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Not-Too-Young-To-Run: Women, youth, join Kogi 2019 race



In apparent reaction to passage of the Not-Too-Young-To-Run Bill by the Senate, Kogi State has witnessed an unusual inflow of young citizens into the political arena. Women are also not left out of the growing challenge of the old order by new faces and the relatively unknown, who have thrown their hats in the ring for various elective positions, as the 2019 polls draw near in the Confluence state.

From central, east and west Senatorial Districts, more youths and women, whose average age is 30 years, have indicated intention to aspire for governorship, senate, House of Representatives and House of Assembly elective positions.

Interestingly, they have adopted a unique approach to achieving their goal. What they do is to establish foundations and humanitarian service-based programmes, which serve as their launch pads. This is a departure from the extant standard of seeking the endorsement of godfathers.

Indeed, some of the aspirants have shunned established political parties for newly registered ones, while a good number have not yet identified with any political parties, but are rather keeping their political party allegiance close to their chests. Those in this category are moving round the nook and cranny of their constituencies without any political party identity.

These young aspirants and their supporters seem to have defied the potentially explosive competition their actions are capable of throwing up between them and the established parties and politicians.

The electorate is not left out of the growing awareness, as various youth groups at different fora have demanded for vibrant candidates, who parade a broad spectrum of firebrand revolutionaries highly determined to abolish corruption, violence, insecurity, hunger, unemployment and ethnic agitations threatening the state’s corporate existence.

A group of youths mobilising for little-known Shehu Kadri Tijani, a House of Representatives aspirant in Ajaokuta Federal Constituency, said although the people’s reasoning had been greatly influenced by big political names and in their hope for rapid transformation of the area, they were fixated on such established political parties as the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), 2019 will be different because “everyone has seen that things have really been slow.”

The youths stated in part: “Ajaokuta federal constituency has tested the PDP and APC governments. From experience, the average Ajaokuta person believes none of those parties is a better option. It is not in dispute that the people of Ajaokuta federal constituency need a new intriguing force in politics, as experience has shown that the former dominant political representations at the centre have failed Ajaokuta woefully, considering the myriad of problems plaguing the constituency. We focused on big names and political parties, as if they are the only choice in the whole of our land. The media is not helping the people to properly know other candidates and make an informed decision. What we had was almost a total blackout of others. We have other options.

“We are in the middle of an epic struggle, a very challenging phase in the history of our constituency. The on-going struggle to regenerate Ajaokuta is, of course, between genuine game changers, which means, those who want to embrace a more progressive agenda and those who are driven by a dispiriting spectacle of threadbare ideas.”

The youths canvassed for a free, democratic society, where the rule of law shall be vigorously pursued and upheld, with a view to advancing the cause of social justice in a stable constitutional government.

Three years ago, youthful businesswoman and economist, Mrs. Omotayo Adeleye Ishaya, founded the Okun Women Development Centre, a non-governmental organisation, reputed for initiating skills-based programmes and training to empower women and girls in rural and sub-urban areas.

Recently, the centre simultaneously distributed 2000 free eyeglasses to constituents in Kabba-Bunu and Ijumu councils. It also distributed free drugs, conducted medical examination and counselling. Critical eye-related issues were treated, as experts were brought to attend to patients.

This humanitarian gesture served as her leverage into the Kogi political circle. She is an aspirant to the House of Representatives in Kabba/Bunu/Ijumu Federal Constituency on the APC platform.

Mrs. Doyin Ibikunle, a business tycoon, also founded the Doyin and Suzan Foundation, which has traversed the seven local governments in Kogi West, distributing relief items, including foodstuffs to widows, while also preaching change in politics.

Ibikunle said she is in the senate race of Kogi West because those who represented the people in the past have not done well. She said she is particularly angered that the road plied by the people of Okunland “is worse than the condition it was before it was first constructed by the French construction company, Dumez during the First republic.”

Although she is contesting on the platform of the APC, Ibikunle declared in a recent interview that the 2019 polls would be determined more by individual popularity than party affiliation. She explained that she had no godfathers or sponsors, but would only rely on her humanitarian services, which she said dated back to 15 years.

