Abdullahi Hussaini Maibasira, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) national youth leader in this interview with Michael Abimboye spoke on various current national issues, party affairs the participation of youth in government.
During the 2015 general election, there was an agitation for the youths to have 30% representation in the new government with the harsh tag #30%orNothing. With the appointments made by the APC led FG, do you think the youth are equally represented?
The call for 30% youth inclusion in governance was proposed and driven by PDP youths on behalf of young people since we were in government then. It was purely a PDP Youth agenda. I am not sure it was binding on the ruling party or whether their youth Wing was a part of it. We believed then and still do that though some progress were made (at that time) in appointing young people into some offices, there was the need to concretize and secure the buy in of the nation’s political leadership at that time to fast track leadership transition.
And frankly, we pushed it through the party, we worked on it with then Youth minister Boni Haruna, and way up to the former President who was equally disposed to it. So it became a campaign issue. There are two sides of the coin. One has to do with appointive positions and the other is for elective offices. The elective part purely has to do with how political parties can support and encourage young people to seek elective offices and make it through their primaries. Honestly, some Youth NGO and CSO also supported the idea, they worked with INEC but it was a bit too close to elections by which time primaries have been concluded.
On the appointive side, we are not in government now so this onus does not lie on us at the federal level. It is up to youth movement in the ruling party to push it through more vigorously. I personally consider Youth inclusion an agenda of national and not partisan necessity especially giving the infinite potentials and possibilities of young people in entrepreneurship, governance, economy and innovation. On the elective offices part, if we pass our youth proposals embedded in the constitution amendment at the next convention, we are home but the struggle for implementation will now commence.
Do you think the youth department of the PDP has a chance to right the wrong of the party?
I don’t really understand your definition of “right the wrongs of the party”. First, there was an election – we lost and conceded. Second, we as a party undertook a painstaking nationwide assessment of the reasons why we lost the election. The Committee was chaired by the country’s Deputy President of the Senate. The report was submitted and it has already found its way to the public domain. The observations fully noted and recommendations proposed. Definitely, as a political party, there were some serious fundamental, institutional, mobilisation and organizational short-comings. Now these issues deserve corrective measures.
As for the Youth of the party, in October 2015; we assembled a Restructuring Committee to review our youth framework in its entirety and make recommendations on legal, operational and administrative steps forward. We appreciated ever before now that there was indeed the urgent need for reform. Unfortunately, we were delayed by the fact that we had to concentrate effort for preparations towards the 2015 elections and obviously that those principal reforms require constitutional amendments.
Our proposals are simple: create a nationwide Youth Wing, include Youth representation in Key organs of the party, encourage and support young people to seek elective offices, creation of new offices for young people and the make the party more youth focused and oriented.
Your party is now in the opposition but many Nigerians think it is not doing well in the role and have called for the emergence of a new party which will check the excesses of the APC, Why is your party not performing its opposition role perfectly?
Our role as opposition is emerging, it will get better and with much humility, perfection is providential. I believe that the party is in a State of transition – from a party conversant with the role of governance to one faced with being in opposition. For a party that has been in government since inception, am sure you would agree with me that the unexpected change in role will require both strategic and structural adjustments which cannot just be immediate. But we have made real progress and we will continue to make progress.
The best is yet come out of PDP. We will play opposition of constructive criticism, objective opinions and sound policy alternatives. But, it should be emphasized that the resilience of any democracy is tested on the premise of a strong opposition and liberty of opinions. We cannot afford to have a democracy in Nigeria without a vocal and visible opposition. The essence is to enrich discussion to make our country greater.
PDP is trying to rebrand itself, what do you think should be done if your party must regain power in 2019?
I am not sure politicians discuss strategy during interview sessions. But, I know and will trust that no effort will be spared, and all hands will be on deck for 2019. As I pointed earlier, the party received a 2015 post-election report with a road map towards 2019 which was considered at NEC last year. We should implement the report. We should simply allow the popular person emerge, party must return to the people, internal democracy enhanced, free and fair primaries, we should make our processes more participatory and we should simply follow our constitution. A political organization should be dynamic and responsive.
The ultimate judge in 2019 will be the Nigerian people who at that appointed time will determine by the power of the ballot whether we are better off in terms of livelihood, opportunity, happiness, welfare, economic ranking, purchasing power and access to the basics of life than pre-2015 era.
PDP has consistently said the anti-corruption war of the government is targeted only at members of your party, don’t you think it will be so since your party formed the last government?
I will stand by the various comments of the party and our leaders relating to the enforcement of the rule of law.
9 months into the Buhari government, what’s your take on the administration? Will it deliver its campaign promises?
The administration is given 4 years by the Constitution of Nigeria to implement the agenda upon which it was elected. As you said; it is 9 months now. My take is that the administration came into existence by first being in opposition and subsequently defeating us at the polls. By May 29 2017, I believe it would be time for a comprehensive mid – term review.
I also know that daily – on the streets, in hospitals, schools, the financial institutions, formal and informal markets, at various public places, on online social media platforms, at newspaper stands and at homes, the Nigerian people are making their own assessments. What the 2015 elections further teaches us is that democracy has come to stay.
What are your take on the recent victory of the PDP at some national assembly election rerun and the Supreme Court ruling on some governorship elections?
We are delighted. We are definitely so grateful to the Judiciary especially the Supreme Court. As for the rerun; it simply passes a message to the world that PDP is still very much in the hearts and minds of Nigerians and the flame of power to the people will lighten the torch of Nigerian democracy in due course.
What would you like to see in the coming PDP national convention?
I am optimistic. From the ward level way up, we simply have no option than to work towards conducting transparent and credible congresses. There is a lot of interest in the party and it’s direction. We must honestly manage the process. We must simply get it right. I am sure we would have a successful convention.
What in your opinion is your lasting legacy or mark?
Well, one must leave trademarks or foot prints while in office and we should always plan for succession and transition. But I am hopeful that without bias posterity will mark us well for expanding the space for young people, for mainstreaming many youths into the PDP agenda, for organising many youth programs that were never held in the PDP, for the privilege of leading the youth campaign during the 2015 elections, for increasing the functionality of the office, for identifying and proposing lasting constitutional reforms that will guarantee the place of young people in the party, for bringing to the fore the need to amend the constitution to create the PDP Youth Wing, and for bringing the party closer to the youth movements operating outside the party.
We made it a cardinal objective to ensure that Youth leadership within the party should be truly by young people. So I was extremely pleased that NEC approved as part of our 2016 Electoral Guidelines that eligibility into the office of Youth Leader or Deputy at all levels must be 40 years of age and below.
On a final note, do you have any political ambition?
Every man has an ambition and it may not necessarily be political. But again man is a political animal. As for now, we are preparing for congresses and convention. My immediate ambition however is to see to my current mandate successfully. My general political ambition is to play a part in our country’s democratic process.