By Muhammad Ajah

The national legal adviser a political pressure group Social Justice Advocacy of Nigeria (SOJAN), Mr. I. C. Obiahu, Esq. strongly believes that a corrupt-free president would salvage Nigerian in its post 2015 elections. But he seems to be sceptical about the stand of the Nigeria youths as the political activities aiming the transition in 2015 thicken in many parts of the country. In this interview with Muhammad Ajah, Obiahu says that SOJAN with other youth groups will ensure that the Nigerian youths are not misused in the forthcoming general elections. He also threw some light on Ebonyi politics towards 2015. Excerpts:

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There are already so many youth organisations across the country and some of them have expressed support for one presidential aspirant or another. What is unique about your own group, SOJAN?

Social Justice Advocacy of Nigeria (SOJAN) is political organisation made up of vibrant youths of like minds with over forty thousand members across the country. We exist in many states and FCT. And we have youths with economic, political, spiritual and intellectual powers. Truly, many youth organisations are in existence. But each one has its aims and objectives. Some of them are basically formed for certain period of time after which they naturally go into extinction. SOJAN was formed over eight years ago as a socio-political youth group to sensitise the Nigerian young men and women on the significance of qualitative leadership which is the problem with the country. It is purely an organisation for youths and in our own belief, people between the ages of 18 and little above 50 are the youths. But in our case, except for our patrons and matrons, most of our members are below forty years in age. That is why we are ready for actions anytime and anywhere. We have conditions for accepting members because we do not sell ourselves for selfish gains. We are working for the general benefit of Nigerians and we are increasing on daily basis.

How do you view the importance and strength of the Nigerian youth in deciding who rules the country?

There is no doubt that the youth is the strongest segment of any given society including Nigeria. They are also the largest in number although in some of the underdeveloped nations, they are the worst hit by marginalisation, neglect and even frustration. In Nigeria for instance, it has been observed that the youths have fallen victims to misuse by most of the politicians. A critical review of elections in the country has shown that most of the electoral frauds and political thuggery are abetted by youths under the influence of politicians who do not do a proper homework but would wish to win elections by foul. It is unfortunate. But we are learning as Nigerians are growing more and more politically conscious especially with the events of 2003 rigged elections, tenure elongation and all the sorts. We hope our youths have learnt a lot of lessons from the past and would refocus for a better future. It is the duty of the youths to determine who should rule this country starting from the forthcoming 2015 general elections or they would continue to be misused and dumped.

Do you think the youths will not allow themselves to be misused this time for thuggery and electoral malpractices?

We want to ensure that our youths and students especially are not misused by politicians as thug and electoral manipulators in 2015. We know that the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) has often warned its members to desist from those activities inimical to the smooth progress of education and study life in campuses of the universities across the nation. When we reflect on the past glory and vibrancy of the Nigerian youths and students in the policy-making of the country, we realize that time has come for them to regain their relevance and become real stakeholders in the nation?s socio-economic being. SOJAN will mobilize against any attempt by politicians to use youths for any form of criminal activities during the forth-coming general elections. But we plead with politicians not to tempt students this time with their watery promises.

Why do the youths so easily agree to be misused by the politicians?

The problem is rooted to the poor living conditions of majority of Nigerian youths. Poverty and joblessness are most times the causes that lead the people into all sorts of criminal activities. It has been observed that some of those used by politicians for electoral frauds are students. And any sincere citizen will believe with me that majority of our students are poor, very poor. Go to campuses and see how some of the students are battling with life. And at the end they come out to face the harder one with unemployment. So, some of them take it an opportunity to make little fortune during political dispensations through thuggery and box stuffing business. But one would ask how much they make at the end. Some of them may collect as little as ten thousand naira or less for these dirty jobs. But we also see that the electoral body and security agencies have more roles to play in ensuring freedom in the conduction of elections. Youths should know their responsibility as the future leaders who may have marred their chances before their turns. 2015 must be used to prove that our democracy has really come to stay and that we have grown to maturity to be able to conduct credible polls that would be accepted by at least 75 percent of local and international observers.

Do you see Nigerian youths getting their rightful shares in political offices after elections?

