In order to promote and secure victory for the kind of candidates they want in elective public positions, knowledgeable young Nigerians must reach out further to connect and build bridges with their colleagues in semi-urban and rural areas who are not as privileged and exposed like themselves.
This will be useful in fixing the missing link in youth participation in Nigerian politics, according to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
He expressed this view on Thursday, while interacting with young Nigerians under the auspices of the Global Shapers Community, Abuja Hub who were at the Presidential Villa on a courtesy visit.
“The vast majority of people who are called youths in Nigeria are disprivileged, they are not people like yourselves,” Osinbajo told the members of the Abuja chapter of the Global Shapers Community.
The Global Shapers Community is an initiative of the World Economic Forum with chapters spread across different countries and a membership of over 15,000 young people.
The Vice President fielded questions from members of the group about his experience in office, politics and governance, as well as his disposition to youth participation in politics.
Osinbajo said only a small fraction of the youth population (who are most vocal and articulate) have impacted the political landscape.
According to him, “our politics is still divided even among young people and the reason why they cannot find the critical mass that it takes to promote the kind of candidates that they want in public office is because even among the young people who are interested, their message is still restricted to themselves.
“To make a difference, they must cross that line and be speaking to the masses of young people in our society who don’t have the privilege of knowledge or exposure that this other group has, which really for me, is the next stage of politics in our country.”
Continuing, the Vice President said, “today, if elections are run again and again, the traditional candidates will win because the people in the hinterlands, people outside of the major urban centres, are not aware of some of the individuals that you might like, and because some of them are not involved in politics centrally, it is very difficult, sometimes even just to gain recognition outside their own immediate spheres of influence.
“So, there is a need for that connection, understanding our society, understanding this country is very important, which is why building bridges is crucial, talking to people across the country is very important. Those are the realities of our politics.”
About his motivation for public service, the Vice President noted that “it is absolute passion, I do not have a drive. It is, for me, second nature. I just cannot imagine not being involved in one way or the other in public service. Whatever the realities, whatever is going on in the world, I am still going to be interested in public service.”
On the most impactful lesson of the past few years, Osinbajo said it has been “putting people at the centre of policy. It is a point that is easy not to understand that at the end of the day, whatever it is that you are doing, it is people who are going to be affected by it, and you should do whatever it is to take them into account.
“In a country our size, and as diverse in everything, that is a much bigger issue because you have to see to it that you address the concerns of people.
“So, for example, when we were thinking of the social investment policy, one of the things that struck me then was that there are many things that have been done to affect people but they have to be at scale, on the kind of scale that will make a difference.
“At the end of the day, the people are the centre of it, so, it is not enough to have a great idea, how do you deliver it on scale to the people. It is okay to talk about executing programmes and policies, but if you want to do it and achieve results, you have to do it on scale,” the Vice President added.
The Vice President also noted that corruption is the country’s greatest challenge, observing that “we just have to deal with it, day by day, point by point. So, the general concept for our administration in our ease of doing business policy, is in getting your international passport and driver’s license renewals, and all that, it is actually akin to ease of living in Nigeria.
“But all of these are hampered by corruption, even jobs, people pay for jobs. The issue of corruption is so pervasive. I am not talking about grand corruption, which in my view, is the easiest to solve. The solution is more in removing human discretion and promoting e-governance and automation.”
Earlier in separate remarks, members of the group commended the Vice President’s approach to governance and “fantastic leadership”, describing him as an inspiration to many young aspiring political leaders.
On her part, the Curator of the Abuja Global Shapers Community, Ifeoma Ike who led the group praised the Vice President for prioritizing young people in all of his engagements, work, initiatives and even policies, assuring him of their support even outside of office.
Another member of the delegation, Chimdi Neliaku who gave the vote of thanks, added that the Vice President has “demonstrated capacity and character. You have an army of young people who support you in and out of government.”
Other members of the delegation included Co-Lead, Meet-the-Leader initiative, Ms Grace Ananaba; Meet-the-Leader initiative Lead, Sonuga Solape, Communications Lead, David Nwachukwu, and an alumnus of the community, Blessing Ajimoti, among other members.