Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, has charged young lawmakers to shun the arrogance of power and be prepared to stand for the truth regardless of who is for or against it or even when the consequences are dire.
Speaking at a Conference organised by the #NotTooYoungToRun Movement for young lawmakers at both the national and state levels, he added that qualified youths who have the capacity to serve with distinction are abundant in Nigeria and though they have been kept on the sidelines since 1999, they must be disciplined and be prepared to afflict themselves in order to bring comfort to broken Nigerians.
See full speech below:
KEYNOTE SPEECH DELIVERED BY HIS EXCELLENCY RT. HON YAKUBU DOGARA , SPEAKER, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA AT THE CONVERGENCE OF THE NOT TOO YOUNG TO RUN MOVEMENT IN ABUJA ON TUESDAY MAY 7TH, 2019.
Today as always, I find it a worthwhile endeavor to speak about our country and its latent potential exemplified by those of you here and millions of others who you now represent. Our country has never been in short supply of those who tell truth to power, but finding those opportune, such as you are now, to execute the clarion call of nation-building.
2. However, despite the foregoing, the Nigerian Youth has since our nation’s return to democratic rule in 1999 been kept on the wings and fringes of leadership. By the position of this document, we refuse to see the Nigerian Youth as merely a representation of tomorrow’s leadership but a distinct social category of people who are educated, competent and prepared for the task of today’s leadership. A few examples of our national history buttress the fact that when given the opportunity, the Nigerian Youth possesses the capacity to lead and with distinction.
3. Let me begin by quickly reminding you of the immortal words of one of Africa’s finest, late Mr. Kofi Annan, a former Secretary General of the United Nations, who said: “No one is born a good citizen; no nation is born a democracy. Rather, both are processes that continue to evolve over a lifetime. Young people must be included from birth. A society that cuts itself off from its youth severs its lifeline; it is condemned to bleed to death.”
4. It is because of this and many other important factors that spurred the 8th National Assembly to pass the ‘Not Too Young To Run’ Bill into Law. While there was cynicism from certain quarters as to the commitment of lawmakers to the passage of the bill, but as legislators we were never in doubt as to the importance of the bill and how much youth energy will drive governance in our country.
5. The Not Too Young To Run Law is not so much about the exclusion of any particular class from the political space, rather it is designed to offer a platform for our youth population to build synergy with other segments of society for national development.
6. As you have known by now, the law is not designed as a cutthroat competition between the young people and the ‘old’, but an opportunity to build a consensus, a sort of governance symphony where all energies are deployed for our common good.
7. Let me thank the organisers of this Conference for young lawmakers at both the national and state levels. Also, I congratulate all of you on your elections, and I should add myself, as representatives of our people, by extension, Nigeria.
8. The importance of your election is situated in the fact that the Nigerian youth demographic at an estimated population of 78 million would be the fourth largest country in Africa and 19th in the world if it were a country. But what have your sheer numerical strength been put to?
9. It is in the light of this that I find very interesting the theme for the conference which is: Convergence: Leadership, Power and Politics”. What this simply means is that you are now leaders – part of the elite- some of you loathe so much. It is instructive you begin to come to terms with the remarks that you are now part of ‘na dem!’ So, what is it about leadership that spurred you to run for office? Is it just the lure of power, or the mere perks of politics?
10. The value that was instrumental in driving you to seek for office is what will define how you carry yourself, what effort you put into the art of lawmaking, and how much impact you desire to make not for yourself, but your constituents.
11. The price of leadership, most of you already know, mostly is steep. Sometimes frightening if you are in it for the wrong reasons. It challenges your character, it tests your patience, and risks your reputation. So in the end, it is what you chose to do with the leadership that has been conferred on you that will count.
11. No one should envy you because you are coming on board at a time our beloved country is on its knees haven ravaged our national blessings until we are now desperate to find redemption.
12. I have no good news for you, dear friends. This is a time like no other time in Nigeria.
-Do you know that Nigeria is the third most dangerous country in the world to live in after Afghanistan and Syria? Tell me a single extended family in Nigeria that has not suffered the pains of kidnapping, banditry or terrorism.
-Do you know that life expectances in Nigeria is estimated by Open Government to be at 53.8 in 2017 which gives Nigeria a world life expect ranking of 214 out of 224 countries ranked?
-Do you know that one out of every three Nigerian go to bed hungry every night? To our shame we have become a bye word among nations who now tell us to our faces that we are now the poverty capital of the world.
