Youths play an important role in the Commonwealth. They have a voice in how their countries and the wide Commonwealth are run. A voice which is formed through young people working as an international network of their countries and helping to shape the development of the those countries today for the future and generations to come. This is one young and intelligent Nigerian, doing us proud! Ahmed Adamu, the current Chairperson of CYC and of course an inspirational leader to many.
He was a member of the Katsina State Executive Council Committee on Youth Restiveness and Unemployment; and also the secretary of the Constitutional Review Committee, Katsina Central Constituency in 2012. He is also the founder and pioneer president of Youth Participation for Progressive Development Initiative.
As the Commonwealth Youth Council Chairperson, is expected to serve a two-year term until the next Council’s General Assembly, which will take place this year 2015. In this Interview, Tkbesh! takes the current chairperson of the commonwealth youth council down the memory lane and his plan for the future.
The Nigerian politics is one of the most expensive in the world. As a university lecturer, how long would it take me to save up to N5 million to sponsor my campaign, you already know that even that amount is considered too small, as I was told people spend up to N50 million to become members of house of representatives. Now, delegates usually vote for the person that bid higher. They don’t look at competency most times. That is why we recommend slashing out of the monetary attractions to these leadership positions, so that people who are attracted by the monetary benefit attached to it will vanish, and only the serious minded politicians will stay.
Tkbesh! When you were declared winner after beating other contestants from many countries, how did that make you feel. Were you expecting that result?
AHMED: My friends were so optimistic that I will win, I knew I put so much efforts more than all other contestants, and I knew I performed very well during the debate, and I met with all the delegates one on one, but still I was a bit unsure that the result could go otherwise, until when my name was announced as the winner with landslide. So, it did not come to me with so much surprise. Many delegates promised me their votes even before we went to Sri Lanka for the election. Even though I enjoyed more support from other continents, I still appreciate my African friends who stood by me to make sure that I emerged the winner. I started my campaign two months to the elections, but those were very long months as serious phone calls, skype calls, travelling, and emails were made. So much anxiety, that I could not concentrate on food. So, I think I wanted it most.
Tkbesh! We have no doubt you do! If memory serves right, the formation of the Council was endorsed by Commonwealth Heads of Government in Perth, Australia, in 2011. Tell us how you got involved in the first instance.
AHMED: My first engagement with the commonwealth youth activities was when I was nominated to represent Nigeria at 2011 Commonwealth Youth Forum in Australia, that is where I met inspiring colleagues, and I felt challenged that young people can really do more. In that meeting I was more of an observer as I did not play active role, because I am a new comer on the board, I was not noticeable. Usually, that is how I am everywhere I go. I tend to play it low key at first to study everything and everybody around.
However, in Australia’s meeting, I turned out to be a mini celebrity when I was chosen through lottery (by means of draw) as the youth delegates’ representative that will go and meet with Her Majesty the Queen to present to her the communique of the youth meeting in Australia that year. It was a big exciting moment for me! Being the first timer and now being chosen to represent my colleagues before the Queen. So, three of us went and met with the Queen. We shook hands, she stood with us asking us questions, and we responded. It was a big moment, and I remembered people rushing to us to find out who we are and why the Queen has spent so much time with us. That motivated me more and prompt me to get involved more in the youth commonwealth activities.
Surprisingly, it was in that meeting that the young people and the Commonwealth Heads of Government endorsed the establishment of the Commonwealth Youth Council (CYC), and constitutional review committee was constituted. I was never involved in the process of establishing the CYC, I only saw the call for nominations into the elective positions, and I was not sure which position to contest in the beginning. My friends all wanted me to vie for the Chairperson positions, they told me that I could do it and I believed deep in me that “Yes I can”! So, I asked my organisation to nominate me and they did after some consideration. Initially more than forty nominations were made for the Chairperson position, but many were disqualified and largely because of the age limitation. Four of us eventually went to the poll, I contested alongside UK, Botswana, and Cameroon candidates.
Tkbesh! That must have been a very proud moment for you. What have been your challenges since you have been elected to chair the body, which is a voice of 1.2 billion young people of the Commonwealth?
AHMED: The challenge is obvious that we are the pioneer elected executives, with huge expectations and wide diversity. Like you mentioned, we are leading over 1.2 Billion young people from the 53 Commonwealth nations that span over six continents, so you can imagine the diversity of issues and expectations from every angle. We first had to quickly learn what is expected of us and our limitations. We had to make so little mistake, and we had to quickly learn from them.
