The Chief Press Secretary to the Kwara State Governor Mallam Rafiu Ajakaye on Tuesday charged the youths to continue to leverage their huge population and power of the new media to constructively engage governments and negotiate for quality representation, among other legitimate demands.

He said it is not enough for young persons to agitate for right leadership and good governance in the country without participating actively in the processes that produce their representatives across the board.

Ajakaye spoke in Ilorin at the 24th Inauguration Ceremony and Launch of “The HERO Magazine”, produced by the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Kwara State axis. The publication was dedicated to the Kwara State Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, highlighting some of the sectoral achievements of the administration.

“Youths in this country need to marry their ownership of the new media space with a strong presence in the ‘real world’ of participatory politics and mass engagement. If you want to see persons who understand your positions in government offices, you need to be in the room where delegates for shadow elections are chosen. You need to ensure that candidates standing in an election emerge from a process that you took part in,” he said.

“You cannot complain that political parties presented ‘never-do-wells’ as their candidates, thereby limiting your choices at the general election, when you stay away from the process that produces them.

“Statista puts the average age of the Nigerian person at 18.6. What this means is that half of Nigeria’s over 200m people are below age 18, while all persons above that age constitute the second half. If you remove persons between 15 and 29 who are mostly students in various areas of studies from the second half, what you have left is a negligible minority in terms of demography.”

The CPS, whose lecture was themed ‘Bridging the gap between the students and government: the future of the Nigerian Youths, Opportunities and Challenges’, noted that there is hardly a gap to bridge between the youth and government, considering the size of young persons and students that are now involved in different positions of authority nationwide.

“I do not believe there is really a gap to bridge between the students, or the youths, and governments at any level in Nigeria. Not only are students properly constituted as a power bloc in the various student movements nationwide, different governments have also established the office of the Special Assistant on Student Affairs that is a go-between for the two power centers. In many cases, there is either an office of the Special Adviser or a standalone Ministry on Youth Development,” he said.

“But what I think is open to question is how much the intimidating size of this demography (students and young people) has really shaped governance, public policy, and allocation of public resources. While things are empirically changing for the better, with Kwara under His Excellency Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq as a positive reference point in his unprecedented support for young people, a lot can still be done in a way that benefits not just young people but will also create the right environment for equitable access to good education, upward (social) mobility, economic growth and sustainable development.”

He said the growing population of young people is both an opportunity and a threat, requesting them to leverage their different organizational bodies to advocate sustainable solutions to the crisis of (poor) education, lack of job, extreme poverty, and hunger in the land.

The event was well attended by the State Commissioner for Tertiary Education Dr Mrs Mary Arinde; Commissioner for Youth Development Hon. Nafisat Buge; Special Assistant to the Governor on Students Affairs Comrade Wasiu Onidugbe; Rector, Kwara State Polytechnic Dr. Jimoh Abdul; Senator Khairat AbdulRazaq who was represented by Prof Saudat AbdulBaqi; leaders of various students’ unions; and dozens of students.

Arinde and Buge, in their separate remarks, said the administration is walking the talk by putting high premium on the welfare of students and trusting the young persons with leadership positions.

Buge appreciated the leadership of NANS in the state for documenting some of the achievements of the present administration for future references.

Onidugbe, for his part, said the honour done to Governor AbdulRazaq by NANS serves as another good testimony that their interest is well represented, adding that the recent payment of bursary to students by government is a typical example.

He said the administration will continue to prioritize the students’ welfare in the state.

Senator AbdulRazaq, in her remarks, tasked the students to accord their study a priority and commended them for their decent play of students’ unionism.