The Nigerian government like others in the world formulates policies and rolls out programs for the benefit and well being of the citizens. For any serious government, the main policy must be the wellbeing of the citizens. All other policies should rally around that.
It is in this pursuance of well being for the citizens that the issue of youth engagement and youth related programs become imperative to building a progressive society and nation.
It is a general belief that the youth are the fulcrum of the society, their sustenance is invariably the sustenance of society. No nation succeeds by alienating her youths. The youth can’t remain stagnant, but must be empowered by the state. So, through meaningful youth involvement, young people can transform systems, empower communities and infuse adult-driven institutions with youth power.
On the 2020 commemoration of the International Youth Day, HRM. Oba Ayodeji Adesoye, the Elepe of Epe-Ekiti rightly stated, “A lot has been said about how the youth are the bone of the State, the core of society, the energy that spins action and progress. Yet it seems we focus so much on the State, society, action and progress that we lose sight of the youth”. His Royal Majesty charged both the national and global policy makers on the need to sustain the youth from disengaging from the society by addressing poverty problem, unemployment and unpleasant business environment.
As an avid observer of the Nigerian political history, I can boldly say that no Nigerian leader, past or present, has invested so much in the youths more than the current Nigerian Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.
Ever since the country’s no. 2 and the former Attorney General of Lagos State took over his office, not only has he created values for his office – which hitherto is widely believed to be an appendage with no definite role except such that is assigned by the President – he has relentlessly addressed issues affecting the youth through youth employment, skills acquisition, empowerment and a lot more.
Right from the campaign train, Vice President Osinbajo has reiterated that Nigerian youths are integral to the nation’s economic advancement.
Under the supervision of Osinbajo, in June 2016, the biggest Social Investment Programme on the African continent was launched with the basic aim of creating a safety net in an emerging economy like Nigeria. The National Social Investment Programme had over 60 percent of its beneficiaries as youths who were employed under the N-power scheme; an initiative that employed 500,000 youths to address the issues of youth unemployment and help increase social development.. This scheme was a huge success that attracted commendations within and outside the continent of Africa.
In the process of extolling the versatility of an average Nigerian youth, Professor Osinbajo has succeeded in revealing to the world the goldmine that lies deep inside the youths of this country. A perfect case study to buttress this fact was the VP’s visit to some tech companies like Paystack. The visit to Paystack changed the story of that indigenous start-up company. Recently, an American firm, Stripe, invested a whopping $200million in Paystack. I believe this can only happen when you have a leader that will go lengths to showcase you to the world.
On developing our digital economy, Osinbajo also facilitated the recent decision of global technology giants – Google Inc., HUAWEI, Microsoft Corporation and top social networking company, Facebook – to partner with the Federal Government for the benefit of the Nigerian people, especially the young.
Let’s not also forget that VP Osinbajo on the 16th of August 2016 invited Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg to Nigeria, which culminated in Zuckerberg’s first trip to Sub-Saharan Africa. Zuckerberg’s visit to Nigeria began to yield good results exactly a year after, when in October 2017, Facebook launched its first African SME Council in Nigeria in order to support small and medium sized businesses throughout Africa.
The company consequently chose 15 Nigerian business owners who use the Facebook platform effectively across various industries and locations in Nigeria, and provided them with digital tools to drive customer growth.
As a result of this, in November 2017, Facebook announced Nigeria Initiatives to help further drive innovation, skills development and economic impact across Nigeria.
Afterwards, in May 2018, NG_HUB was launched in Yaba, Lagos, as the training aspect of Facebook’s Nigeria Initiatives also promised to train and support 50,000 students, SMEs and entrepreneurs across Nigeria through a series of digital skills training in partnership with hubs across Nigeria.
In July 2018, VP Osinbajo led a government delegation to the US where he visited Silicon Valley, regarded as the headquarters of some leading global technology companies, where he met with Google CEO, Sundar Pichai, and other top executives.
During the visit, Osinbajo met with investors and CEOs and showcased the progress made in the country’s technology, innovation and creative space, as well as the country’s tech sector’s potential, which attracted significant interests from investors in Nigeria’s tech space.
The VP’s visit to Silicon Valley and Facebook Campus in 2018 has helped to boost the Federal Government’s digital drive while leading to significant improvement in the country’s digital space. It has also facilitated Google’s launch of free public Wi-Fi service in Abuja, an initiative expected to create more economic opportunities for Nigerians through bridging societal gaps by providing free Internet access, which will improve access to information, tools of education, opportunities and expansion for many Nigerians.
In the last few years, Nigerian tech entrepreneurs have raised million-dollar investments, and there has been an increased interest in the African continent’s tech space.
Likewise, Microsoft has opened an engineering office in Nigeria, and Google has started an accelerator programme, while IBM has launched the Digital Nation Africa project.
To help Nigerian women start and grow their own businesses, Facebook also launched #SheMeansBusiness in March 2018. Earlier in February of the same year, Facebook partnered with over 20 non-governmental organisations across Africa to launch the Safer Internet Initiatives in order to raise awareness of emerging online issues and explore ways to make the Internet safer for users.
Also, in partnership with African entertainment streaming platform Afrinolly, Facebook launched Facebook for Creators in July 2018, with plans to train 3000 creators and 2000 journalists across Nigeria on how to leverage Facebook products to showcase their work, increase awareness and engage audiences online. The programme pilot held in August 2018 in Lagos.
Following Osinbajo-led FG delegation visit to Silicon Valley in 2018, the Facebook plan to open an office in Lagos, as its Nigeria office, will be the first on the continent to house a team of expert engineers building for the future of Africa and beyond.
The Lagos office, expected to become fully operational in 2021, will support the entire Sub-Saharan Africa. According to Facebook, the “office will be home to various teams servicing the continent from across the business, including Sales, Partnerships, Policy, Communications as well as Engineers.”
In the wake of the EndSARS crisis that almost tore the entire country apart due to the alleged excesses and brutalities of some of the operatives of the Nigerian Police Force, Osinbajo in his usual fashion of hitting the nail on the head wasted no time in addressing the issue . In strong terms, he condemned the untoward profiling and extrajudicial killings of Nigerian youths by her Police Force. In fact Professor Osinbajo was the first public office holder to speak against Police Brutality and other forms of abuse.
At last year’s October meeting with the executive committee of the Young Parliamentarians Forum led by its Chairman, Simon Elisha at the Presidential Villa, the Vice President again re-established his commitment to ensuring that the Nigerian youth’s place in governance is sacrosanct. He said, ”The youth are not just a demography but in the majority, what we need to do for that vast majority is what we must do for our country. We must find a way so they are represented as effectively as possible.”
Osinbajo’s chief political asset has been his ability to excite young people like no other politician in Nigerian history. For me, he remains Nigeria’s most active and youth-serving Vice President in democratic history, leaving his footprints on the sand of time.
Oluwafemi Popoola is a journalist and poet. He writes from Ibadan. He can be reached via E-mail: [email protected]