We were able to set the foundation, which is always difficult. We institutionalised the CYC, created networks and partnerships, broaden its memberships, and executed projects. People will not judge us based on the height of the building we erected, but by how solid is the foundation we put. It is equally challenging for me being a PhD student and a family man. So, I found it difficult to maintain the right balance. I had to forfeit leisure times and weekends.While I don’t have weekends, I sometimes close from office at 12am and having to come right back at 9 am.
I travel quite a lot, which is so boring when it becomes frequent. The challenge of leading the largest and most diverse youth organisation in the world is important to mention, because we all come from different backgrounds, and it is always hard to reach consensus, which I think consensus is many times a delusion, because most of the time consensus is reached, you will find that one must have sacrificed his/her own opinion for the interest of moving forward. One of the challenge I faced is I like things to be done quickly without given a second command, and instead of me to give the second command, you will find me doing the job myself willingly. I know that’s not the best way, but the urge in me sometimes push me to do things myself, because I don’t like waiting for things to be done. I need to be a little more patient, right? I am a young person you know.
Tkbesh! Oh yes! Ahmed you need to slow down a bit and that brings us to our next question. You are to serve a two-year term until the next Council General Assembly. What are your next steps, and any plan to go into Nigerian politics in the future?
AHMED: I am a University lecturer, and I plan to go back to classroom soon. I am very concerned about social, economic and political situation in my country, and I believe, we are responsible for our issues. We are the ones we have been waiting for to solve our problems, no one else. So, we have to contribute toward making our society better, and help improve the lives of our brothers and sisters. Everywhere I look, I see problems, and I always come up with suggestions on how to make things better.
Some people advise me to go into politics since I have all these brilliant ideas. I agree with them that, it is easy to change things when you are holding a government positions, and now you will have to be in politics to get into some of these positions, which means politics is inevitable. However, I lost appetite for the Nigerian politics, simply because we tend to celebrate wealth than competence. The Nigerian politics is one of the most expensive in the world. As a university lecturer, how long would it take me to save up to N5 million to sponsor my campaign, you already know that even that amount is considered too small, as I was told people spend up to N50 million to become members of house of representatives. Now, delegates usually vote for the person that bid higher. They don’t look at competency most times. That is why we recommend slashing out of the monetary attractions to these leadership positions, so that people who are attracted by the monetary benefit attached to it will vanish, and only the serious minded politicians will stay.
We recommended disqualifying any candidate that tries to bribe delegates even by giving them transport money, we also recommend capping the total amount of money to be spent in politics to a reasonable level. We should also allow public workers to aspire for political positions without resigning their appointments, but they should resign after winning their party primaries. This will help attract the technocrats and professionals in to the politics. Above all, I don’t think you need to be a politician before you can make a change? There are so many ways we can make things better outside of the politics. I can see many Nigerians are desperate about politics and positions, and I found that disgusting. People do not have to be desperate for power. You don’t necessarily need it to be a leader. And if you deserve it, you do not have to be desperate to get it. We shall be creative and make ourselves relevant not just by trying to acquire positions because we want to be famous or richer.
Tkbesh! Without a doubt, that must be the biggest anyone could have sent out. We are equally happy that we are doing this interview with you Ahmed. Regardless of Age, you inspire us and we are very proud of you. Tell us, how would you measure success in your own words?
AHMED: Success is not measured by the digits in your bank account, or by the number of houses or cars you possesses, these are delusions. Success is measured by the number of lives you are able to touch, in terms of inspiring and making them better.
I can see many Nigerians are desperate about politics and positions, and I found that disgusting. People do not have to be desperate for power. You don’t necessarily need it to be a leader. And if you deserve it, you do not have to be desperate to get it.
Tkbesh! Any word of inspiration to young people out there?
AHMED: Like I always say, based on the background I come from, it is not likely of me to rise to this level, and if I can make it, then many can even do better, so it is about believing in yourself and trusting the God that makes everything possible. Irrespective of your background and stories, you can be what you want to be. What I understand of our young people is, they are either afraid or shy. Fear and shyness are the greatest destroyers of potentials. Once you defeat fear and rebuild your confidence, then you will expand your potentials, and you can achieve more than you can imagine. However, we have to be honest all the time, and never get disappointed when we fail. We must not worry about what others think or say about us. Above all, we have to learn to be simple and humble.
Success is not measured by the digits in your bank account, or by the number of houses or cars you possesses, these are delusions. Success is measured by the number of lives you are able to touch, in terms of inspiring and making them better.
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