Seriki Muritala is the Youth leader of Lagos State chapter of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). In this exclusive interview with Iniobong Iwok, he spoke on youth participation in the 2023 polls, decline in the number of youth elected into public office, among other issues.
Are you satisfied with the number of youth given appointments so far by President Bola Tinubu?
The last election was an election that most people attended. It was an election where a lot of people, especially young people, were at the forefront.
It was an election where young people felt that they needed to speak and should be heard. The President of Nigeria, I’m sure heard that plea from young Nigerians.
Post-election have we had enough representation in terms of appointments? I would say yes, but you know that as young people we are Oliver twist.
In recent times, over two decades now, this is the time that we now have a 34 year old as Minister of Youth for State. This is the first time we are having a 37 year old young lady as Minister of Youth in history.
When you narrow it down to Lagos State, you can also say that in the present administration there are a lot of young people that are given opportunities in the cabinet and appointments.
That is not to say we don’t want more, the answer is; we still want more, is not enough. President Bola Tinubu has given young people a chance.
What was your experience during the campaigns canvassing young people to take part in the electoral process?
Youth involvement in politics is evolving, young people going into politics now has changed drastically from what it used to be in the past.
A lot of young people voted and were voted for in this election. Young people decide who takes the forefront in this election which varies from their beliefs, tribes and so.
We came out massively to vote and be voted for in the 2023 polls. I know that youth involvement in politics is evolving and will continue to get better.
Some young people who have occupied public office been disappointed in recent times? What is your take?
I disagreed; young people now agree that the society is watching them, which is why Tinubu is giving opportunity for young people to strive.
We have seen young people in elective positions do well in the past, but Tinubu has tried to choose the best among our young people that can lead that generation of young person and is doing everything to support them.
Who says if young people have opportunity they would misuse it or embarrass the population of young people in the country?
We saw a reduction in the number of young people elected into public office despite the Not Too Young to run bill. What is your take?
It is a bill that a lot of young people would be graceful to former President Muhammadu Buhari for. It is a bill that gives opportunities for them to contest unlike what used to be the case in the past; however, it is not a bill that says young people must contest in the election.
We have seen the trajectory that it helped in the last election where young people now have the opportunity to contest and win elections.
The number of years of age has been reduced, it is also to note that those young people who were unable to get the ticket are now in the pipeline of learning the ropes of how it works in the political space.
It is not automatic because you are a young person, you can go and run and win elections, you also have to learn the ropes and understand the process.
So, if you don’t learn the ropes and understand you cannot emerge as the candidate of the party and win an election. It is not an automatic ticket to say because you are a young person you would win the election.
What the bill is also doing now is to expose young people to politics, entrust them in politics and I know in the coming years when they have really studied the process and know how it works it would get better.
Do you agree that money has affected youth participation in politics?
Yes I agree. We have not gotten to that stage where it is cheap and affordable for everybody to finance elections in Nigeria.
But I know that as time goes on young people would identify strategies of participating in the elections without spending a lot of money.
The status quo is that it is not cheap to run elections in Nigeria; getting a ticket and winning.
We have gotten the Not Too Young To Run Bill, the next stage is to see how we can conduct elections in getting back the mandate. We have tried; I think we would have an opportunity to change the narrative in our space.
But part of the problem is the militarisation of the electoral process which is discouraging. Do you agree?
Our political process is evolving, but I can tell you it is not where it should be in the past, that we have read in the book and have seen.
The amount of militarisation, violence has reduced compared to what we used to see, that does not mean that there is no element of thuggery in our election.
I can tell you that as time goes on it would still continue to reduce, where all our elections would be free and fair and people would vote for who they want irrespective of financial inducement.
What kind of electoral reforms would you love to see ahead of 2027 polls?
I don’t want to speak ahead of the policy formulation of electoral reforms; it is not so clear why the people would say that the President of the country should not appoint INEC chairman.
The president of the country is the commander in chief of the federal republic of Nigeria, all the authority is accruing to him.
We have seen in the past, the President who appointed the INEC chairman and other officials, lost an election and heaven did not fall.
An opposition person emerged as the president of the country, for me it is not really if the President appoints the INEC chairman; it is appointing the right person who is credible.
What is your take on President Bola Tinubu Reforms?
Bola Tinubu has appealed to us that there is going to be hardship at the beginning of his administration. Let us support him to achieve some of the goals of the country.
The pain is temporary, but it does not mean the President does not understand what the people are facing. The developed countries, Canada and the rest are also going through different economic crises. For Nigeria the President has told us to have patience and understand with him, efforts to build Nigeria. This is a temporary hardship that he promised would pass soonest.
What is your view on calls for restructuring?
A lot of us have agreed that we need to restructure the country, but we need to realise that this thing is a process.
We need to realise that even the President is ready to activate the restructure that we want and soon we would start seeing the development.
The governor of Lagos State Babajide Sanwo-Olu just presented his budget for 2024, what should be the expectation?
We should expect development compared to what we have seen in the past, we should expect things that are not in place now, that is; blue line rail, red line rail to be in place.
He has set his agenda for next year which is more youth engagement and involvement this time. I would tell the youth to expect greater Lagos time around.
The Governor, President and everyone realised that there is hardship in the country, they understand the situation and are working, but you would not see the manifestation and efforts till after another six months and another one year.
What is your plan going forward?
We would continue to advocate for young people. We would continue to hold the government accountable, so that their promises to the people in the last election are fulfilled.