Oluwafemi Iselaiye, 36, President, F&F Tree Service, based in Ohio, United States founded Oluwafemi Iselaiye Foundation, which targets the challenged through free medical outreach, visits to orphanages and support for community based projects. Iselaiye, who is yet to identify with a political party, has since relocated to Nigeria, saying, “Nigeria must work.” He said recently in an interview that those of them who once lived in Nigeria and have been privileged to live abroad and “having been exposed to the vista of how things work there,” cannot continue to fold their arms in the face of the negative commentaries emanating from the country.

In a statement through its president, Comrade Usman Malik, the Adavi Student Union said students and youths in Adavi Constituency have endorsed one of their own, Ishaq Asuku for the House of Assembly election.

Malik concluded that youths in Adavi constituency decided to throw their weight behind “a pragmatic and visionary student leader” and that they will mandate all students in Adavi to speak with one voice, cast their vote and make their votes count when the time comes. He was, however, silent on the party platform they intend to prosecute the election project.

Oba Agbana, a lawyer in his early 40s, is aspiring to the House of Assembly in Yagba West Constituency.

In his view, what is lacking in Nigeria’s politics is the absence of leaders with vision.

“I think the youths at home and in the Diaspora are more interested in politics and who represents them. I receive calls from the UK, US, Canada and Australia. The awareness and the cry to rescue Nigeria have never been so loud. And this reflects in the advocacy for the younger generation to get involved and take their destiny in their own hands.

“The elders will also have their own role to play. Nobody is saying the elders should quit. Our elders are very useful to us. But the rate at which youthful politicians are springing up across the country for elective positions from councillorship to presidential election is a signal that the youths can no longer be sidelined. The National Assembly realised this, which was why they had no option than to pass the not- too-young-to-run-bill. That is why I have decided to offer myself at the grassroots.

“The representatives Nigeria needs in 2019 are young and vibrant youths with vision. The late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo is exemplary. That is why he is my hero. He was a leader, who had a great vision right from his youth and it manifested in his daring achievements as premier of the old western region. His free education programme in particular, which became a huge success in the southwest, at a time other regions felt it was unachievable, is a product of Awolowo’s vision. That is why till today Awolowo is a reference point.

“What is lacking in our democracy, today, is absence of clear-cut vision. I believe Nigeria can still produce more Awolowos, if we are able to identify visionary elements among us when choosing our Representatives. A lot of people are in politics to make money, but we are not going to make any progress, if we continue in this way.”

Another aspirant, 30-year-old Folami Onirinwa, founder, Omoluabi Foundation, in a statement by his media team said: “You never change things by fighting existing reality. To change something, you must build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

“We can’t keep on going the same way. Our approach has to take a new form; our rational and logical reasoning has to change totally. So, we have to put up new methods of approach, which are basically reforming, rebuilding and restructuring.

“We need youthful energy. We need someone who can do something beyond what we have already mastered, so that we can grow. The past cannot be changed, but we can use the future to correct the past and promote the future to come. These things are achievable by giving our support to a young-minded personality, who has the knowledge and essentials of good leadership and representation.”

Some of the young and new faces taking Kogi 2019 by storm include, Olasunkanmi Aina, who is unattached to a political party. He is an aspirant for Kogi West; Abayomi Bello, also unattached to a political party is gunning for Kogi West senatorial slot; Yakubu Chado, a PDP governorship aspirant; Malik Okino for APC, Kogi Central senate; Omoluabi Bode Adeyemi is for PDP, Kogi West; 34-year- old Johnson Musa is also unattached to a political party is Dekina/Bassa Reps aspirant; Shehu Kadri Tijani, unattached, for Ajaokuta federal constituency; Dele Obiniyi, PDP, Yagba Federal Constituency; Henry Tuesday Abimbola, APC, Yagba federal constituency; Tajudeen Bisimillahi, APC, Kogi West senatorial seat; 28-year-old Julius Olushola Abel, for Mopamuro State Constituency and 29-year-old Toyosi Bolaji, based in the United States, ADP, Yagba West Constituency, among others.

Analysing the development, Opeyemi Owoeye, Editor of Kogi Reports/Latest Kogi News online newspaper said: “The unusual inflow of young persons into the 2019 elections can be attributed to repeated failure of the old order to meet the expectations of the people and national angst over exclusion of youths in political leadership. There is the factor of unemployment; hence, politics is the fastest emerging new job market. Unemployment has forced many youths to take up politics as a career. So many graduates with no working experience are joining the fray to contest 2019 elections.”

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