INTERVIEW: Commonwealth Youth Council will unite youth structures in Nigeria, others- Chairperson

The CYC chairman outlines his organisation’s agenda.

Ahmed Adamu was elected as the Chairperson of the Commonwealth Youth Council on November 12 in Hambantota, Sri Lanka. He spoke to PREMIUM TIMES on how his position would benefit the Nigerian youth, as well as his other plans.

PREMIUMTIMES: Congratulations on your election. Tell us about the Commonwealth Youth Council and your new responsibilities.

Well, thank you. Emerging as the first-ever Chairman of the world largest youth-led organisation could not be an easy thing. Imagine leading over 1.2 billion young people from 53 different countries, and from different ethnic, regional, and economic backgrounds; it definitely puts me in a position of huge responsibility and expectations.

Being the first commonwealth youth leader, we have to learn things, then work it out, and then improve on that, and the fact that we have only two years, we have to learn fast and work harder to achieve the desired result.

The Commonwealth Youth Council, CYC, was established by the Commonwealth Heads of Governments in line with the Commonwealth Charter. It was established to play an integral role in advancing the youth development agenda and the co-ordination of activities and policies of the Commonwealth in the field of youth. The council shall work for and represent the voice of all young people within the commonwealth. CYC is the largest and most diverse youth-led organisation in the world. It is the recognised voice of more than 1.2 billion young people of the Commonwealth and it provides a framework for youth-led development initiatives.

How do you think this would impact on an average Nigerian youth?

First, I will say it has given every young Nigerian a sense of pride and inspiration. Seeing your brother rising to lead young people at a global level, it is a plus to Nigeria and Nigerians. As a Nigerian, I am always aware of the images I am carrying; I am carrying the image of myself, my race, my country and my continent. I will do my best to give an excellent impression of the constituencies I am representing. The Commonwealth Youth Council has lots of plans for young people, we have put in place different mechanisms to support young people in different capacities, and I want to assure Nigerians and other Commonwealth youths that we will use our influence to change the lives of millions of youths. The CYC is empowered primarily by the Commonwealth Heads of Governments, and with the support from every head of government, we shall be able achieve lots for the Commonwealth youth.

What is your agenda?

The immediate things we are preparing to do – like in the next one or two months – include the country advocacy tour. We would wish to visit every Commonwealth country, but going round the whole 53 nations in two years may not be possible considering the enormous responsibilities we also need to embark on; but we will go round as many of these countries as possible.

The purpose of the advocacy tour is to have the opportunity to meet with the youth leaders and the youth, and hear from them. They will tell us what they want us to do for them, and what are the concerns or agitations they want us to advocate on their behalf. We will then study their National youth organisation structures. If there is any crisis within the national youth leadership, we will interfere and resolve it. We will then meet the president of the country to brief him/her and advocate what the youth want. It will give us the opportunity to establish direct relationship with the government of the country and create room for partnerships and support.

During the visit we will also visit some youth development projects. This is important for the annual Commonwealth Youth Award of Excellence, CYAE, where the CYC will nominate Heads of Governments for the CYAE. The youth decide who the awards should go to; we have different award categories.

We also have a very fantastic youth programmes and projects, which we are compiling now. They are within the areas of health and reproductive issues, democracy and good governance, education, ICT, Entrepreneurship, etc All of these require huge amounts of money, and we will partner with all relevant stakeholders to achieve our mutual objectives. We may not completely implement all these, but I am sure building a foundation for the CYC is something that will go down in the history of commonwealth youth.

What do you think are the major challenges the Commonwealth Youth are faced with and how can they be tackled?

Young people constitute more than 60 per cent of the Commonwealth population, and they are the highest percentage with regards to vulnerability, poverty and insecurity. The youth are the hope of the present and the future, and to have a secure future Commonwealth, we need to know their problems and how to solve it.

I will now speak from my personal experience, the major youth problems are lack of quality education, quality employment, and professional skills. Once you give the youth the required education, and provide them with competitive and lucrative employment opportunities or train them on different professional skills, you have empowered them.

Presently, an online youth survey is going on to hear directly from the Youth on what they think are the first six steps to improving their lives. This is done by the United Nation to hear the opinions of people, so that the global leaders would be informed as they begin the process of defining the new development agenda for the world. I encourage young people to fill in the My World global survey.

What is your expectation of the Commonwealth heads of state on youth?

Every two years, Commonwealth heads of governments meet, and they pay good attention to youth concerns. At the end of the meeting, they adopt youth commitments, which they would all agree to implement in their various countries. Our primary expectation of them is to implement these commitments, in addition to the Youth declaration, which is another document adopted by young people identifying their concerns and suggesting the way forward.

So, CYC as an advocate for young people would follow up to see that these two documents are implemented in every Commonwealth nation. As I mentioned, the CYC was established by the commonwealth heads of governments in line with the Commonwealth Charter, and the heads of governments agreed to support the CYC. We expect to partner and help the heads of governments in achieving their objectives in the field of youth developments.

What is your advice for the Nigerian government on youth empowerment?

My advice is to do more for the youth, Nigeria is one of the leading countries in terms of supporting young people, but the number of young people in the country is many. So you would still find majority of the young people without employment. But, as the government is doing more, private partners should complement its efforts. The situation would then be improved.

I must commend the Nigerian government for initiating the YouWin programme, which I applied for at its initial run. I was not successful but lots of my friends benefited from it. It empowered them and they were able to employ many young people.

I also commend the Nigerian government for supporting the National Youth parliament and the council as well. Like I said, my advice is to do more, and engage more young people. I was happy to see that President Goodluck Jonathan appointed a young man as his Special Adviser on Youth and Students Matters; that is commendable. We also want to see young people being engaged by the parliamentarians and their states governors, and also see them included in National delegations to international events.

Do you need any support from the Nigerian government?

Yes, we will soon be visiting Nigeria for the country advocacy tour. I will also personally visit Nigeria to meet with the President and discuss how the Nigerian government should help the CYC so that the whole world would be proud of young Nigerians.

What advice would you like to give to the National Youth Council of Nigeria, NYCN?

I think the problem with NYCN has to do with the youth themselves. Priority should be given to the system rather than the individual personalities. I recommend that the constitution be respected. I learnt that three different persons are addressing themselves as presidents of NYCN; who do want us to recognise? If we are giving support to the Nigerian youth, who is our focal point? Not only CYC, but other stakeholders who want to come and invest in the youth, who should they contact?

So, my initial advice to them is that they should resolve their differences as it would cost them and the Nigerian Youth in general.

We would set up a committee to study the whole issue and give us a report. We would then act objectively based on the committee’s report. One of the CYC primary responsibilities is to unite, consolidate and unify youth-led structures within Commonwealth nations. Some countries have similar problems like Nigeria; we will go and fix their problems. For countries, that do not have national youth bodies, we will partner with the governments of those countries to establish that. Our jurisdiction is to ensure every Commonwealth nation has a well-structured and organised youth leadership. Every country in the Commonwealth have signed and agreed to give the CYC the responsibility to ensure harmony and coordination of youth activities within the Commonwealth.

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