by Adediran Alao
Some years ago in Oyo state, politics was associated with incessant inter and intra-political party clashes, crimes, disrespect for the rule of law, autocracy, and lack of accountability. Natives of the state who reside outside the nation and those in other parts of the country were not proud to associate themselves with the state and they often claimed to be indigenes of Lagos state.
Residents of Oyo state lived at the mercy of the blood red-eyed thugs wielding guns, armlets, sharp cutlasses and other ammunitions. At the popular Iwo road bridge for instance, no one could walk freely in the area without fear of attacks by hooligans who spent the entire day smoking hemp and patiently waiting for travesty to ensue.
But since the advent of the incumbent administration in Oyo state, tranquility and serendipity have returned to the state. Even the opposition party could not deny this fact. In addition to the peace in the state, several innovative first-of-its-kind projects are springing up across the state and for the first time in recent years, many Oyo indigenes in various parts of the world can boldly, proudly and loudly say that they are from the Pacesetter state.
But what do these have to do with registering as members of the APC? A lot.
More than ever, there is a just reason to be part of the new lease of life in Oyo state and chart its course for the future. The state now has a competent, committed and patriotic leadership in Governor Abiola Ajimobi who sees youths as partners and stakeholders in rewriting the history of the state. By appointing youths into key positions in his administration, the governor has shown that he is serious about the youths and has more important roles for youths in Oyo state apart from forming support groups for politicians.
It is by registering as members of the APC that youths could be part of the true transformation agenda of the Governor Ajimobi-led administration in Oyo state.
Youths that have political ambitions also have a lot to gain when they register as members of the ruling party in Oyo state. A quick journey down memory lane will serve us quite well here.
In the pre-independence era, the man who came to be known as ‘Zik of Africa’, Sir Nnamdi Azikiwe more or less began his foray in Nigerian politics in his mid-thirties on his return to Nigeria in 1934. In the three or so decades that followed, he whole heartedly pursued his political convictions and in that time was engaged in party politics at the highest levels, served at various times in the legislature culminating in his ascendancy to the position of the Senate President, then progressed further still to become first, Governor-General, then President of Nigeria.
Even though Zik went to some of the best institutions in the world, he had to join a political party to achieve his ultimate dream of becoming Nigeria’s president although he had start with lower posts. Governor Abiola Ajimobi also personifies this experience. He didn’t become the governor overnight, even before he became a senator he had been a card-carrying member of a recognized political party. In other words, no one appears from nowhere and become the governor or president, it is a stepwise process and the earlier an individual starts the journey, the easier and quicker it becomes. If Zik had waited till he became a full grown adult, he might not have become Nigeria’s president and one of the most respected men in Africa.
Though his involvement in Nigerian politics can be traced to his return home, he had been actively involved in pan-African movements during his youthful days while sojourning abroad. His early days were heavily tinted by politics, the tincture marked all his actions and decisions all his life.
Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa had similar experience when he joined politics as a youth. First elected into the Northern House of Assembly at the age of 34 and later into the Legislative Assembly at the age of 37, he went on to serve severally as minister and eventually at the age of 45 was elected Chief Minister at the age of 45 and Prime Minister at the age of 48.
Former president Shehu Shagari’s profile is perhaps the best to argue in favor of youth involvement in politics and to encourage them to register as members of the APC.
He joined politics at the age of 21. When he clocked 23, the Youth Social Circle, the political organization he founded merged with other political organizations to form the Northern Peoples’ Congress. He was elected Parliamentary Secretary to the Late Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa at the age of 33. He served as a minister and became Nigeria’s president at the age of 54.
In every country where democracy has been fought for and entrenched, the archetypal youths have always had a say driven by conscience or ideology. Candidates seeking election into political offices recognize the need to win that demographic. Most times, winning them over was instrumental to unlocking their victories. They can go to lengths unimagined to secure the victory of a candidate, many a times, voluntarily.
In addition, winning the youths is not just out of recognition that they are the workforce, the engine room and the army of a candidacy; they are courted regardless of price because they are the prize of a successful government.
To further develop the state and consolidate on the achievements of the incumbent administration, the youths in Oyo state need to take the bold step and move beyond leaning back and watching as history is written and their fate is sealed.
Oyo state has not at any other time in its history had a generation of young people with greater and easier access to the government than now.
When US president, Barack Obama visited Ghana, he charged the youths to wake up to their roles in the polity.
He said: “So I especially want to, again, speak to the young people of Africa. In places like Ghana you make up more than half the population, and here is what you must know: that the world is what you make of it.
You have the power to hold your leaders accountable and to build institutions that serve the people…and harness your energy and education to renew and build connections between the world. You can conquer disease and end conflict and make change from the bottom up. You can do all that.”
These could not be achieved by folding hands and staying away from politics. The APC in Oyo state remains the most attractive and welcoming party for peace loving and intelligent youths who want to make positive impacts and play active roles in the development of the state, to join.
It is currently the only party in the state that an individual does not have to know how to steal ballot boxes, wield cutlasses, smoke hemp and be a feared hooligan are required; it has repositioned itself to be a party for the future – one that is ready to welcome youths with arms opened wide.
The increasing number of individuals that are decamping to APC in Oyo state also shows that there is something uniquely different about the state, the party and its members, something that every youth should be part of.
– Adediran Alao is of the The Th!nkOyo Initiative