-Do you know that we have no world class hospital and no world class institution of learning? Consequently, medical tourism abroad is the accepted norm with dire consequences on our national economy. So many young people’s life time ambition nowadays is not to study in the Western world anymore but any where except, Nigeria.
– No need to remind us that unemployment is now officially at nearly 30% if not more. Underemployment is more grave a problem. So many out there working their hearts out for take homes that cannot take them home much less put food on their tables. Let me stop here so as not to depress us any further.
13. All that I have highlighted so far, are not the disease, they are symptoms of the disease. We have no parallels in our history as nothing in our Nation’s history prepares us for this.
14. Nigeria’s real disease is lack of leadership. I disagree with all those who say our major national disease is financial corruption rather the real disease has been the absence of true leadership which in turn breads moral corruption and wickedness. Get a true leader that solves moral corruption and wickedness; when that happens, you will search for financial corruption to no avail.
15.Unfortunately, the leadership model we have practiced so far is the kind of leadership that produces sycophants who are expected to serve their political godfathers and not the people. Our so called leaders have mastered the art of political witchcraft so much so that if you are independent minded you are automatically disqualified and if for any reason you are picked then you have to surrender your soul for them to eat in small bites until you become their worshipper. In the midst of this pandemic sycophancy our so called godfathers expect us to fit in and not to stand up to be counted or make a difference. We need leaders who will lead us to build a nation and serve others not godfathers who demand that we worship and serve them rather than serve the people.
16. For you, trailblazers who carry the burden and the promises of a generation that must not fail, if you are ever going to get there, it must be on the wings of discipline that produces character. This is because without character, you cannot be men and women of influence and without influence you cannot change anything. Character means that you cannot be separated from your word, a quality no godfather in history has ever possessed. Character is not only that your word is your bond but that you are actually what you pretend be. While godfathers always pretend to be something other than who they really are, Leaders do not. Imagine where we will be as a nation if all these godfathers that litter the political landscape become what or who they pretend to be.
17. Those of you who must grow to become the leaders our nation is yearning for must be prepared to stand for the truth regardless of who is for or against it or even when the consequences are dire. You must be prepared to afflict yourselves in order to bring comfort to our broken people. You must be reminded that true greatness only comes while serving others and not when serving yourself or godfathers. Above all, what will define you as a triumph or tragedy in this journey is like I have said, discipline because everything that has ever gone down is traceable to indiscipline.
18. I have no doubt that you are all familiar with the maxim that says “ power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” If you look at our history, you will find it strewn with strong men that have abused due process, spurn the Rule of Law. Why? Power! You are all witnesses to the serial nepotistic abuses across boards – federal, state and local – of those who wield power. Will that be your legacy? Will you stand differently?
19. To stand differently does not mean to be unreasonable, but to take firm and decisive actions that are in the interest of the people. For you, it begins with the choice of leadership in your various assemblies.
20. If you have followed closely the antecedents of the National Assembly, it has often charted its leadership course. A leadership of the legislature that is determined by external interests will never find the convergence to legislate for the people or hold the Executive to account. It is in this regard that as fresh legislators who are youth, you need to demonstrate acute perspicuity that you will define the kind of leadership that will be answerable to you, the representatives of the people and the people you represent not to some godfathers who live only for themselves.
21. Will mistakes be made? Certainly! Can you with the future before you learn from it and avoid the pitfalls of the past? Definitely.
22. In your new calling, it is germane that you shun the arrogance of power. If you do not stay connected to the grassroots and those who have yielded their mandates to you, you will ultimately pay at the polls. The Nigerian voter is becoming increasingly aware of the power of the ballot, and they demonstrated it in some states where elections truly counted.
23. My home state of Bauchi is one such place where the people taught an incumbent that arrogance of power is fatal. You can imagine a situation where a Governor will refer to the votes of a whole constituency as insignificant. But in the end, it was the ‘insignificant votes’ that ended his driving desire to return to office.
24. History is rich with examples of why some leaders and politicians failed or could not deliver as expected. It is for this reason you ought to invest in research, cross fertilization of ideas, build consensus, and alliances, learn the art of lobbying to get your bills through.
25. Do not say this is not of my party. Politics means reaching out to all but never lose sight of the long term goal of representing your people, state and country as a whole.
26. The demands will be tasking, after all, governance is a convergence of leadership, power and politics.
27. As you prepare for the task at hand in the next few days, remember, you are the beacons of a New Nigeria, and in this regard, you cannot fail.
More power to the Nigerian youth.