Less than 18 months to the next general elections, youth leadership across the country have commenced the search for a youthful consensus presidential candidate to vie for the nation’s plum job in the 2023 poll.
New Telegraph learnt that the youths, who are from different fields of endeavours, have been meeting and strategizing over the past eight months in Abuja and Lagos for effective cohesion, and the next line of action is to select presidential candidates that fit the youthful and national interest.
A member of the steering committee, who confided in our correspondent, said the team decided to initiate the template for the youths in 2023 because of the abysmal performance of the current leaders and their tendencies to perpetuate themselves in office without any recourse to the interest of the burgeoning youthful population.
While admitting past errors in the incursion of youths into politics, he stated that the committee, which is apolitical and selffinancing, is interested in bridging gaps and building cohesion among actors within the youth caucus, ahead of the run-up to the 2023 polls.
In his words: “Our clamour for the presidency would be vehemently asserted come 2023, and that is why we have been engaging in painstaking marathon meetings to ensure coordination, cohesion and level playing field. “I can tell you that the low hanging fruits have been dealt with, especially after a cursory look at the last outing of youths in 2019 polls.
We are almost in the last stage of decision making and by September this year, the picture will be clearer and we will publicly unveil our mission.”
Asked whether the youth committee is open to political realignment with the two dominating parties in the country, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC), the youth strategist said with the level of awareness and sensitisation among the youth, especially on social media platforms, the two parties may not be needed because the youths believe they have both failed to prove their mettle as far as leadership is concerned.
He stated that a structured political alignment has been designed by the youths and it is expected to flow from the states to the federal level, adding that a presidential candidate campaign will be driven and coordinated from the states.
“The next stage is to shop for a competitive, competent and committed candidate who will be the face of the new Nigeria.
The mistakes of the past won’t be repeated. The mobilization and enlightenment we witnessed in the #EndSARS protest of 2020 has shown that the youths are really ready for 2023 election, politics and leadership,” he said.
The 45-year-old governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, has been the most prominent among youths being tipped to succeed President Buhari in 2023. President Muhammadu Buhari, who is on his constitutional second term in office, signed into law the “Not Too Young To Run” bill in May 2018.
The law encourages the youths to aspire to high offices in the governance of the country. It reduced the age qualification for president from 40 to 30; governor from 35 to 30; senator from 35 to 30; House of Representatives membership from 30 to 25 and for House of Assembly membership from 30 to 25.
Many young Nigerians took advantage of the law to contest for elective positions during the 2019 general election and contested the presidency with President Buhari, who was then seeking for re-election, but they failed woefully.
Speaking with New Telegraph, a leader of the yet-tobe registered political party, Youth Democratic Party of Nigeria (YDPN), Segun Oduola, said they have an agenda of good governance for all, hence, the need to have a cohesive platform to actualise it.
He said: “We are mobilizing and organising ourselves. We are trying to get the party registered and we also have an option to either emerge with a registered party that has a similar ideology to our own or that can allow us to implement our ideology on their platform and take their structure.
“At this moment, we currently do not have any person we are trying to flag officially. We are still looking for someone. We are not in a rush because it is not about building our support behind someone, but making sure that the person would be able to deliver.
And in order for us to have a level of confidence, it is not something we can rush into or make a quick decision about. “We are trying to check our options and see who and who are more credible.
“It is actually imperative that we all work together in unity, regardless of our age bracket. We can all function in one capacity or the other to ensure the needed change.”
On his part, the Executive Director of Yiaga Africa, Samson Itodo, said youths are planning and strategizing, adding that, “I will say those strategies are taking place in silos, but we have not seen that cohesive voice and I am sure we are going to get to that point.
“But across the parties, we can see the parties are taking intentional steps to engage the Nigerian people. Both the APC and the PDP have been convening youth conferences, trying to ensure that there is cohesion among the youth components of those parties.
“They have also engaged in constitutional reforms and that can help build youth cohesion within the parties. But I can say, if you look at the CVR, we can see the turnout of young people who are registering. By the first week, over 67 per cent of those who registered through online registration are young people. And we are going to see more young people register to vote.
“So, I will say that yes young people are taking action but they could do more and it is in the aspect of engaging the political parties to ensure reforms that will protect youth interest in the forthcoming elections.
“I would like to stress that for young people who are setting up youth parties, they must keep in mind that youth is not an ideology, it is an identity. It is an identity that shapes because today’s youth would be tomorrow’s elders. Political parties and political formations are built on ideology.
Their longevity will be determined by the ideology and every party has the discretion to determine what his own value system and what identity to imbibe.
“As the young people who want to engage in politics, is to provide a counter-narrative to the status quo, then the value of ideology, the place of leadership is very critical to whether or not the young people are going to shape the balance of power in 2023.”
Meanwhile, a social commentator and Executive Director of Rights Monitoring Group (RMG), Mr. Olufemi Aduwo, said strategy alone will not win elections, adding that money is needed to strategise. He said: “The idea of a youth president in 2023 may not fly because politics is highly monetized in the country.
How do they intend to raise funds and finance their election expenses? As we speak, the feasible path for them is through the PDP and APC. Let them join those parties and populate them with ideas. With time, ideas and strategy will give way to sentiments.”