* Youth want war against poverty and ignorance
By Samuel Ese, Yenagoa
With the next governorship election in Bayelsa State just a matter of months away, there has been a renewed zeal among stakeholders for inclusion in the poll which could be a way forward for the state after 20 years of democratic governance.
One important stakeholder group is the youth bracket, which also comprises students and make up over 60 percent of the population, that has rarely enjoyed any benefits due to what they described as policies and programmes that are skewed against them.
Though they have always participated in all elections, the roles they have played have been ignoble as they succumbed to unscrupulous politicians who saw them as only fit to be thugs, ballot box snatchers and expendables thus making it difficult for them to be reckoned as progressives.
But, that is set to change going by their declarations at a one-day youth summit organised by a non-governmental organisation, Coalition for Development and Democracy in Bayelsa (CDDB) in Yenagoa.
The summit with the theme: Building Bayelsa Together Through Participatory Democracy: The Youth Perspective, the attendance exceeded all expectations as the event which was projected to host 300 youths saw over 500 present, which underscored the importance they placed on the major issues raised at the summit.
Since 1999, Bayelsa State has been governed by four different governors and though within that period a number of tertiary institutions have been established as well as vocational centres including arts and craft centres and a youth development centre, the youth cannot be said to be holding their own.
As they observed during the event, they are raced with the twin challenges of ignorance and poverty while the education system lacked deliverables as students continue to engage in drug abuse, thuggery and violent crimes.
This could be due to lack of opportunities, scholarships that are out of the reach of children of the poor, imposition of candidates on the electorate and absence of consultations between elected representatives and their constituents among others.
In the communiqué on the way forward and signed by CDDB Executive Director, Ekiyor Welson, the youth stressed the need for a declaration of a campaign against the twin challenges of ignorance and poverty.
They agreed to build a consensus and use their large population to lead a revolution against bad leaders in order to right the wrongs in the education system which is skewed against students from poor background.
They called on youth across the state to “shun all inducements in electing the best candidates during elections” and “make electoral choices for the growth and development of the state.”
The communique also called on legislators to hold consultations with their constituents in order to entrench a bottom-top approach to the issue of development while the evil of imposition of candidates on the electorate should cease in the state.
On drug abuse, the youth were advised to desist and pursue the best education while calling on the government to ensure that scholarships are awarded to indigent students on merit and not patronage.
They called for an uncompromising stance to exterminate negative effects of poor leadership, self reliance and urged government to provide adequate opportunities for the youth.
It was a promising start for the youth to ensure their proper participation at the forthcoming poll if indeed they would engage whoever emerges governor on the challenges confronting them and use their huge population to lead the revolution to put right those issues bedeviling them.
Speaker after speaker, from traditional rulers to politicians, highlighted the issues at the core of why the youth have been unable to play their proper roles in the society and rather are at the beck and call of those who only use them as means to actualise their aspirations.
A governorship hopeful, Reuben Okoya, in his goodwill message, gave a salient advice to politicians in the state, an advice that should apply to the entire nation, that politics should not be a full time job arguing that the strength of a good politician is the ability to stay away from politics and still survive.
Okoya urged the youth to play active roles in politics saying “I want young men to go into politics, but also have the capacity to survive out of politics so that they will have dignity and honour.”
He challenged them to pursue those things they are good at in practice such as law, medicine and agriculture before engaging in politics pointing out that he is a living proof of that kind of independence.
“I am a living proof. Nobody can blackmail or make me do anything because I’m an independent person. I have my own private business which I run. So, if I go into politics and it is not favourable, I go back without rancour.
“I’m not going to kill anybody because somebody told me to kill somebody. Bayelsa people have to realise that politics is not a profession. It is not a full time profession. It is a part time profession. You go, you serve and you leave.”
The keynote speaker, Charles Ambaoiwei, a one-time Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure in the state, expressed dissatisfaction over the management of the state by politicians blaming them for the woes being experienced.
Ambaoiwei traced the history of the state and delved into the challenges facing the youth vis a vis the types of leaders that have engendered this challenges typified by the phrase that “just call yourself a leader and the gullible will take you as a leader.”
He threw three posers on the issues of a politicise Niger Delta, physical conquest and development of the Niger Delta and education and human capacity development while concluding that “we must be uncompromising in ensuring a peaceful disposition for the youth to participate in democratic processes and help achieve peace building, security and sustainable development of an enterprising community in Bayelsa State and the Niger Delta.”
Chairman of the occasion and monarch of Ekpetiama kingdom in Bayelsa State, Bubaraye Dakolo and royal father of the day, Joshua Igbagara, monarch of Oyaikhri kingdom also urged the youth to shun negative tendencies, get good education and make good electoral choices.
Youth leaders, Governor Henry Seriake Dickson’s appointees and others were all unanimous in their calls on the youth to hold their place, become self reliant and play their proper roles in the society.
For keen observers at the event, it was an awakening of a sleeping giant as the youth were vociferous in their calls for inclusiveness and participation in all forthcoming elections in the state.
Going by their declarations, the youth could be a major factor in the determination of the next governor of the state and with their sheer weight of numbers could hold the governor accountable if they make their votes to count.