*Says young people remain centre of policy making in FG’s investment, dev’t agenda
President Muhammadu Buhari has called on Nigerians youths to see themselves as the greatest asset the country has, and remain resilient no matter what the situation in the country may be.
Buhari, who spoke on Monday while declaring open the National Youth Conference in Abuja, advised participants to promote the unity of the country and engage the government constructively on national issues.
The theme of the conference is ‘Energizing the Youth for Development: Inclusiveness, Governance, Security and Employment.’
Represented by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Buhari reiterated the importance of youths to the development of any nation, saying that youths remained the centre of policy making in his administration’s investment and development agenda.
He said: “Wherever you are in this country, whatever you are doing, keep moving, don’t look back, you will win eventually, keep moving ahead, whatever the situation – ‘We Move’.
“Across the world, our most potent ambassadors are young Nigerians who are breaking new grounds, breaking records and winning laurels in diverse fields of endeavour.
“We recognize that our young people are this country’s most strategic asset. Investing in them is clearly investing in the economic strength and development of our nation.
“Because young people constitute the majority of our population, they are, by both default and design, at the very centre of all of our efforts to stimulate growth. From our social investments and interventions to our promotion of an innovation economy and support for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises,” he said.
Acknowledging the incredible potential, innovation and enterprise of Nigeria’s youth population, the President noted the exploits in entertainment and music, sports, technology and other sectors.
He said: “Because of the labours of our youth, in addition to being home to the third largest film industry in the world, we are the epicentre of a global and pan-African popular culture anchored to the dynamism of Nigerian creatives.
“There are also young Nigerians riding the crest wave of the information technology revolution who are pioneering new patterns of enterprise and wealth creation and in the process have established this country as the most vibrant innovation hub on the African continent.
“Our tech entrepreneurs and innovators are not just applying their talents to profit-making endeavours, but also seeking to address social problems”.
On the global recognition of the innovation of Nigerian youths, President Buhari noted the exploits of “Silas Adekunle, the robotics engineer who invented Mekamon, the world’s first intelligent gaming robot,” and ‘Max Chinnah who invented the Genesys Cooker; a smokeless stove that addresses the problem of smoke pollution, which kills an estimated 4 million people every year.
Continuing, he also noted “people like Saadat Aliyu, who runs a tech hub in Kano, has developed an app for reporting cases of sexual assault.
“Only last week, the Canon Young Champion of the Year Award – which celebrates the achievements of young people around the world who are driving social and environmental change – went to Alabi Samuel Anjolaoluwa in the Under-21s category for his inspiring project, ‘Students of Ibadan,’ which shines a light on the struggles faced by under-served students in the city of Ibadan.
“I could also speak of Ejikeme Patrick Nwosu, an organic chemist who has invented a fire-retardant paint that could drastically mitigate the risk of fire outbreaks. How about outstanding young teachers in primary and secondary schools…”
Speaking on the need to build a new Nigeria devoid of divisions and selfish narratives, and the role of young Nigerians in nation- building, the President said, “this country is ours – above and beyond partisan squabbles, disagreements and everything else – the future will be what we make of it.”
He urged youths not to succumb to hopelessness and easy cynicism, but instead harness the power of Nigeria’s diversity to drive meaningful changes in society.
The President said: “Our present challenges are, therefore, neither unique nor exceptional…This is why you must reject the temptation to inherit the biases and prejudices of your parents or of seeing the country through the jaundiced eyes of some in the generations that have gone before you.
“I urge you to build networks, partnerships and alliances in life, business and politics that transcend ethnicity, race and religion. Approach difference and diversity as an opportunity to learn, to make new friends and to add to the wealth of your experience as human beings.”
The President called on youths to also channel their energies into political participation and “in the campaign to ensure that Nigeria works for all of us.”
“My signing into law of the Not too Young to Run bill almost three years ago opened the door for youth inclusion in our political process and by extension in governance.
It is my belief that Young Nigerians should organize, mobilize and participate fully in public affairs. Your contributions are invaluable to the debate on what sort of future we want.
“While differences of opinion in respect of official policies is normal in liberal democracies such as ours, but out of respect for the rights and sensitivities of others, disagreement must be temperate and channelled through legally and socially acceptable means.
“Most importantly, we must keep our faith in our country and remain optimistic that it will serve as the locus for fulfilling our aspirations. Building a nation is an intergenerational endeavour. Governments can be changed in election cycles, but the destiny of a nation is shaped across generations.
“All that is good and great about us as a people is inherent in our youths. I know of no other set of people as obsessed with constant self-improvement as young Nigerians.
At home and abroad, this drive to not just be better, but to be the best that they can be, inspires achievements that make us all very proud,” he added.
In demonstration of the Administration’s commitment to youth development, the President said it has established youth development-focused initiatives, while scaling up on existing ones, such as the recently approved increase of N-Power beneficiaries from 500,000 to one million.
He pointed out initiatives such as the N75 billion National Youth Investment Fund and the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Creative Sector Fund, and others being carried out in collaboration with international partners.
“It is why I recently approved the investing in Digital and Creative Enterprises (I-DICE) programme, an over $600 million programme that will support young tech and creative sector entrepreneurs through the provision of finance, skills development and infrastructure.
Earlier this year we partnered with the UNDP and the private sector in the Jubilee Fellows internship programme.
“For the next 5 years, every year, 20,000 students after youth service will be given internship opportunities in private sector companies and in public agencies. The idea will be for the participants to gain relevant career and life skills that will enable them to transition seamlessly into professional, business or public sector careers, while also earning very good pay during the internship,” the President explained.
He also said that the administration was willing to engage on the outcome of the Conference’s deliberations so as to “process it quickly and seek the implementation of relevant aspects for the benefit of our youths and the country.”
Present at the event were members of the Federal Executive Council, including the Information Minister, Lai Mohammed; Women Affairs Minister, Dame Pauline Tallen; and the Youths and Sports Minister, Sunday Dare whose ministry is hosting the conference.
Dare, in his welcome remarks, said the decision to hold a delegate-based National Youth Conference was not a difficult one, adding that “after all, it is the season of the youth, with the radar on them as solution providers and the midwives of a better and more secured future.”
Other ministers at the event were the Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba; and the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Zubairu Dada.
Youth delegates from 35 States were at the opening of the conference on Monday. The Federal Government had since set aside November 1 as a National Youth Day. The day is also African Union’s Africa Youth Day.