At the Ladi Kwali hall of Sheraton Hotels and Suites, Abuja, the youth wing of the All progressive Congress held their Maiden Conversational Conference, which served as a platform for its members from all over the country to interact with party elders. In attendance were dignitaries such as Chief Audu Ogbeh, General Buba Marwa, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, amongst others. Below are excerpts from a discussion held with Barrister Ismail Ahmed, the interim Chairman of the All Progressives Youth Forum (APYF);
Q: Could you briefly introduce yourself?
My name is Barr. Ismaeel Ahmed, I am currently a card carrying member of the CPC and the pro tem Chairman of the All Progressives Youth Forum. It is the forum that consists of young progressives from all across the merging political parties that came together to form an association and join the new party as unit block in order to safeguard the basic interests of the future generation.
Q: How was the idea of the having a youth wing for the APC born?
It was borne out of the need to ensure the full participation of youths in institutionalizing a political party on the basis of the strength of youthful numbers, mental energy, exuberance and new ideas. It is also to serve as an incubating platform for future leaders of the party and the country. As youths, we have always complained that we are marginalized in this country, both economically and politically. Well this is an opportunity for us to band together and move into this new party and help design the architectural framework of the future, and also make sure we get to cement our place and that of those behind us as the engine room of growth and development.
Q: Please give a brief description of the youth forum, including what your structure is like.
Like I mentioned earlier, the organization is a national body with a complete structure across all the states of the federation. We have the Central Networking Committee, which is the presiding committee at the national level. We have what we call the Zonal Support Groups, it is group that is made up of members drawn from each state within the zone. They aggregate the issues of the zone wholly and come up with a working proposal or common path on how to move forward for that zone. Then, we have the sate caucuses. This is is also a group of not more than 6-10 people drawn from all the senatorial zones of the state. They are educated with their independent source of income. This means that, politics and this forum is not a servicing industry to them, it is a service industry by them. Then we have the Local Mobilizers who serve as local government coordinators. They report findings and target areas of recruitment drive to the state caucuses thru their senatorial district rep. We also have the ward volunteers who are in charge of wards and can identify people within neighborhoods, places of worship, garage and parks, market places and local schools to maximize impacts of recruitment drive.
Q: What would you say to those who believe that APC is filled with people who defected from the PDP, and that it’s simply a case of old wine in a new bottle?
One can never rule out suspicions in politics, it is part of the game. And I think it’s unfair to say that most of the people are from PDP. As far as I know, the major souls of the parties that merged were always oppositional heads and had never wavered. They may have changed parties or the names of the parties, but they were consistent in their opposition to the PDP. And for those others who are defectors, it will be uncharitable to say that they are “old wines in new bottles”. I believe everyone would agree with me that the PDP, even though it was badly formed, has further degenerated to a cesspit of corruption, incompetence, intolerance, waste, criminality and wanton destruction of lives, limbs and livelihoods of Nigerians. Leaving this party for anyone, even just so you distance yourself from these vices, should be a welcome development. And at the APC, we welcome it!
Q: How do you intend to ensure that youths truly have a role to play in the new party?
By having them join the party en masse and banding together with an ideological identity and a common platform to use as a bargaining chip in getting the party to see or do things our way.
Q: Are there any initiatives geared towards getting Nigerian youths to join the party en masse?
A: we have various recruitment drives and networking initiatives. I have already mentioned the structures of the organization which will serve as entry points for many would be members of the party. One of the main objectives of the organization is to make youths stakeholders in the party, with a voice and clear input rather than just ordinary members with only an electoral or election day value.
Q: What would you say about the controversy that the APC has been admired in, that is with respect to registration?
The All Progressives Congress has not been mired in any controversy. What we have, is just a childish attempt by some threatened specie of corrupt people to derail a registration process. I think the motive is pretty obvious, but we are not in the controversy, the fake APC is.
Q: What is your take on the current level of youth participation in Nigerian politics?
Disappointingly inadequate. And where there is participation, it is for the wrong reasons. And that, almost always leads to a political horror shows.