Time for youths to take-up leadership role is now – Obasanjo

Tunbosun Ogundare – Lagos


Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has again stressed the importance of African youths taking up more leadership roles that can help to reshape the continent and become a real force to reckon with globally.

He said the time for them to take up such roles particularly in political governance in Nigeria and other African countries, is now.

Obasanjo gave the charge at a youth leadership summit organised by the Centre for Human Security and Dialogue in conjunction with UNESCO’s Institute for African Culture and International Understanding to commemorate his 86th birthday ceremonies in Abeokuta, Ogun State capital.

The summit was convened by a former executive secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Peter Okebukola with no fewer than 500 participants including secondary and tertiary school students from Ghana, Botswana, Cameroon, South Africa and Nigeria.

Speaking on the theme of the forum, “Can Peace and Security Reign with the Youth in Charge,” Obasanjo said since the older generation could not guarantee peace and security on the continent, the youths if allowed and give all necessary support and encouragement should be able to do better.

He, however, decried the low participation of youths in things that matter most in the country which according to him are political party activities and governance from which policy and decisions are taken.

He said they needed to get involved in those activities for them to be given significant roles in governance. While also decrying the huge number of out-of-school children which he put at about 144 million globally and out of which about 20 million are in Nigeria alone, Obasanjo said the adverse consequences of such development on those children, families, communities, Nigeria, Africa and the world at large now and in future, are huge and disastrous.

He said except something concrete is done fast to reverse the trend, especially in Nigeria, there won’t be real economic progress and prosperity and peace in the land.

He said he found out that lack of functional education, training and empowerment are major factors propelling criminality and delinquency among youths in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa.

While reflecting on what he said the Islamic scholar, Sheik Ahmad Gumi told him in Abeokuta some time ago after meeting with some bandits and kidnappers in the forest to secure the release of some abducted persons that some of the bandits and kidnappers were boys of 13, 14 and 15 years old and that aside that they take hard drugs and carry weapons, their hideouts are in the jungle where it would be difficult for government security to reach them.

He said even though the government should know about that revelation, it is doubtful if it’s doing something concrete to tackle the challenge, the reason he said their activities are expanding rather than reducing.

He said he quite agreed that there is no substitute for experience, but then young ones with requisite knowledge and skills, as well as exposure, should be allowed to get involved in policy and decision-making.

He said he was less than 40 years old when he became the military head of state and Gen Yakubu Gowon (retd) was 33 while the late Anthony Enahoro became famous politically at 27.

He said he wondered now why some who are already in their seventies or eighties struggling with the younger generation for powers in Africa.

He said it is certain that Nigeria’s major problem in terms of good governance, security and protection, prosperity, and effective partnership within and without is that of leadership.

“So, as a country, we need to build on human development where we have functional education, health, science and technology, innovation, wellbeing and welfare for the young ones as preparation for leadership positions,” he stressed.

Obasanjo said the type of society he wants Nigeria and other African countries to be in is where nobody is marginalized or feels inferior to another and where leaders are not narrow-minded but detribalized and make everybody have a sense of belonging and be happy.

He said that is why he always put Nigeria first before his Yoruba tribe in his dealings unlike many other leaders, who place their tribes over the nation.

He said he believes that God didn’t make a mistake by allowing different tribes to become one country but that what is now required is for everyone to join hands together and make the system work for the benefit of all.

While commending Professor Peter Okebukola and his team for putting up the summit and the panellists for sharing their thoughts and perspectives on the theme, Obasanjo said the forum is one of the ways to contribute to advocacy and knowledge sharing towards a better Africa,

In his opening remark, Professor Peter Okebukola, who is the director of both the Centre for Human Security and Dialogue as well as the UNESCO’s Institute for African Culture and International Understanding, said the essence of the summit was for participants to brainstorm on how best the youths could stand up and take up more leadership roles by applying their innovative thinking and skills to solve societal problems that are daily contending with people of the continent more so that government cannot solve them all alone.

He said it is not encouraging that only a small fraction of youths are in leadership positions particularly in the parliaments in Africa, noting that such a scenario needs to be reversed to favour more youth participation to build the “Africa we all want.”




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