Monday, 2 January 2017

Politics and Youth Participation By Dr. Ahmed Adamu

The following is an excerpt of my speech delivered yesterday in Katsina during a political youth movement consultative meeting (you can watch the video of the speech from the YouTube link below).
It is time to stop shying away from Politics. We do a lot of activities and tend to say “It is not political”, but it is time now to be bold, and talk and engage in politics.
Today, mark the new dawn of youth political awakening. I am here to spark thought and invigorate young people’s active participation in politics.
At the current stage of our democracy and civilisation, we are not matured for political party ideology. We must stick to the ideology of credible candidates across political parties. Political parties do not dictate governance presently, people elected into positions end up doing what they personally believe in. In many instances, political party leaders tend to be absolutely loyal to the elected leaders, and not willing to redirect them to party principles (if any). There could be party manifestos, but the leaders do not adhere to it strictly. Electorates vote not based on party manifesto, but the personality of the candidates. Then if it is about the personality, we should not care about the party. Political parties are like rooms; anybody can walk in and walk out of it.
Political parties are largely monopolised by few of its leaders, and if we stick to a party, we are by extension handing over the fate of our governance to the hands of these few. There are high possibility of buying these few party leaders by unqualified candidates, giving room for bad leaders to emerge and money to play role. If we stick to credible candidates, every party must then make sure they fill credible candidates at all cost, because they know that failure to fill credible candidates will lead to the party failure. So, we have to make parties compete for credibility in the primary elections. When all parties eventually fill all positions with credible candidates, then naturally parties will differ and compete fundamentally based on ideology/manifesto, and people can then choose the parties that suits their common ideology knowing that all candidates are credible to actualise the ideology.
Sticking to party ideology gives room for unqualified candidates to emerge, because they have god fathers or they have money or they are founding party members, not because they are qualified and not because they have the knowledge and capacity to implement the ideology of the party (if any). And then, no matter how qualified other party candidates are, they will never be elected, because it is about the party not competent candidates. Politicians in some instances are selfish, and they can do anything to achieve their short term objectives, without considering the long term effect of it on the governance and democracy. Brainwashing people intentionally (especially through the use of religion) to take away their right of choice to achieve personal objective is tantamount to breach of the ideal of constitutional democracy. Even in America, they started with the selection of credible candidates across parties, and then when it was obvious that all parties have credible candidates, it then became about which party has the best plan and strategy to greatness.
Professionals and experts must not shy away from politics, politics is essential in our lives. Whether we like it or not, politicians are the ones to lead us and make decisions that affect us now and in the future. And like Plato once said “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors”. To make it easy for credible candidates, political parties must be forced to scout for credible candidates, and compel competence on their prospective candidates, not to ask for who can bargain more. We have seen parties asking candidates how much are they willing to drop in cash not how qualified and competent are they.
Unqualified politicians demanding to be elected are selfish, and it is prohibited especially in Islam. Prophet (SAW) once said “Allah has forbidden you to demand what you do not deserve”. So it is absolutely forbidden to demand to be elected knowing that you are not qualified or there are others who are more qualified. We have to take responsibility to correct our ills, and if we do not do so God will punish us. Prophet once said “Allah does not punish the individuals for the sins of the community until they see the evil spreading among them, and while they have the power to stop it, and do not do so”. Leadership is very important for us, and we have to fix our political ills to make it right. If our leaders are upright, we will be upright, and if they are corrupt, the people will be corrupt.
“Whoever aids an oppressor or taught him an argument to nullify the right of an ordinary, has drawn upon himself the anger of God” Abdullah ibn Mas’ood.
Using religion primarily to deceive people is wrong; to hide behind religion to get personal benefits is cheating too. And what about the decision to choose between believer of your religion and non-believer? To answer this question, Salah Issa said “Absolutely not. We can vote for non Muslim candidates. Actually I was studying fiqh ( Islamic jurisprudence) and our teacher raised the question. If you have two leaders one extremely religious but knows nothing about politics and economics and the other non religious but an expert in politics and economics, who do you select to lead the nation? The answer from the fiqh perspective is that you always vote for the non religious person. The reason is that the religious one might in his ignorance hurt the citizens, and protecting the livelihood of the people is more important than electing a religious person even if he would be a person with great character. What I shared above is well established Islamic thought /philosophy. As Muslims it is not a stretch for us to use the same logic to elect who will be better for the country regardless of his/her religious beliefs.” ……..Wallahu A’alam.
Young people must develop interest to participate in politics and must do that strategically. That is why we encourage young people to set up political movement that will transit them into the mainstream of governance and to make difference in societies. Young people have vast energies, innovations and idea and they are more qualified because they know the current challenges and opportunities. The future we clamour to build is the house the young people are likely to live in, and there is no way you can design and build the house without the owner. Some of the older generation must stop looking down on us. We have to do our part by stopping to be their unconditional loyalist; it is not bad to have guardian and mentor, but not to be stooges. Young people are already the propellers of the country, some of us are soldiers putting our lives on the line to protect and preserve the country, doctors, engineers, builders, teachers etc, if we can do these, then we must lead. Youth generation of the 1960s played role to send away the illegal invaders (who others wrongly refer to colonial masters), young people have ruled at ages of 30s and 20s before, why not now when they are more prepared and equipped?. It is not appropriate to always pick from the retired generation when they lost energy and appetite, while you have bunch of energies and interests among the young people.
Finally, young people must take leadership steps by touching lives and making differences in their communities. They should not wait until they are elected in to political positions to make difference. They must be united and stop the hatred and envy among themselves. They should not think voting is their only democratic rights, young people must be able to hold their leaders accountable, sponsor bills, write petitions, and contribute to strengthening governance in their societies. From today, from this meeting, before we leave here, we have to set the roadmap to establish that political movement that will bring us together irrespective of our affiliations to inculcate the ideology of credible leadership and making difference in society. This movement will transit us to the real political stage and make us the strongest gladiators in the arena of politics. We have to invest and help our teaming young people who are not focussed or struggling to be better or trying to achieve more. We have to tax ourselves to raise finances to implement our development projects without the need to beg politicians. We have to agree on this movement before we leave here. This should not be like other previous meetings.
Thank you.
Dr. Ahmed Adamu,
Petroleum Economist and Development Expert,
First Ever Global Chairperson of Commonwealth Youth Council,
University Lecturer (Economics), Umaru Musa Yar’adua University, Katsina.

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