We suggest that 40 percent of political offices be allowed for the youths who are more vibrant and lively experienced to handle them. The old generation politicians who have been recycling themselves to the detriment of the nation and their states should see reason with the plea of millions of Nigerians by allowing free and fair elections in 2015. They mobilise the youths and use them as mere political jobbers. At the end, they give then a thousand naira each. Nigerian youths should resist this trend this time. First of all, these positions the old politicians get by force should be for the youths. The time has come for the youths to stop being used as political jobbers. Let them give dignity to their image and they will see that the future of the country will change for good. We must use 2015 as a example to tell our politicians that we have learnt so much from their past manipulations of our abilities.

Are you suggesting any presidential aspirant for the Nigerian youths?

We are for youth friendly presidential aspirants. Some state governors and elder statesmen have shown interest for the number citizenship of Nigeria. Our very able incumbent President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan is fit to continue. Former Head of State, Gen. Muhammad Buhari and former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar have begun campaigns under their parties. But we are more concerned with those who have uplifted youths in their different capacities. So based on that and for the best leadership qualities which we pursue, we would back one at the end of the day.

Among all those presidential aspirants, is there any one you think that has national appeal and acceptability?

Yes, as I earlier said, some of those presidential aspirants are governors who have tried in their respective capacities in their states. For instance, Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano state, Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo state, Governor Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers state and Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo state have particularly displayed justice, love for humanity and fear of Almighty to an extent in the governance of their states. President Jonathan and General Buhari are very competent and acceptable to Nigerians.

Coming from Ebonyi state, what is your assessment of the political build up in the state towards 2015?

The present period in Ebonyi state is very critical. Since 2013 the search for who to take succeed His Excellency, our amiable Governor Chief Matin Elechi began in earnest. But the new turn in Ebonyi politics is that majority of the state electorate is insisting on a change from anointed or appointed governor. What I mean is that Ebonyi people are asking for the people?s governor and not appointed one who has the obligation to serve only the few. The search was kick-started by the incumbent governor, Governor Elechi in October 2013 when in a Town Hall meeting at the Women Development Center Abakaliki he announced his support for the Ebonyi South Senatorial District to produce his successor according to Ebonyi unwritten sharing formula: North, Central and South. Since then, we have been seriously searching for a credible, accountable, prudent, religiously-tolerant and just Ebonyi politician who can handle the position with utmost care. During the course of our search, we came across many Ebonyi politicians including past and present ones. But we found Chief Dr. Haroun Ogbonnia Ajah (Ocho Udo and Nna Nyeri Ugo 1 of Afikop) as the only worthy son of Ebonyi who will lead the people of Ebonyi to the Promised Land as was the dream of the founding fathers of the state.

Our assessment show that Ebonyi people are massively behind his governorship aspiration for the freedom of the people and realization of the people?s vision. Simply, we want the Ebonyi people to continue to stand by him so that he triumphs over all other pretending and tested but not-trusted politicians campaigning seriously to further mortgage the fortunes of Ebonyi land and its people. Dr. Ajah has been overwhelming accepted by Ebonyi people. If this mandate is denied, Ebonyi people will march to Abuja to protest. We hope that the people?s president, our beloved President, Dr. Ebele Jonathan and the leadership of PDP under Alhaji Adamu Mua?zu will read the impulse of the people of Ebonyi people and work with Dr. Ogbonnia Ajah for the next governor of Ebonyi state.

Is there anything you wish to tell the Nigerian youths especially in connection with the forthcoming 2015 general elections?

Yes, the most important thing I must tell our youths and especially the students is that they should not allow themselves to be misused by politicians as thugs and electoral manipulators. Nigerian youths should join the best political train of the country which is the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) so as to be able to establish their relevance and get their rights at the end of the day. But the political parties should play strictly according to the provisions of the Nigerian constitution and their party constitutions. Nigerians should not compromise the peace and unity of our dear country. Youths must assist this country in moving forward towards the right direction. And we are ready for this onerous duty at the national and state levels.

Muhammad Ajah is an author, publisher and socio-political analyst. He can be reached via [email protected]

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