His background evoked in him a yearning to engender purposeful leadership, especially among young people who are daily exposed to bad leadership examples. This sense of purpose pulled him towrads youth advocacy, as he saw in it a veritable platform through which light could be beamed on the right leadership tenets and in so doing provoke a paradigm shift among different stakeholders and young people.
In this chat with Kennedy Onyegbado, the quintessential Speaker, 2nd Assembly of Democracy Africa Youth Parliament; Rt. Hon. Graham Elendu lays emphasis on various focal areas including his ambitions, his burning zeal for youth’s emancipation and the role the youths can play in solving most of Africa’s problem.
Over the years, you have continued to seek veritable platforms to express your insatiable hankering for purposeful leadership engagement and development of African Youths; what has been your motivating drive?
The desire for my continued involvement in advocating for purposeful leadership engagement and development of African Youths was borne out of the fact that I see a lot of very competent youths in this part of the world who are not given the opportunity to lead.
Research has it that a couple of times when youths have been given the opportunity they have done very well. We have the French experience and a couple of other countries where younger people lead and they have been doing very well.
More so, because we are in the jet age, I believe that the people to manage an age like this are the jet people and that’s why I have always advocated that young persons are given the opportunity to lead.
In Nigeria for instance, most of the people we see at the helm of affairs till date got into the limelight when they were young. The likes of Nnamdi Azikiwe and the then elites all got into the scheme of things while they were young.
Sadly, those people who had opportunity to express themselves when they were young are the ones not giving young people the opportunity to do the same. This is very disturbing and that has been my motivation, because the younger ones have to take the stage.
What is your campaign and extensively what are your expectations from African Governments?
My campaign is what it is. I have always advocated for youth inclusion in government and over the years my expectation has been the same; we should have a percentage of youths in running the affairs, especially in areas where it affects the youths.
For instance, I do not see the rationale where non-youths will be running the affairs of the Ministry of Youths. I have a couple of friends who are also like minds in this area. There is this movement somewhere around Anambra state led by a friend of mine; Mr. Innocent Nduanya where they are asking for 50-50 or nothing.
This confirms my goals, as I have always said it that the youths should be included in governance; if not for anything but for them to learn. Beyond learning, I have seen that the youths are very competent and can hold a lot of offices, so why not we give them the opportunity?
My expectations are very high, and one thing that must be noted is the fact that the youth population in Africa is not just the future of Africa, but the now of Africa. So I expect African Governments to have a more youth-inclusive government. This is because most of the solutions I want to posit can be provided by the African youth.
In the course of my activities I have met youths from a lot of African countries and I can affirm that the stuff and contents African youths are made of is phenomenal. As such, one can see that the youths have the solution to almost all the problem we have in Africa, but what we don’t just have is the political will or the political inclusion in order for the youths to execute these solutions.
I birthed and ran the Role Model Initiative; an initiative that enthuses young people to maximize their God-given potentials by telling the stories of successful individuals who triumphed against all odds, and for over 12 years, it exposed me to a lot of competent youths.
Hence, when I advocate for youth inclusion, I am still a very strong advocate of competence. For the reason that one is young doesn’t qualify him or her alone to gain these positions, but must also be competent, which doesn’t really lack amongst our youths.
Two years ago, you were inducted into the Democracy Africa Youth Parliament as Nigeria’s representative, and a year later you became the Speaker of the 2nd Assembly. How would you describe your engagements so far?
Yes, I represent Nigeria at the Democracy African Youth Parliament (DAYP), where we have 120 youths drawn from 54 African Countries and by God’s grace I am privileged to be the speaker of the 2nd Assembly.
Basically, DAYP is an assembly of youths to advocate policies and everything around youths. This, we have been doing using the African Union platform, though the covid-19 pandemic took a large chunk of my tenure as speaker of the parliament.
Nevertheless, my tenure brought in dynamism and functionality. I took over the helm of affairs as speaker of DAYP amidst a lot of irregularities and crisis. But within my tenure I tried to calm the nerves and tried to carry everybody along so as to steer the ship in one direction.
We met a lot of irregularities when we came in as parliamentarians; some of those details I do not want to dish out, but within this my tenure I gave DAYP a direction and I think I would be remembered for harnessing the parliament.
So, having given it a direction, I am ready to step aside and pursue for higher callings and allow someone else to continue from where I stopped.
Given the prevalence of communal crisis and insecurity in Africa, especially your home country Nigeria, what is DAYP doing or hope to do in engaging different stakeholders towards ameliorating this crisis?
The insecurity in Nigeria is not only peculiar to Nigeria. The truth is that there is little or nothing we can do as individuals or as a body other than to keep pressurizing the government to take action.
Our mandate is advocacy and serving as some sort of pressure group. Consequently all we do is to keep putting pressure on the authorities to do the right thing and whatever they need to do in order to protect lives of citizens as it is the primary function of government.
For the northern region of Nigeria where banditry is high at the moment, we have always advocated for education, since we realized that it is because of the lack of education that these bandits can be brainwashed.
Observably, during the previous administration, there was this high surge of almajiri schools. At that time we understand the peculiar nature of things, and due to cultural or religious interpretation these things are halted.
Nevertheless, as a parliament we have different committees that tackle these things specifically. As the speaker of the parliament, what I ensured that these committees get all they need to execute their activities.
Again, we need to understand that poverty in the land is also a key factor in enhancing this crisis. Like I said earlier, our position is advocacy and we engaged those that are in charge, those that are supposed to handle these areas. We pushed our policies that are youth friendly, including preaching the SDGs, because the SDGs address most of these issues.
This is what we have been doing, we have been engaging when necessary and since we are privileged to be operating from the African point of view, we also engaged the embassies and the consulates.
“Stepping aside and going for a higher calling”; has your tenure ended and where would you be pitching your tent next?
Though I still have large time ahead of me as speaker, but I will be bowing out very soon so as to enable me pursue higher callings. I am moving from DAYP to the World Assembly of Youths where I wish to still continue to give my little quota in youth advocacy and policy making.
The World Assembly of youths is a representation of youths from all over the world. Like the name goes, it sure has a higher audience than where I am at the moment. I am moving there because I actually want to have a larger platform to push my advocacy, push my thoughts and champion my courses.
Actually, why I get involved with all these bodies, organisations and institutions is because I do not subscribe to violence as a way of engagement. As an apostle of non-violence, I have always tilted to the intellectual side and that is why I engage in more of advocacy.
Briefly highlight what Nigeria and Africa as a whole should be expecting of you at the World Assembly of Youths?
I would not be too specific with what they would be expecting of me, but my hopes are high and intend to steer the tide and draw huge attention to Africa as a whole and Nigeria in particular.
Nigeria and Africa have peculiar cases and having someone at the world stage drawing attention to these peculiar cases will not be a bad idea. This is actually the reason I am going there and I hope to give in my best when I eventually gets there.