Rinsola Abiola, 28, and Najibullah Tafida, 31, are running for seats in the House of Representatives in the February 26 elections.
Ms Abiola is the daughter of late Moshood Abiola, the winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election annulled by the military regime of Ibrahim Babangida. An advocate of gender equity and youth inclusion in politics, she wants to represent the Abeokuta North/Odeda/Obafemi Owode Federal Constituency of Ogun State under the platform of Action Democratic Party (ADP).
Mr Umar is running for the seat of Argungu/Augie Federal Constituency in Kebbi State under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The two young candidates participated in a question and answer session on a new TV show tagged ‘Ready to Run’ hosted by Samson Itodo on Channels TV.
The 45-minute weekly show is an initiative of the Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth, and Advancement (YIAGA) in partnership with the Not Too Young To Run Movement, Channels Television and PREMIUM TIMES.
They spoke on what they plan to do if elected.
Ready Too Run: Why are you running for office?
Mr Najibullah: I am running to change the narrative and the political system in the country because the youth for a long time have been sidelined. Since 1999, we have not yet had any representation even though the youth are over 60 percent of the population of the country. So, as it is, we are not involved in making the decisions that affect our day to day lives. That is the reason why I came out to contribute my own quota to my constituency, to make sure the youth are carried along.
Ready Too Run: For the purpose of our viewers out there and for the people of your constituency, what is the content of your manifesto?
Mr Najibullah: We are looking to get the youth engaged and give them skills and get employment for them. And again, when I get there, we are going to help women with empowerment. Women have to be part of the system as well because women contribute a large quota to the development of the nation. Like where I am from, agriculture is a keynote for development. We are going to be looking at the agriculture system to create employment for the youth and empowering them with skills.
Ready Too Run: It is interesting to hear you mention the women. As a federal lawmaker, do we see you stand in the forefront on the gender bill?
Mr Najibullah: Yes, definitely.
Ready Too Run: Ms Abiola, why did you leave the All Progressives Congress (APC)?
Ms Abiola: As you likely noted, I have always stood for youth inclusion and women inclusion, off course, and during the struggle for the Not Too Young To Run bill to be passed, I was also very active trying to see to it that young Nigerians are able to achieve and secure inclusion for the entire generation, not just this one, but generations to come.
When I said I wanted to run for office, I was told pointblank that people like me should probably be considered to be running for councillorship and personal references to my father, talking about how he was there for a very long time, I was told I did not have what it takes to run. And, of course, I was told if I dared to challenge those who are telling me, there would be consequences. But for me, I drew a lot of strength from my father, he gave up his life fighting for this democracy and this was during the military era.
And if my father could stand up and challenge the military era then, so who am I to say I am afraid to fight for what I believe in a democratic dispensation? I believe strongly that a democratic institution should not be used for dictatorship or tyranny of any form.
And I felt as young people; if we continue and just seat and abide by the rules that are handed down and then been told to go up and queue until it is your turn, that time would never actually come. I don’t want to be 52 and still struggling to be running for a state House of Assembly in Ogun State. That is what they expect us to do, and we are not going to take our rightful place for as long as we are afraid to do the needful. So I stood up and I said I was going to leave. I consulted very widely and my people told me to go ahead.
For that, I don’t have any regret whatsoever. At that time I did not see any other option. Also, the event following my departure has shown I have a valid reason to leave the party.
Looking at my people, I have been working at the National Assembly, I just resigned on December 31. I am very familiar with the process. I know that the duties of the legislature are actually into three parts. They make law, they perform oversight functions that are to show that the national resources are actually spent on things that matter for the people. The third part is adding federal presence to the constituency. In my constituency that I am running to represent, you could actually see that government presence there is very little, especially in Obafemi-Owode in Abeokuta North and at the federal level there is nothing going on there.
Water is a huge problem. In that area, there is no water for my people to work with and there are no roads. When you have priorities, I believe we have sacrificed the welfare of our people on the altar of showbiz. We invested in things that do not have impact on the lives of the people. We have a lot of people in rural communities, I was at a village called Alabata and there was no health centre in that village. People have to travel all the way to Odeda to get to a hospital and the roads are bad.
Ready Too Run: What do you intend to do about it?
Ms Abiola: I would see to it that federal attention is drawn to those infrastructure deficits that fall under the federal government. Take the Adato-Odeda road, for instance. And the population density in that area is very high. These are the things that need to be worked on.
In agriculture, the office can actually find a way to partner with development agencies to help train my people with skills.
Ready Too Run: Question for Najibullah. Do you think you would win this election?
Najibullah: Certainly. I have been running my campaign for over a year now. I have been going to the grassroots, my campaign has been local, it has been from ward to ward. I had my consultations first before they opened the space for the campaign, and we are going out in mass to call for support as the youth have a large population. My father is a politician as well, we have gathered support as well. We are going for the older people as well. They also think it is time to change and bring the youth into politics.
Ready Too Run: What is your position on restructuring?
Mr Najibullah: Well, restructuring for me is a matter of interest. Different parts of the country feel they are being marginalised and they don’t get federal attention in their area enough. For me and the northerners, or let me say in my own constituency, we are not ready for restructuring yet.
Ms Abiola: I think in restructuring there are elements that politicians are really not particular about. When you talking about restructuring, you are talking of devolution of power, you are referring to reviewing the revenue allocation formula upwards or downwards, depending on what part of the fence you standing on.
But I believe the revenue allocation formula should be reviewed upwards in favour of states.
Talking about local government autonomy, I am making reference to developmental issues in my area. One of the key reasons things are the way they are is because the local government is not empowered to do the needful.
As an elected representative, I would be supporting the call for local government autonomy. If someone else sponsors that bill before I do the constitution amendment bill, I would give my full support to it.
Talking about the devolution of powers, insecurity, for instance, although that is another issue that depends on what side of the fence you standing on. Again devolution, for instance, you take to state police, we could look at mines and minerals, natural resources.
So when you are referring to restructuring, these are all the things that we are referring to. I think we need to be very specific on what we want.
Ready Too Run: Mr Najibullah, how are you dealing with funding and do you have sponsors?
Mr Najibullah: Not really. My friends organised the funding and they did organise a good amount for the funding
Ms Abiola: Fundraising has been quite challenging for me. I have exhausted my savings. A number of times, and people do not want to understand that you are young and you are female. Well, I have had the support of friends and family associates and total strangers who I had never met. As young people, we need resources. I am running against people who are richer and more experienced. It has been really challenging. I am really hoping, as time goes on, I would be able to raise more funds.
Ready Too Run: What do you think about the salaries of legislators? Are you comfortable with the current salary structure?
Ms Abiola: As I have said, I worked at the National Assembly, so following the open NASS campaign, I do not know what exactly the salary is, so I cannot speak on that.
Mr Najibullah: Well, maybe when we get there.