Mr Banjo Adewunmi is the Special Assistant to the Ondo State Governor on Youths and Students Affairs. In this interview with EVELYN OMOTOYE, he bares his mind on the “Not Too Young To Run Act” and the policies and programmes of the Akeredolu-led administration in the state targeted at creating safe spaces for youths in tandem with this year’s UN theme for the International Youth Day (IYD).
Can you share with us efforts the present administration in the state has made in creating safe spaces for the youth in the state?
The governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu has done a lot. This is the first time in the history of the state where youths are making up to 40percent primary. In the area of entrepreneurship, he has done a lot, ditto agriculture. ‘Youths on the ridges’ programme aimed at engaging 18,000youths in the state, a thousand from each local government. Just recently too, the governor was at FUTA to lunch “TechHub”.
All these are channeled towards arresting youth restiveness and to ensure that our youths are engaged in productive ventures. The governor is not resting on his oars in ensuring that our youths are economically engaged via ICT, agriculture and in political of the state.
Not too long ago, we had one of our youths emerging as the South West youth leader of our great party. We also have one of our youths from this state as the NANS national president in the country.
So these and more are what the present administration is committed to achieving. And of course, we won’t say we have done everything. Because, if we are saying we have done it all, there won’t be the need for a gathering for the government to interact with the youth with the safe spaces created for them in line with this year’s IYD theme.
We youths are like Oliver Twist, we will continue to demand for more from the government and this government is committed to serving the overall interest of the entire youth populace. I know the man that governs the state will still do more than he has done in the past and I am pretty sure that at the end of the day, we will all be happy that we left the government better than we met it.
As it stands now, would you say that youths in the state are given their rightful position in the scheme of things especiallyin governance.
I want to say it sincerely that our youths are being given that political space in the state. I can count more than 25 youths that are holding different political positions in the state today. Less I forget, one of us came up with an ambition to contest for a position in the National Youth Council of Nigeria and Mr Governor rallied support round him and the entire youth wing of the state supported him too and he emerged as the Secretary General of the Council at the national level.
We are happy with the governor because we know him to be a man of his words, someone who is committed to human capital development in the state. So I want to say categorically that he has done well for the youth in Ondo State and we want to thank him for that.
In your opinion, what more do you think the government can do to prevent youths from involving in nefarious activities such as drug abuse and other social vices?
The first thing is awareness because some of the youths might be doing these things out of ignorance.
It is our responsibility as a government to sensitise and give them right orientation to ensure that we keep safe spaces for them and this is what we have been doing. Last month, we moved across the 18 local government areas of the state to sensitise youths about the opportunities that abound in the state for them to tap into and interact with them about their health challenges.
One of the recent trend now is drug abuse among Nigerian youths. You see them taking all kind of drugs such as Codein, Tramadol, etc. But in Ondo State, this trend is minimal. This is because of the level of sensitisation we have done and we will continue to do more.
We want to see our youths emerging as the best in the area of ICT. There are endless opportunities there. This is why ”TechHub” is coming at this time to ensure we channel all those energy to ICT. And again in agriculture, we have the prime movers of the Click Connect, a company conducting the planting of trees, they are engaging up to 15,000 youths in that area.
Also, the “Youth on the Ridges” is meant to involve 18,000 youths. If we can explore all these areas, even those who are not directly engaged can take a cue from others and get something doing on their own.
What is your advice for youths on the various government provisions, policies and programmes for them?
I want to say that in the next few years, nobody would fancy the kind of grade you get from the university but would want to know what you have upstairs. They would want to see what you are made of and what you can offer and do differently to bring out the best result. So I want to advise our youths to key into all these government programmes.
Our motive is to ensure that we produce thousands of employers of labour.
We are more interested in what these youths can do on their own that would give them streams of income daily for the rest of their lives. This is what we are doing right now because part of the five-point agenda of Mr governor is creating massive employment opportunities for our youths. Ondo State is known as a peace loving state and the most peaceful in the Niger Delta region. We want to maintain that and doing this will translate to safe spaces for our youths.
What is your take of on the Not Too Young To Run Act?
The signing into law ‘Not Too Young To Run ‘ bill is historical and I want to appreciate Mr President for assenting to this. This bill is all about getting youth involved in the electoral process. My take that the entire youth should key into it. As it stands today, you can’t run except you belong to a political party, that means, we have to get involved. We have to join a party that means well for the youth which of course is the ruling APC party.
They need to play party politics, conceive great innovative ideas and show interest in contesting elective positions so that they can be picked at the primaries. If you are not selected at the Primary, you can’t be elected to emerge as leader to ensure good governance in the system.
The 2019 general elections is around the corner, what is your word for the youth in how to conduct themselves before, during and after the exercise?
All our youths should endeavour to go and collect their PVCS, because that is the only ticket that can ensure the emergence of their desired leaders. Secondly, they should shun violence and all forms of vices as we approach the elections, because nobody is worth dying for. The saying is sure that we are the leaders of tomorrow and the tomorrow is now.
So we must not allow ourselves to be used in thuggery or ballot box snatching or any other form of evil in during period. We must comport ourselves well and make decisions that will lead to fair, credible and very peaceful elections come 2019. We must contribute our quota in the development of the country as a whole.
On a final note, the Bible says you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free’. We know the truth that this APC government in the country is the only one that has the interest of youth at heart. At the federal level, the government has engaged over 400,000 youth in two year’s term through the NPower scheme. Some of these youths are learning one skill or the other through the scheme. This will help them have a job history or experience to show in their quest for greener pastures. There are many other platforms presented by this government to make sure the youths are well catered for, which has not seen in recent past. So the only way the youth can pay back is to come out enmasse and vote APC into power again come 2019 so that the good works can continue to the benefit of us all.