PDP Is Ready for Pro-People Governance -Olawale Rasheed

A governorship aspirant of the Peoples Democratic Party in Osun state, Mallam Olawale Rasheed has affirmed that the party is ready for a pro-people government with a validated governance agenda.

In a statement issued on Tuesday and signed by the Chairman, Policy Committee of his Campaign Organization, Dr Arowolo Olusegun, the aspirant posited that the current leadership tussle within the party is “a temporary hiccup which in no way affects the policy and governance preparedness of the party once it secures the peoples’ mandate by September next year.

” We make bold to declare that the PDP is not only ready for governance but for pro-people leadership and programmes that will attend to the wishes and aspirations of our people. Our agenda is not just good governance but people-centered policies designed to restore the well being of the state.

“We are convinced that the goal of any responsive government is the welfare of the citizens. Our policies are thus tailored towards placing human development as major preoccupation especially as the current administration has relegated same to the backwater of governance.PDP governance mantra is power and greatest good to the public.

“We have sustainable alternative programmes and policies in education,health,youth development,infrastructure ,the real sector as well an action plan to rid the state of huge debt within a two term tenure. Our policy focus is about community and societal prosperity through pro-people programmes”,the statement noted.

The governorship aspirant posited further that the party’s policy plan will address issues such as accessibility and affordability of higher education,youth employment and employability crisis,sustainable workers’ welfare and diaspora support and integration,adding that “a validated local content plan on infrastructure development is already concluded.

“Most importantly ,we will embark on large scale open government initiatives.We will in practical terms embrace open budget,access to information,open procurement and strict transparency and accountability in government finance. In short,a PDP government will return governance to the people”,the statement concluded.

Nigeria @57: Poverty As Threat To Democracy, By Olawale Rasheed

Public discourse on state of the nation appears to concentrate more on national structure as the real danger facing the republic and democracy. The nation focuses on nature of our federalism and why adjustment is the route to survival. I think we are missing the main threat today-grinding poverty among the citizenry.

The best national structure can be compromised; the best constitution can be subverted when the populace is hungry with no hope of sustainable survival. Operators of democratic machine from top to bottom of national ladder will cut corners for many reasons. While we expect the leaders and public servants to be above board, they are faced with army of desperate and poverty stricken citizens, whose language is survival irrespective of the source of poverty alleviating largesse. The officials and the citizens are married in unholy game of survival with poverty becoming a preferred weapon of choice in some depraved settings.

I make bold to say that poverty will compromise any referendum or plebiscite that may be held in case of a new constitution.

The situation is becoming increasingly unsustainable as the rich are targets of criminal offensive even as the armies of criminals grow by the day. Major junctions in our towns are now controlled by gangs to whom the leaders pay protection fees. The grassroots is deeply challenged as economic machine of the local level has been largely destroyed due to the paralysis of the local government. Purchasing g power of the people is decimated as many states owe salaries and pensions even after billions of naira of bailout funds. The central government is overwhelmed as state governments have successfully lured the public to blame Abuja rather than their governors.

The consequence is that there is an increasing elite migration to Abuja. In a bid to escape pressure at home, top leaders have switched to staying more in their Abuja residences than ever before. Interestingly, the masses are also migrating to Abuja to have a taste of commonwealth cake. The satellite towns are now homes to thousands of new arrival with Abuja population now estimated to be close to six million. Thousands storm the municipal every morning seeking jobs and support. Around Maitama and Asokoro are emerging fresh slum populations. Street boys are popping up in various corners and criminal attacks within the capital are increasing with alarming proportion. The poor are taken the battle to the abode of the elites.

Thus when the debate about restructuring takes the center stage, I wonder what we are thinking about human misery that is gradually enveloping us. If you restructure –which is a difficult task-what do you do to the troubling question of mass poverty? The best of constitution to emerge from that federal reform is sure to fail as no one –not the millions struggling to survive-will obey it. It will be subverted even more easily at the state level where Governors are tin gods. Expecting reform to aid poverty solution is a false hope as electoral inducement will stop genuine patriots from getting elected.

First, genuine patriotic leaders can rarely emerge under a poverty ridden democracy. Yes. Real leaders with patriotic desire to serve the people can hardly make it at election because of poverty crisis. Voters who are hungry and bedeviled with multiple survival questions can hardly make right decision. He wants to survive first before thinking of what happens tomorrow. He has issues he wants to address now and he is ready to collect money from the devil to survive. His vision of the ideal leader is blurred by survivalist rationalization. So he may vote for the armed robber who appears on the ballot if that is the highest bidder. There was a time in India when close to half of
the legislature were confirmed criminals. Until recently many state governors in that big democracy are leaders of criminals organizations.

In society where poverty crisis is substantially addressed, voters’ judgment is influenced by patriotic evaluation of the antecedent and integrity of the candidates. In fact, western democracy survives and blossoms for that long because voters across western world are not within poverty trap. Offering inducements as the sole basis for getting elected is a failed strategy in North America and Western Europe. Nigeria and other African countries can hardly compare with such settled societies because the voters here operate within poverty cage, a condition that negatively affects electoral judgments.

It is also a fact that as the poverty level decreases, citizens’ challenge to the leaders and rulers increases. In Uganda, President Yuweri Museveni has succeeded in reducing poverty level to less than 30 percent of the population. Interestingly, resistance to his rule is growing on daily basis. Why? The voters are released from state of perpetual want. They are empowered to rightly exercise their democratic rights to vote and be voted for. The same scenario is playing out in Rwanda.

