Friday, 7 February 2014

Newspaper Interview with Ahmed Adamu

Ahmed Adamu was recently elected as the pioneer Chairperson of the newly established Commonwealth Youth Council (CYC); the recognised voice of the 1.2 billion young people of the 53 member states Commonwealth of Nations and the largest and most diverse youth body in the world.
Ahmed who hails from Katsina State holds a B.A.(Ed) Economics (2006) and M.Sc. Oil and Gas Economics (2011) from Bayero University Kano and the University of Dundee in the United Kingdom, respectively. He is presently a PhD candidate studying Natural Gas Economics at Newcastle University also in the UK.

In a chat with ADAM ALQALI (of Blue Print Nigerian Newspaper), he speaks on his journey to the leadership of the CYC; agenda for the youths in the Commonwealth nations and plans for the youths of the Commonwealth countries including Nigeria.

How was your growing up like?

I was born in Kaduna city in the old Kaduna State and had my primary and secondary education in Katsina after which I proceeded to Bayero University, Kano where I graduated with B.A(Ed) Economics in 2006 and did my youth service at the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) in Lokoja, Kogi State. In 2011, I got my Msc in Oil and Gas Economics from the University of Dundee in the United Kingdom; I am presently a PhD candidate studying Natural Gas Economics at Newcastle University also in the UK.

After my youth service, I worked as a class room teacher in Katsina and after my M.Sc, I was employed as a lecturer at the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua University, Katsina.

You have been passionate about youth activism right from your days at BUK. How did that passion come about?

Well! I grew up with this passion for engaging in public leadership and so began to hold leadership positions right from my primary school days. In secondary school, I served as Chief Imam/ President of the Muslim Students Society (MSS) as well as the Provost Marshal of the school’s quiz club.

Moreover, I began to have interest in student unionism right from my first year in the university and so was actively involved in campus politics. And while in my second year, I ran for the position of Assistant Secretary General of the Students Union Government (SUG) but lost, a month to the election I fell ill during the electioneering campaign.

I tried not to be antagonistic to those who didn’t vote for me; instead, I was kind to them while preparing to contest for a bigger position in the subsequent elections. I later decided to vie for the position of Financial Secretary of the SUG – which I won with a landslide. I successfully influenced most of the decisions of our Senate and so was very much instrumental to our success.

I was then made the interim national president of the National Association of Katsina State Students (NAKASS) National Body and later stood for election as Financial Secretary “Zone A” of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) but had to forfeit the position because NANS’s constitution didn’t allow someone with an SUG position to hold a NANS position.

After my graduation, I went back to Katsina and founded the League for Democratic Youths (LDY) – a youth organisation that educates young people on their civic rights to make them active and responsible citizens as well as organise intellectual discussions. We were also into the campaign for transparency and accountability in governance through budget tracking, among others. LDY was one of the earliest youth organisations in Katsina.

After my youth service, I formed the Katsina Debate Club to teach citizens public presentation, enhance their research skills and educate them on current national issues; on whose platform we were inviting public officers and other relevant stakeholders to debate on national issues. I also established the Oil & Gas Scholars’ Club on which platform, young people deliberate on oil and gas issues like the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) through presentations of research papers.

I later vied for the speakership position of the Nigerian Youth Parliament but later stepped down for someone and I won twice the position of deputy speaker of the Parliament, but without having 2/3rd of the total votes; I was later elected the pioneer Chief Whip of the youth parliament. I was among the few members of the Parliament that the Ministry of Youths Development felt needed to be empowered more and so was successfully nominated to represent Nigeria at the 2011 Commonwealth Youth Forum held in Australia Рwhich was my first engagement with the Commonwealth. At the end of the Forum, I was among the 3 youth delegates selected to meet with the Queen of England. I met and shook hands with the Queen and presented to her the communiqu̩ of the Forum which really inspired me to continue to follow up the activities of the Forum.

It was at the Forum that the idea of the Commonwealth Youth Council first came up because we felt that the regional caucuses’ members were not effective in amplifying the voices of young people towards achieving optimal youth participation in discussions on governance and Commonwealth issues. So, we agreed on the formation of the CYC and I never thought I was going to be its pioneer Chairperson and so wasn’t very much involved in the structuring process.

August last year, I saw (on my Facebook page) the announcement for the nomination of the executive officers of the CYC and so I began to think whether or not I should vie for any position. I called a friend of mine, Ahmed Bachaka, to seek for his advice on whether I should contest for the position of the Chairperson of the Council. My fear was that, as a PhD student, I felt being the chairperson would rob me of the time I should give to my studies, yet, I felt that even holding a lower position might also be demanding as well, so I decided to go for the Chairperson.

