a State, it would have been declared a failed state even before 2015. All these troubles led to the unpopularity of the National Youth Council of Nigeria in and outside the country.  The council has become a laughing stock, that when you introduce yourself as the President even outside Nigeria, the next question you should expect is “which faction?” Such a shame. Although we are succeeding in changing such perception. Even the Nigerian Youth have lost confidence in their apex body that speaks in there. So much that the average young Nigerian is hardly aware or interested in the affairs of the Council.

However, recently in 2017, the Minister for Youth and Sports Development, Bar. Solomon Dalung and some Youth Council stakeholders felt that it was necessary to reconcile all the factions and fix the council because the Nigerian Youth have already lost so many opportunities in and outside of Nigeria due to the crisis. I am aware that on one occasion, we lost the opportunity to access about 7 million dollars from a single fund.  The Ministry of Youth itself was unable to operate efficiently because the Youth Council is its major implementing body in youth development. Other damages also include over aged people who have overstayed in the council. I personally recalled that in Sokoto, before  I replaced the Chairman who was in his 50’s, Yes! The 50’s! a conflict arose which the State Governor had to intervene. This is how people are power drunk in our beloved nation.

Meanwhile, The Minister of youth facilitated the reconciliation. A transitional and electoral committees were set up with one of the most popular factional Presidents by the name of Murtala Mohammed popularly known as Gamji as the Chairman. He was to conduct an election in six months. As the date for the elective congress approached, the Chairman Gamji decided that the election will not hold until the next year for no good reason. Sometimes he would claim that PDP was planning to hijack the youth council during the Congress. That the propaganda he spread.

Meanwhile, a management meeting was held and Gamji was suspended, leaving his deputy to carry out the task on hand. But due to the bad culture of corruption developed during the crisis, the suspended chairman continued parading himself as the President. Nevertheless, the election was held in Gombe and supervised by the Minister of Youth and Sports Development himself, and a new leadership emerged where I became the new President.  Surprisingly, I received a congratulatory text message from the suspended Chairman Gamji.

I was so glad that it was all over and the task ahead is now to rebuild and reform the council, not knowing that it was the beginning of a new challenge. Suddenly, it came to our attention that some group of people in Portharcourt, are planning to hold another congress together with some of those who have lost out in our election. Really? Anyway, we did everything we could to stop it from holding but it held nevertheless and a so-called Sukubo Saraigbe-Sukubo was declared the winner. Sukubo began to cause confusion and parading himself as the youth council president with hired policemen! To add to our troubles, the suspended Chairman Gamji joined forces with him and claimed to have handed over to him in an organized event. It was even alleged that Sukubo bought him over with a ticket to aspire for a political position, a ticket which he failed to secure in the primaries. That is what we are facing in the council today!

But we are up to the task, we will not relent in fighting back the council from such people; over aged men who are posing as youth leaders but are nothing but agents of division within our ranks! Some of them in their mischief accuse me of working for APC, while others say we are PDP moles. Sukubo who was in PDP has now jumped over to APC to gain support. They try to fit us in their place where they use the council for their partisanship. We will never be in the same place because we are for everybody and the Youth Leadership of Nigeria has had enough of their dirty business. As far as we are concerned, there is no faction in the council, but a group of other fraudsters that are now parading themselves in our name. At the right time, they will be put to where they belong.

We are in a time when the Youth of this country are seeking to be included in the affairs of running the country and yet our own constituency is in chaos.  My appeal to Nigerians is to support us in this struggle, So that we may be able to forge a better future for this country. Else, if such attitude remains among the Nigerian Youth, a factional Commander in Chief may emerge one day.  Already, our former Chairman Gamji is a factional APC aspirant in his constituency after losing his primary elections and still sometimes calls himself the President of the National Youth Council of Nigeria.