Nigeria’s former Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar has responded in a letter to popular comedian IGoDye’s publicised questioning of his impact on Nigerian youths while in office.
IGoDye, real name Francis Agoda, had taken to social media platform, Instagram, to call to question Atiku’s contributions to the development and progress of young Nigerians following the latter’s return to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), weeks after decamping from the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The comedian charged Atiku not to use “sentimental empathy on the youth to express your political ambitions.”
In a letter published on his website, atiku.org, Atiku attributed the current unpreparadness of Nigerian youths for governance and leadership positions to the lack of “leadership or apprenticeship process under dictatorships”.
Responding to the comedian’s query of his contributions to the advancement of Nigerian youths, the politician said that his tenure as VP could only be judged by the responsibilities he was assigned particularly since “a VP obviously is not the driver of government. For example, you can’t blame Prof Osinbajo for all that is going on with the current government. He can only do what he’s allowed to do.”
Atiku however stated that as VP he assembled the best ever economic team in Nigeria comprising “young, world class professionals, who came home to work,” saying, “some of those professionals are now political leaders, governors and world leaders in their own right.”
THE FULL LETTER BELOW:
Dear I Go Dye,
I read your post on Instagram. It was hard to miss it because it was on every major news website. I would like to say that you were mostly right. The questions you raised in your post are similar to the ones I have been asked by other young people on social media, so I am replying this not just to you as a person, but to all young Nigerians who have asked similar questions.
Firstly, you are right. The Nigerian youth have often been taken for granted, and almost every leader in our history has taken young people for granted. But it’s important to point how this started – for people like me who saw Independence; our leadership was mostly driven by young people. Then came the coups, and the civil war, and then more coups. Nigeria ended up with a long period of military dictatorship for many decades, in which time; those young leaders aged, but still remained leaders. Fela, Gani, Enahoro, and Beko were young leaders, yet remained leaders until their demise. That was because of the stagnation brought on by decades of political instability.
By the time we got to 1999, the young people of the day had not been prepared for leadership, because there was no leadership or apprenticeship process under dictatorships. This is one of the reasons the age of leaders has continued to rise. That was because of the leadership stagnation brought on by decades of political instability. Imagine a school that did not graduate any students for 5 years, by the time the top class finally graduates, you will have a backlog of undergraduates.
Our young people are not to blame; we need to remedy this national failure. Last week, there were local government elections in Akwa Ibom State, with over 60% of the seats won by young people, less than 35 years old. That’s how progress can be made. Young people need to participate from the grassroots, all the way across board. Appointments are good, but getting elected is even better. I also understand the issues around funding elections which keep women and young people out, and I will address this in an article I am publishing soon.
I do understand your frustration on the issue, however. I tell people my age that to understand young Nigerians, we need to understand the difference between Nigerian and Naija. Naija embodies the hopes and dreams of young Nigerians, the country they love and long to go home to when they are abroad. Naija is the country that brings them pride in music, film, comedy, fashion, and technology. It is the country of Wiz Kid, Asa, David O, Tuface, the Olympic bobsled team, Iwobi and Don Jazzy Again.
Nigeria on the other hand, is the country of their parents, the country where leaders are constantly failing them, of Boko Haram, of herdsmen violence, of recessions and joblessness. Our young people need us to make our country live up to the aspirations of Naija by fixing the problems associated with Nigeria.
I think it’s important to address the accusation about my tenure as Vice President, that I did nothing for young people. Firstly, as VP, I can only be judged on the responsibilities I was given. A VP obviously is not the driver of government. For example, you can’t blame Prof Osinbajo for all that is going on with the current government. He can only do what he’s allowed to do.
But let me speak about what you can judge me by, my assigned responsibilities. As VP, I assembled what is arguably the best Economic Team ever in Nigeria. It was made up of young, world class professionals, who came home to work. Some of those professionals are now political leaders, governors and world leaders in their own right.
If you ask what our first task was, coming into government in 1999, it was to bring stability to the economy after decades of military rule. For example, between 1999 and 2003, oil prices then were hovering between $16 and $28 yet we managed to pay up salary arrears from decades back, clear up our national debts and built up foreign reserves. Our GDP grew at the fastest rate we’ve seen since the return to democracy.
You mentioned that I never brought young people into leadership, but my record speaks differently. I have a proven record of bringing young, unknown professionals into service. Many of the professionals and ministers I brought in were in their 30s and early 40s. Some of those young leaders have become governors in their states. I went to the World Bank and met a bright lady, convinced her to come back home, and she became a star in our government. To show you we had effective leadership, the same lady could not replicate her exploits under a different government.
I was also in charge of privatization and I have witnesses that I never interfered with the process. I never bought anything belonging to the government. I was quite wealthy before coming into government, with declared assets worth millions of dollars in 1999 (which was put in a trust when I became VP); so it was understandable that many of the wealthy Nigerian business people who participated in the privatization programme were my friends. Did I use my influence to get them better deals? No. As the then DG of BPE testified under oath, I never used my position to interfere with his work.