Abdullahi Maibasira is the National Youth Leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this interview, he claims that the defection of five governors from the PDP has not weakened the base of the party. He also expresses confidence that the 2015 elections will play a vital role in the unity of Nigeria. Excerpts:
Youths usually play very important role in the country's general elections. What is your plan for the young generation ahead of the 2015 elections?
I want to begin by saying that we would build on the President's election proclamation of one man, one vote, one woman, one vote and one youth, one vote. That is the party's position as far as election is concerned. I will also build on the fact that as a patriot, I find it difficult and personally impossible to fragment Nigeria across North and South. What I see is an entire country of active young men and women who have the capacity to move forward not only Nigeria but Africa. And with the necessary policies that the PDP government has given over the years, private participation in the economy, we would be able to utilise the energies of these young people as asset to the country.
Coming back to your question, we will propose that 2015 elections should not be an election that would mar Nigeria's democracy. It should be an election that will cement the unity of this country; it should be a passing phase in the country's democracy in terms of choice available to Nigerians. The PDP as a government has been able to hold Nigeria's democracy for the longest period in Nigeria's history. Of course, as a party, we might have challenges here and there but that does not (downgrade) the legacy that this party has been able to build for Nigeria's democracy. So we expect 2015 to come and as a party and national youth leader, we will prepare for it, to mobilise our base and our youth organisations will prepare to ensure that the youth base of the party across the country actively participate in that election. They should not subject themselves to any form of violence before, during and after the elections. They should not allow themselves to be used as agents of destruction, disruption or thuggery. As a party, we are confident that our record would be able to see us through.
Are you engaging the leadership of PDP to ensure more participation and inclusion of youths in government?
As you are aware, the President is very concerned and interested in the youths and their affairs. It was the President who, through his leadership and authority, insists that the party should have youth leader coming from among the youth themselves and it is that same President who is the leader of the party. And as a member of the National Working Committee (NWC), we are also looking at the avenue to further entrench youth within the party to give them necessary opportunity to advance their political aspirations. PDP is a party that accommodates all interests and persons, irrespective of how we are and where we come from, in recognition of the fact that the bulk of Nigeria's electorate is the youth. The party will definitely give opportunity for young people to aspire to positions in their career posts in 2015.
How do you think PDP will be affected in the 2015 elections following the defection of some of its key members to the APC?
As a party, we have faced challenges in the past and these are not new to any democratic organisation and we have had our turbulent moment and period. It is our hope that these challenges will form part of our history that will further strengthen the foundation of the party. But as youths, we are also mindful of these challenges and the present situation around the party. What I can say is that as youths of this party, we affirm our unity to an indivisible PDP and as a major constituency of this party, we believe in the political activities, scripture and the guiding principles of this party. It is our fervent hope and prayer that these challenges would come to pass. We are more than confident of the President's capacity to handle these challenges and certain of the roles of the stakeholders, elders and founding fathers of this party who will, of course, undertake necessary measures to reinstall confidence in this party and ensure that the party is placed on a sound footing. But what I can assure you is that the youths of this party are solidly behind PDP and Mr President as well as the transformation agenda and unity of this party.
Has the defection of some governors and members of the National Assembly in any way affected the youth population of the party?
The defection has not in any way affected the population of the youths of this party. In every part of the country from the reports I have received from the state youth leaders across the board, we are yet to see mass exodus of young people of the party. We are doing all we can and all that is necessary and possible to ensure that we maintain the youth base of the party across the board and of course, as youths, we will also look forward to 2014 with greater vigour, energy and confidence ahead of the 2015 general elections.
What is your agenda or plan for the youths in the coming year?
As the PDP youth leader, our New Year resolution is that 2014 will be a year of political action. We are starting and more than hopeful that by next year, necessary political activities will begin to pick up and as the youth wing of the party, we have to catch up with those activities where necessary and be proactive for the greater part of next year. It will be a year of greater interaction with the youth constituency of this party across the 36 states in the country and the FCT. It is our hope that by next year, we would convene the first PDP national youth summit which will involve all ward youth leaders, zonal, states, local government youth leaders and all affiliated youth groups of the party. This would be the first time the party will be convening such a congress and it will be used to energise the youth base of the party for us to forge a common front in preparation for 2015 general elections. It will also be another opportunity for us to reflect on our constraints, challenges and the possibilities of how we can overcome those constraints and challenges. It would be an opportunity for us to sell the party's agenda and the transformation agenda of Mr President and the achievements of the transformation agenda as well as what we want to achieve as post 2015 agenda.
What can you say about the 2014 budget presentation especially on job creation as it affects the youths of this country?
I have not had the privilege yet of going through the appropriation bill page by page or sector by sector but from the name the President gave the budget, the budget has been tagged "the budget of job creation, it goes without saying that the focal direction of the government would be tailored towards creating jobs for young people; towards expanding our economic base; building greater economic and business infrastructures for the youths in the country to be able to actively participate in Nigerian's economy. Because when you have jobs, you have social security and when there is social security you have a society that will be active and able to accommodate the vibrant dynamism and innovation of the young people to fit into the economy of this country.
By and large, it is obvious from the name the President has given the budget that 2014 budget would be centred on the youths. This is a combination of a comprehensive process on the part of the President and federal government's team. If you remember in early 2012, when fuel subsidy was removed, the proceeds from the removal of subsidy was channelled into youth empowerment programmes. That gave birth to YOUWIN, SURE- P and which are on-going in various states and, I think, some other projects too in critical sectors of the economy like the agriculture which actually still holds about 75 per cent of the country's GDP has also been given critical attention. So also is the ICT programme and, I think, in 2014, it will be a consolidation of all these programmes. It is our hope and prayer that jobs would be created because that is an area where the youths will definitely get the greatest dividends of democracy.