Secession agitations: The youth should keep hope in Nigeria – Edoh

Dr. Raymond Edoh is the Nigerian Youth Ambassador to the United States and the secretary-general, Nigerian Youth Congress (NYC). In this interview with journalists, he speaks about Nigeria’s challenges and his appeal to the youth. TOPE SUNDAY was there.

Now, some of the challenges bedevilling the country such as kidnapping and other factors that make Nigerians to feel unsafe are said to be perpetuated by the youth. What’s your reaction to this?

I always charge the youth to stay away from crime. The youth are deceived to go under drug influences after which their drug influencers will further influence them to do what they want them to do. The government should create an enabling environment for the youth to carry out their various businesses. That’s why I said if the government would give the youth an enabling environment, trust me, the whole banditry, kidnappings today will stop. Ok, now we have seen many youths becoming or assuming top political positions in the country and they are doing well. All the Nigerian youth need is an enabling environment through the instrumentality of government’s windows, policies, programmes, and others that would better their lives.

We have a youth as the governor of Kogi state and we have also witnessed a youth as the speaker of the House of Representatives in the person of Dimiji Bankole. However, some people still argue that the youth are not mature for politics. What is your take on that?

I think I will say a very big NO to that. I am saying a very big no to that because I am a youth and I am ready to occupy any position in this country. Also, I am capable of contesting for any elective position in this country and if the opportunity is given to me, I’m also ready to pick any appointment, and not just picking it, I will also perform in this nation. First and foremost, I would like to say that the youth are the backbone of the nation.

The youth are the most educated; so if anyone is saying that they are not ready to occupy positions of authority, then he’s wrong. I think the only part I will agree with is the financial challenge in contesting political offices. We don’t have the money to spend on campaigns for different elective offices, but my happiness is one. If you observe under the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, for the first time in the history of this country, a lot of people who don’t have money, a lot of youth, a lot of poor people who are nobody, who have no name at all, were able to get themselves into various political positions unlike previous administrations that we had to spend a whole lot of money. I can assure you somebody like me, trust me, I can contest for a position without spending money and I will win.

I want to also use this medium to charge our youth and the 240 million Nigerians that this is the only country we call our own.

On the electronic transmission of results, it’s easier for the youth to monitor the outcomes of elections on Twitter or social media or any online portal. But the popular demands of the youth are still not carried on by the legislators? Why do you think this is so?

If you observe, I’ve always been on the side of the youth, whether good or bad. The bad ones, I try to bring them and say ok no, this is not how to do this thing, if we can do it like this, if it takes us to even pay a consultant to look into different parts of the youth; we are always doing that. In the electoral law, the position of the government is not to favour individuals, but to favour the government, and under the circumstances many people will come and say you know what? Oh, this thing needs to favour us then they are getting it wrong. On the issue of electronic transmission, I was against that and this is my reason; you know there are places today where you will not have anything like a fanatic. We have villages; there are some of our villages around today in this country that the moment you get there the network disappears from your cell phones. So, now, if they are saying elections have to be electronically transmitted then we are getting it wrong. Then what about people who don’t even have a phone? The truth is, we still have millions of Nigerians who don’t have access to the internet and these million Nigerians occupy a high number of voters. So, are we saying that these people are not going to vote? Of course not. So, the issue of electronic transmission, I was really against it because everybody who is eligible to cast a vote should be able to cast their votes in Nigeria.

We have Nnamdi Kanu for the South-east leading millions of Igbo youth to agitate for Biafra, and Sunday Igboho for the agitation for Oduduwa Republic; what is the NYC doing to intervene in this situation?

Like I said earlier, the youth are my heroes and heroines and they will remain mine forever because that is my passion. Then, I want to use this medium to say to Nigerians, most especially the youth, be proud of Nigeria, don’t condemn her, and don’t lose hope in Nigeria. When there is agitation, when there is condemnation by individuals, yes, something is leading to that, they could be self-interest, it could be frustrations from the government, from individuals; but remember that is just a view and a view is not a decision. It’s not your decision, it’s not my decision; those are all views, but I am charging every young Nigeria today to be proud of Nigeria and never to lose hope in her. However, I am not against anybody agitating, agitation is part of the rights of every human being. So, anybody can agitate, but it’s their view and it will only become a decision when everybody in Nigeria comes and says yes this is what we want.

We are talking about diversifying the economy from crude oil because there are predictions that in a few years time, oil will no longer be attractive in the global market. What is the way out?

As an economist, I will tell you that where I came from, everybody is a farmer and if you observe Benue state, the Food Basket of the Nation, you have up to 90% of family members who are farmers. I am a farmer and I want to thank the president for his quest to encourage the agriculture sector which a lot of people have benefitted from. Certainly, all of us can’t benefit at the same time, but in the process of time, everyone will. Anybody who says to you, yes you can view America from this part of the world, that oh you know what everybody is doing in America, all the farmers are doing great, all the farmers are on average, yes you could say but the truth is to those of us who are there who know little about them, we research and put a lot of things together to be able to talk to people with authority using facts, figures, and our experiences. They are not excellent in the way we think they are. So, at every effort the government is putting in place we should appreciate and encourage them to do more.

The elite also talk about the economic collapse in Nigeria. I want to let the people know that if you think Nigeria is worse, then, how can you turn it around as a human being? And the only way you can turn it around as citizens is to have a collective effort. It shouldn’t just be the government; the government could give us an enabling environment and the other part is to utilise it. A Nigerian child is one of the most hard-working youth in the world, I can tell you this. I go to some parts of the world sometimes when I see how Nigerians are working hard, I say God, thank you so much for this because the truth is that our economy is not so strong. We can’t compare our economy with the UK’s; we can’t compare our economy with the US. The thing is how old is the US? How old is Nigeria? If we should be talking about economic standards, we should be comparing Nigeria with nations that are the same age as Nigeria, not comparing Nigeria with countries that are 200 and something years old. The truth is Nigeria will win again despite this whole economic downfall. The whole world has been hit by economic decline, but trust me Nigeria will bounce back again.

What do you have to say about illegal arms and ammunition in the country?

Most of the illegal arms in circulation today, if you observe closely, a lot of the people that are arrested by the police or other security agencies, are either from customs or from immigration or the civil defence. These arms are being taken from the security operatives. And what happened after the #EndSARS or during #EndSARS, a lot went wrong and some of the things that went wrong were all these arms going missing, we have a lot of these arms in the public that are missing in the hands of wrong people. These arms are being used to commit atrocities like banditry, kidnapping, and all societal vices. In this regard, I am calling on the government to do more in terms of security. This is not a job of just the police anymore; I am calling on the Nigeria Navy, the Nigeria Army, the Nigeria Air Force, the Customs service, the Immigration, and all the brother agencies in Nigeria to look into this and see how they could get all these arms back to the owners. The security agencies should please do more.

Do you have any political ambition in 2023?

Like I said earlier, everybody in a position of the government today are all our fathers. Our political differences are not in the interest of the nation, but rather our collective efforts will be in the interest of the nation. What if we join our hands with them as our fathers, trust me, we will make this nation a better one. So, if the opportunity is given to us from our various constituencies or by appointment by the federal government, of course, we would be there; we would contribute our quota to make the nation, a nation of our taste.

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