Finally, I decided to go for the position of the chairperson and so filled in the form and was later successfully screened alongside 3 other candidates from the UK, Cameroun and Botswana. Because I wasn’t very conversant with Twitter, my campaign was basically on Facebook; which I am very conversant with. So, I came up with a 7- point agenda – which include education, entrepreneurship, agriculture, ICT, youth leadership, youth emloyment as well as the promotion of CYC and the larger Commonwealth values – modelled after that of late Nigerian president, Umaru Yar’Adua.

What I did was that every day I would take one agenda, dissect it very well and engage youth on discussions about it. For example, in education, I would discuss what are the necessary advocacies and projects for improving it? And the youth were engaging back including fellow contestants.
When I arrived for the Commonwealth Youth Asembly in Hambantota, Sri Lanka I went ahead with the physical aspect of the campaign process and so I distributed my campaign fliers containing my profile and details of my 7-point agenda. Then there was a debate (between the contestants) and though I know I did well, I believe the major reason why I won was my performance at the Q and A session during which I believe I was able to convince the youth delegates of my ability to lead them well.

The following day, the elections were held online as such even if you were not in Sri Lanka and where ever you were in the world, you could just go online and cast your vote; at the end of the day the results were announced and I emerged winner with more than 55% of the total vote cast – it was a landslide victory.
So, I singlehandedly sponsored my campaign and also sponsored myself to Sri Lanka where the elections were held and praise be to God, I was elected as the pioneer Chairperson of the Commonwealth Youth Council – the recognised voice of the 1.2 billion young people of the 54-member states of the Commonwealth and which provides the framework for youth-led development initiatives.

Now, how do you feel being the leader of the Commonwealth Youth Council (CYC); the largest and most diverse youth body in the world?

Well! It feels great being the leader of the largest and most diverse youth organisation in the world and people see you as effectively the world’s youth leader but my concern is about the responsibilities and expectations. So, it is really a huge responsibility presiding over this diverse organisation of youths not only from my country and not only from my continent but from Africa, Asia, Europe, the Pacific, Americas as well as the Caribbean.

The challenge is how I can lead these youths from diverse backgrounds which are entirely different from mine; how can I know their concerns and needs. Secondly, as a pioneer Chairperson I don’t have anybody to learn from on how to be successful and I have to start everything from the scratch. These are the challenges I must address though I have only two years and no one would excuse me for being the first chairperson as such I must act as fast as possible to ensure I lay a good foundation for the development of the Council.

Now that you have effectively taken over the CYC, what are your plans for the 1.2 billion youths of the Commonwealth of Nations; in line with your 7-point agenda?

Well! The 7-point agenda were more or less my idea of trying to convince people that I had a vision but now that I have executive members who also have their various agendas for the youths of the Commonwealth of Nations, I will have to consider the ideas of my executive members and most importantly, the ideas and views of the youths in the Commonwealth based on which we would come up with a workable strategic plan in addition to my agendas.

We need to set up a proper foundation for the Council which will include a secretariat as well as establishing relationships and partnerships with relevant organisations. We are now in the process of having consultations with youths in the different member nations and we are almost done with that. In fact, we have a draft of our 2-year strategic plans which would be ready by the end of January and we will go into the implementation phase. And because of the diverse nature of the Commonwealth, we have to consider and reflect the peculiar challenges facing youths in the various countries that make up the Commonwealth of Nations.

You are planning to launch the Youths Campaign Against Electoral Violence (Y-CAEV), very soon. What do you hope to achieve with that project?

As I said, we are coming up with several programs which are country-specific some of which are targeted at youths involvement in politics and governance; others towards youths empowerment and development. So, the Youths Campaign Against Electoral Violence (Y-CAEV) is one of such programs the CYC is piloting towards addressing election violence in Commonwealth countries, and Nigeria being about to go through another election process, we felt that the earlier we begin to sensitise and educate the youths on the need to embrace peace (before and after election) the better for us. By doing so, we will be able to sensitize them on what are the constitutional provisions and civic responsibilities that they should follow if the outcome of an election is not favourable to them. We also wish to use the project to educate them on the diverse nature of our nation while emphasising the need for peaceful coexistence between us. The launching is coming up on January 30, at Merit House in Abuja after which we hope to do the geopolitical zones induction where we would train the Y-CAEV Marshalls who would go back to their states and train local marshals who will also train the local election peace marshals who will use the media, stage dramas, musical performances, bill boards as well as mass rallies to educate the youths on the need to embrace peace.
I wish to say it is not just the responsibility of the CYC; instead, all youth organisations, the government as well as the private sector need to come and help us educate and empower the youths of this country towards peace and sustainable development. There are many other projects the CYC is bringing to Nigeria including a youth resource centre, youth skills acquisition centre to train youths in ICT and renewable energy, amongst others.

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