By Nimi Princewill.
A former Kwara coordinator of the United Nations-endorsed Generational Voices, a campaign for new youth-led leadership in Nigeria, and founder and Chief Executive of Whitebridge Communications Ltd, Mr. Mohammed Abdullahi has weighed in on the ongoing debate surrounding the rationale behind the nomination of a 26-year-old serving corps member, Ms. Joana Nnazua Kolo as a Commissioner-nominee by Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq of Kwara State.
Abdullahi shares his thoughts with INSIDER.
What’s your candid assessment of Governor Abdulrazaq’s appointments so far?
I think any holistic assessment of the governor’s appointments should wait till when he completes the process. But what I have seen so far gives me a mixed feeling, sometimes that of optimism that things are being done differently and at other times a disappointment that they could have been done a lot better.
Yes, appointments are a prerogative of the chief executive, but there are certain public expectations, a basic pre-qualification and predigree expected of an appointee of a government that represents a collective hope. The appointments made so far do not suggest the governor is in sync with public mood.
The talking point has been on the nomination of a 26-year-old corps member as Commissioner-nominee. Is this a hit or miss?
Well, I won’t say it’s a miss, since the governor’s people claim there are certain information available to His Excellency which led him to that choice, and which is not available in the public space. So we wait to see the ‘wow’ attribute that recommended the young lady for such a humongous task.
Initially when the news broke of her appointment, I was ecstatic and went about sharing the news with undisguised feeling of triumph. Having immersed myself in the politics of youth inclusion for more than a decade, I felt her nomination signifies a victory for me personally.
However, I was forced to introspect by certain questions that came from friends who are not indigenes of Kwara. When I shared the news of her nomination on an exclusive WhatsApp group made up of just about 48 young political influencers drawn from across the country, the only person who responded to the post asked me what other attributes qualify the girl for a cabinet position aside from the fact that she is 26. At this point, I realized I know nothing about the achievements and accomplishments of the 26-year-old aside that she is a graduate and a corps member.
So for me, to the extent that there are no outstanding qualities and record of achievements that can be traced to this particular girl, something that sets her apart from the multitude of outstanding Kwara youths that I know personally, then her nomination will not just be a miss but an absolute disregard for more qualified Kwara young people who have sweat ‘blood and water’ to attain inspiring heights in life.
Do you consider your criticism of her appointment as ‘youths shooting other youths down?’
I guess you have come across some of my posts about this issue where I used the exact words. But this is not a campaign against Ms. Kolo as a person. The governor’s media guys led by the Chief Press Secretary to the governor are just refusing to understand my point, deliberately of course.
Let’s be clear, I’m not criticizing Kolo’s nomination. If anything, I’ll be most excited to celebrate that she’s the best 26-year-old of the female gender Kwara can boast of at this very period. I’ll be glad if I’m able to beat my chest anywhere that the result of our cumulative struggle as advocates of youth political inclusion is that we now have a 26-year-old in my state who can hold her own among fellow Commissioners anywhere in Nigeria and beyond.
Yes, arguments have been advanced that the young lady needs to be given a chance to take a shot at the job before we can assess her. But my response to that is that governance, especially if undertaken by a governor who is racing against time and everything to record visible impact, leaves no space for experimental appointments such as that of Ms. Kolo.
This particular governor needs a team peopled by men and women who, based on what they have accomplished in their individual capacities, can immediately give us hope of certain expectations and deliverables. And you can’t tell me we don’t have young people in Kwara who fit into this category.
Of course, I’m very well aware that appointment into government anywhere, not only in Kwara or even Nigeria, is pure politics; and we’ve been told of how this young girl is an excellent mobilizer and community development person. But I’ve also spoken to quite a number of people in KWASU where this lady did a short course in community development as part of her overall assessment for a degree programme in that school. No one seems to remember any outstanding community development project that can be traced to her.
Concerning her mobilization prowess, there is no way she can be actively involved in the politics and campaigns that produced governor Abdulrazaq. Unless she did her mobilization from Jigawa where she’s a corps member. I’ll break it down.
You see, an average corps member is expected to serve for at least 11 months. So, if you commence your service year in November, you will conclude, in October, with the three weeks terminal leave already factored in. So if this lady would be concluding her service year in October, because the announcement of her nomination says she is due to complete her NYSC programme in two weeks, then it means she began her youth corps program as far back as November, 2018. Now, you tell me the period the campaigns and the election that produced the governor took place and explain to me how someone who is supposed to be in Jigawa had the time to mobilize for an election in Kwara.
Like I keep saying, I’m not against the nomination of Ms. Kolo or any other young person for that matter. But my concern is to ensure that those young people who will benefit from our youth inclusion advocacy are the best we can get in that demography.
Whether you use the initial qualifying age for youths according to Nigeria’s national youth policy which stipulates youth age to be between 18 – 35 or you use the new one which is 15 – 29; I’m no longer qualified to be a youth, so my reservation towards Kolo’s nomination would certainly not benefit me personally. And the issue of ‘youths shooting youths down’ as you put it would not apply, because I’m legally not qualified to be a ‘youth’ anyway.
The governor is yet to unveil his other nominees. Should he decide to tow the same path of youth inclusion, what ideal qualities do you expect in a youth nominee?
May be I’m feeling like this about Ms. Kolo’s nomination because I know there are more qualified and obviously more experienced young people even within the Kwara APC.
When the PDP youths in Oyo state challenged Gov. Seyi Makinde for appointing the 27-year-old Seun Fakorede who they claimed was not a PDP member, the governor challenged them to give him someone with a better CV amongst them and he will gladly drop Seun. I can give the governor more than five young people in Kwara today who have better CVs than Ms. Kolo, even in Kwara North where she hails from, provided what is already in public domain is all there is to her profile.
So if the governor is looking to appoint more young people into government, I’ll really like him to consider creative minds who have verifiable proof of what they have done with their brains. I’ll like to see a young person who has done something impressive and who is considered to have shown promise and prospect within any field of endeavor he or she must have been engaged in.
If you were in a position to suggest names of outstanding youth leaders to the Governor, who would you recommend?
Unfortunately, I’m not. And even if I were, I was told my governor accepts no recommendations as he’s his own man. So I’ll just pocket my recommendation.
What challenges do you think Ms. Kolo would be confronted with as Commissioner if confirmed?
Well, I think no matter the level of brilliance she possesses, she will encounter difficulties in managing the complex workplace relationship, especially the type involving civil servants who have been well entrenched in the system. She will also most certainly be limited in terms of managerial experience required to drive the vision of whatever ministry she will be sent to. For me, I think the governor is just planning to dump someone who should be learning to swim in a pond in an Olympia size swimming pool. I pray this experiment works out fine.
Has Governor Abdulrazaq satisfied your estimation of an ideal governor nearly four months after assuming office?
I do not think it’s fair for someone like me who has never even been a Councillor to assess the Governor of a state. So the only estimation I have of the governor are the general remarks about his performance which I garnered from people and on the social media space.
So far so good, the verdict is that, all things considered, he hasn’t done so badly and he also has a tremendous chance to record improvements and progress going forward.