By Oluwafemi Popoola
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 must be empowered by the state.
So, through meaningful youths involvement, young people can transform systems, empower communities and infuse adult-driven institutions with youth power.
It is in the pursuance of a progressive country for its people and the citizens that the issue of youths engagement and youths related programmes become imperative and sacrosanct.
So, for any serious government, there must be a conscious effort on the need to sustain the youth from disengaging from the society by addressing poverty problems, unemployment and unpleasant business environment.
As an avid observer of the Nigerian political history, there is no Nigerian leader, past or present, that has invested so much in the youths as the current Nigerian Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN.
Ever since the country’s number two man and the former Attorney General of Lagos State took over his office in 2015, not only has he brought values to his office, he has relentlessly addressed issues affecting the youth through employment, skills acquisition, empowerment and a lot of other programmes.
Right from during the past campaign train, Vice President Osinbajo had reiterated that Nigerian youths were integral to the nation’s economic advancement.
Under the VP’s supervision, 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 per cent of its beneficiaries as youths who were employed under the N-Power Scheme; an initiative that employed 500,000 youths to address 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 Nigeria. A perfect case study to buttress this fact was his visit to some tech companies like Paystack. The visit to Paystack changed the story of that indigenous start-up company. It was last year that an American firm, Stripe, invested a whopping $200 million in Paystack. This can only happen when you have a leader that will go the extra lengths to showcase you to the world.
In developing our digital economy, Osinbajo also facilitated the 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 population.
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 used the Facebook platform effectively across various industries and locations in Nigeria and provided them with digital tools to drive customers’ growth.
As a result of this, in November 2017, Facebook announced the 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. It 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 interest from investors in Nigeria’s tech space.
Osinbajo’s visit to Silicon Valley and Facebook Campus in 2018 helped in boosting 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 the bridging of societal gaps by providing free Internet access, which will improve access to information, tools of education, opportunities and expansion for many Nigerians.
Consequently, in the last few years, Nigerian tech entrepreneurs have raised millions of dollars in 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.
In 2021, Microsoft President, Brad Smith, attested to his company committing to upskilling five million people in Nigeria over the next three years. And to help reach this goal, 1,700 trainers will provide blended online and in-person training courses to Nigeria’s youths as well as government workers.
The Nigerian government’s partnership with Microsoft Corporation which was anchored on connectivity, skilling and digital transformation followed discussions between both parties led by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, and Microsoft President Brad Smith, earlier in the year.
To also help Nigerian women start and grow their businesses, the social media giant tech, Facebook 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.
Similarly, 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 was held in August 2018 in Lagos.
In addition, 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 charismatic manner as a problem solver, with his 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 the 2020 October meeting with the executive committee of the Young Parliamentarians Forum led by its Chairman, Simon Elisha, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Vice President Osinbajo, 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. He is regarded by many as Nigeria’s most active and youth-serving Vice President in our democratic history.
Going into the 2023 general elections which is a few months away, the Nigerian youths will be presented with another opportunity to elect a new president as this Buhari-led administration prepares to wind down.
Prof. Yemi Osinbajo’s unswerving faith in youth development should be the high point of the qualities the Nigerian youths should consider in 2023. And whatever standard, whatever indices, the candidacy of Prof Osinbajo appeals to an average Nigerian youth and the entire Nigerian population. With several years in public service, he has already left his footprints on the sand of time.
• Popoola is a political analyst, contents analyser and news aggregator. He writes in through firstname.lastname@example.org
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