Poverty is an existential threat to democracy for many reasons. Democratic rights cannot be judiciously exercised in a state of fear of tomorrow occasioned by survival demand. Two, Poverty enables the criminal world by supplying needed manpower. Hence the wrongly elected have armies of militant to suppress the needy and the hungry. Three, citizen docility is encouraged as majority of the citizens are worried more about what to eat than how the state is governed. Four, the leaders are complacent as they have adopted poverty as an electoral weapon to be deployed at each election circle.

But is it possible for poverty crisis to work the other way? Can it make the populace to rise against their oppressors? Can the citizens sacrifice to liberate themselves from clutches of oppressors? Can they reject inducement and vote for the right leaders? Nothing is impossible. People of Osun state did just that in 2003.This may however be an exception to the rule.

I maintain that poverty may not just kill democracy but may even enthrone a dictatorship. I restate that our challenge now is not the structure of government; it is about the conditions of the citizenry and the leaders. Poverty stricken population cannot hold their leaders accountable. If leaders are not accountable, democracy is imperiled.

*Olawale Rasheed is an Abuja based media entrepreneur.


Int’l Youth Day: Where is the Youth Development Infrastructure?

By Olawale Rasheed

International Youth Day is celebrated annually to refocus attention of government to the deep seated crisis facing the youth sector. The annual ritual is increasingly irrelevant and ineffective in tackling the myriads of developmental challenges confronting the youth.

The question is –where is youth development infrastructure?

Across African continent, there is a reprehensible deficiency in handling the youth sector. With the exception of few countries like South Africa, Kenya and Ghana to an extent, youth sector is treated with kid gloves with elected officials equating unsustainable empowerment with okada as youth development. An open aversion for mechanics of youth growth and development exists in most Sub-Sahara Africa. That is a major drawback to national development as the youth defined as age 18 to 35 forms the fulcrum of productive sector of the society.

In Europe and North America, the sector is accorded serious attention with policy overlay covering key sections of youth life and living. Governmental programmes cover pre-youth to the post-youth level. This ensures an orderly transition within the various age ranges within the population.

There exists over there a deliberate crafting of policies covering youth education, employment, leadership and networking. Youth transition policies are jointly anchored by government, her agencies, non-governmental organizations and series of institutions devoted to youth studies.

In Nigeria, several governments in the past have made attempt to create a sustainable youth development infrastructure for the country. From National Youth Policy to youth development centers, succeeding governments pushed for a renewed attention to the youth sector. The golden age of that attempt was during the Sheu Musa Yar’Adua presidency when Nigerian youth assumed prime position within government policy politics. The Minister of Youth Development then, Senator Akinlabi Olasunkanmi introduced far reaching reforms and innovations to the youth sector.

A conscious attempt was made to create a functioning youth development infrastructure for the country. Many policies initiatives were introduced and Nigeria was a reference point for other nations in the youth sector. In several international fora, Nigeria and her many policies and innovations on youth were cited as a model.

What were those integrated youth infrastructures introduced during the Yar’Adua presidency? First, the National Youth Policy was remodeled and upgraded to best practice, with new areas of youth growth inserted and with an implementable action plan included. This was not just a documents but a living road map specifying milestones and attainments level before the next review.

This was followed by the introduction of National Youth Mainstreaming policy which insists that all government sectors must have a youth desk and should always factor youth benefits and cost in government programs before implementation. The goal was to ensure that government serves the youth whether it be in construction, health, culture or education. Despite stiff resistance, the policy was approved by the Federal Executive Council. Today it is thrown into the dustbin.

After this was the enlarged policy document on the National Youth Development Center. The reasoning then was that youth training and socialization demands focal points across the nooks and crannies of the country. The goal was to ensure that a well-equipped youth center exists across the senatorial districts and later within each local government, training youth in skills, providing counseling and networking spots for the youth. Some of the youth centers were built even though they are in wasting away across the country.

Worried over lack of youth access to finance for entrepreneurship ventures, the National Youth Fund was proposed and modeled after successful ones in Kenya and South Africa. Those who think too much is going to the youth killed the initiative.

Equally disturbed by the threatening joblessness among youth, a National Youth Employment Action Plan was created in collaboration with the International Labour Organization {ILO]. That plan is gathering dust in government shelf.

Looking into political leadership training for youth, the National Youth Parliament was established. The programme seeks to have each state having three youth parliamentarians, with all of them assembling on quarterly basis in Abuja to deliberate on youth related issues. Their resolution is to be passed to the National Assembly for further action. Each state is to proceed to establish similar parliament with each local government having a representative and their resolution to be submitted to the state assembly.

The Speaker of Akwa Ibom House of Assembly today was the pioneer speaker of the Nigerian Youth Parliament. That is an example of how leadership training can benefit the youth in the nation’s political process. But sadly, most states ignored the idea of state youth parliament.

Sad enough, most items listed above are neither followed through nor implemented as conceived in line with international best practice. Subsequent governments have relapsed to treating youth development as one or two day empowerment event. The proposed transformation of the National Youth Service Corps was abandoned. The National Youth Council of Nigeria, a once virile umbrella body for Nigerian youth, was diluted. Growing gang culture and drug crisis elicit no policy response. Even insurgency has not forced a rethink about the abandonment of the National Youth Employment Action Plan.

Nigeria today lacks functioning youth development infrastructure very critical to meaningful resolution of problems and crisis facing the youth. The more we see more okada and wheel barrows as youth development, the more the crisis of national stability will deepen, the more the nation risks an implosion from youth discontent.

We can still act before it is too late. Government at all levels should craft best practice youth policies and follow through implementation. A stich in time saves nine.

*Olawale Rasheed, a former Ministerial Adviser at the Federal Ministry of Youth Development, writes from Abuja