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The perculiar social consciousness and ingenuity of the Nigerian Youth remains an asset for socioeconomic and political development. However, the utilization of these assets for national transformation as was done by Nigeria’s  pre-independence and post independence leaders who were mostly young people too, would depend on the leadership consolidation opportunities available to today’s Nigerian Youth.
 Youth inclusion in governance through political appointments and or other affirmative actions is certain to especially address the notion that young people lack the experience and capacity to navigate the governance landscape and provide urgently needed cutting edge solutions to societal challenges as it  will allow for the transfer of knowledge, experience, and wisdom from the older generation to the younger ones. This also avails for intergenerational dialogue, understanding, cooperation and sustainable development as young people will now be oriented and ready in the face of the many social, economic, and environmental challenges confronting society today and tomorrow. Unfortunately, despite constituting approximately 60% of the population, young people in Nigeria have limited opportunities to engage in decision-making processes and gain leadership skills in the governance and political landscape.
A gleam of hope
In the build up to the 2023 gubernatorial election in Taraba State, PDP Candidate and now Executive Governor of Taraba State, Kefas Agbu 52,  has altruistically vowed during the campaigns and even after assuming office on May 29th, that His Government will be for the Youth and  Eighty percent of Commissioner and Special Adviser appointments in his administration will go to  young people.
The International Youth Ambassador (decorated  by the National Youth Council of Nigeria) have begun putting words into action. Barely two weeks into office, Dr Kefas has convened a Taraba State Youth Summit in Jalingo, where among other things, he restated his stance on Youth investment in the summit. “Youths are to be the centre stage of my administration. Already, I have sent out the criteria for the selection of people to be appointed into the government. The list of appointees will start coming in within the week and 80% of them must be youths and women,” he said. Ostensibly, Governor Kefas directed the office of the Secretary to the Government of the State (SGS) to issue a letter to the state PDP Chairman requesting the party to “consult widely and nominate suitably qualified candidates 80% of which must be youth and women in line with His Excellency’s desired policy”, the letter issued by the Department of Political Cabinet Affairs and General Services, office of the SGS, said.
Brick wall met
Following the SGS’ communication, the PDP in the state held stakeholders’ meetings across all local governments in the state. The meetings were coordinated by the state assembly members and party chairmen of local governments of the party of the government, and stakeholder participants were selected former government officials and appointees whose average age bracket is 60 years. The stakeholders’ meetings ended with nominations of peers across the local governments and forwarded to the party.
Youth Protests
Youth in the state caught wind of the developments and have begun protesting the nominations. Youths from Karim-Lamido local government under the aegis of Karim Progressive Youth launched the protests with a strong worded protest letter knocking the stakeholders for putting aside the criteria of the Governor in their nominations and calling on the Governor to disregard the list in fulfilment of his commitment to Taraban Youth. The story is similar in virtually all other local governments. The Taraba State Chapter of the National Youth Council of Nigeria capped the protests with their 17th June press statement signed by the council’s Secretary Chief Barr. Daniel Kwanchi. Expressing their discomfort with the stakeholders’ posture, the council queried if parents and stakeholders have not imbibed adequate ethical principles of good leadership characteristics in the youth and women to warrant their taking over from them to perform excellently now that the government is willing to tap from youthful potentials for the growth and development of the state; and whether the stakeholders have suddenly lost confidence in their parental investment of ensuring that their children become the leaders of tomorrow now that the youthful tomorrow is here. Their statement ended with a call on their Ambassador, His Excellency the Governor to discountenance the stakeholders’ submission which contravened laid down guidelines to frustrate government’s good intentions.
Governor Kefas in a dilemma.
Amidst this turmoil, Governor Kefas on June 23, met with the PDP Elders Forum. While details of their meeting is still not public, judging from the stern, unsmiling faces of the meeting’s attendees in photographs which surfaced online, It’s controvertible that the contention of the Governor’s stance on Eighty percent Youth inclusion with the reality of politically rewarding party stalwarts not in the category, who might have played major roles in his election is unconnected to the meeting. Governor Kefas may be under pressure to shift grounds on his position to appoint Eighty percent Youth into the cabinet by accepting the list submitted which clearly doesn’t favor young people, in addition to numerous stakeholders and influencers who are not Youth, seeking reward for their stewardship in his election or to the party with direct personal political appointments. Will His Excellency stick to his guns to involve young people for all that it’s worth? would He give in to the pressure of the unyielding Elders? Only time will tell.
Finding a common ground
Governor Kefas must find a common ground in the foregoing situation. Than totally give in to the whim and caprices of stakeholders at the expense of his contract with the Taraban Youth, Governor Kefas had rather stay afloat and at his very least, reflect Fifty percent of the younger demography and Fifty percent of the older demography in his appointments. Moreover, the best government is not the one with the predominance of older or younger people but the one with the combination of both. Since the hallmark of integrity is honesty not consistency, backpedaling to Fifty percent to accommodate other demographics that have equally contributed to the Governor and His party’s victory will not construe His Excellency to have abandoned his principles, but rather a honesty and responsiveness to emerging realities-  and the ever hardworking, relentless Taraban Youth always seeking possibilities to contribute to the development of the state will understand and keep faith with His Excellency. His Excellency may wish to accept the list submitted by His Party Stakeholders but he must call for another list of young people to consolidate the submitted one. The lowest bar His Excellency should go, is to ensure that a Youth is appointed into every board, committee, commission and or council the administration constitutes.
Beyond appointing young people into office in furtherance of his vision for youth investment, youth inclusion, equipping the younger generation and utilizing their energies in developing the state, the Kefas led Taraba State Government may start a Fellowship it can call the T.Y Danjuma Fellowship- which will nonpartisanly and meritocratically admit let’s say twenty five to thirty fellows of twenty five to thirty five years to spend one year  among other things, working full-time in the Taraba State public service, learning first-hand leadership skills in Ministries, Departments and Agencies to which they are seconded. Fellows in the course of their training, can shadow the State Executive Council members and top senior government officials, and be assigned various tasks and responsibilities, ranging from policy design and implementation to monitoring and evaluation with benefits equivalent to that of a Special Assistant to the Governor. In four years, the administration would have strategically institutionalized massive talent development and leadership preparation critical to facilitating their transition into mainstream governance in the country, whilst growing a network of young Tarabans who are able to meet the challenges of leadership in today’s complex, complicated and youthful Nigeria.
Horsfall Tony, a Governance and Development Strategist shuttles Abuja and Jalingo.
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