The damage done to the PDP brand over the years in the media requires that any article to discuss issues about the PDP must first start by explaining – Why PDP?
The false narrative that all Nigerian political parties do not have an ideology does not apply to the PDP as it is the only party that totally embraces Nationalism (One Nigeria) as its mantra. This position is etched deep into the foundation of the PDP as its founding fathers in 1998 were the ones who created the first and only pan-Nigerian group to oppose Military rule during the time of Abacha as exemplified in the group G34.
After that phase came the Government of Olusegun Obasanjo which for any flaws it may have had carved the economic ideology of the PDP firmly as Economic Liberalism – Centre of the Right – with its policy of privatisation which saw the opening up of the telecommunications industry and birthed a revolution.
These two ideologies (Nationalism and Economic Liberalism) are mainstram to the party but also have few dissidents i.e. those who embrace Nationalism but choose to be Leftist in thinking and in principle rather than embrace Economic Liberalism. There are also some who are in the fringe minority who are not entire Nationalists but embrace Economic Liberalism.
The role of youths in the socio-political development of Nigeria has been well highlighted by other writers including myself – and therefore bear no repeating here. All the way to the 2015 elections, some of us shouted ourselves hoarse within the party as to the threat posed by the APC but those shouts fell on deaf ears and the PDP eventually lost.
Loss however filled us with renewed vigour and passion as to the rightness of our ideas and so in the days after the loss but before the handing over of May 29, 2015, a group of us young people began to meet in different places in Abuja. Ohimai Amaize, Mukhtar Dan’Iyan, Audu Maikori, Sega Awosanya, Chioma Emetanjo, Anthony Ehilebo, myself and several others all met at various times and in different places in that period. Not all of us named here were PDP members at the time but we were friends and we were concerned as to the direction the country would go under the next Government. We were clear in the belief that the APC Government would not allow youths to flourish and that alternative politicking (aka opposition politics) must be sustained. Some pulled out quickly for different reasons and the rest of us tried for a while to push the #PDPNexGen idea but for other reasons, it failed. I returned to Lagos where I have been raising a force that would be unveiled publicly next year since December 2015. Anthony Ehilebo however sustained the dream and that is how the first ever PDP Youth Conference 2017 was birthed.
Tony has had to tweak many of the original ideas to blend in with reality – our initial thoughts were to work mainly with pro-PDP voices online but we cannot sideline other youths who have been the foot-soldiers of the party in various campaigns and remain a crucial power-bloc in the polity. The first breakthrough in our toils is the amendment to the PDP constitution which has for the first time in Nigeria’s Fourth Republic since 1999, endorsed the establishment of a Youth Wing for the PDP.
This is unprecedented.
The Youth Wing will exist at the national, state and LGA levels of administration in the party and thus help youths to not only galvanise support for party candidates better but help youths to come into positions of authority by the sheer power of numbers and solidarity.
But before we set this Youth Wing up, we must talk – and this is what the PDP Youth Conference is about: creating a forum where Youths of the same ideological tendencies across the country can rally and exchange ideas. This conference will therefore lead to increased participation of youths in partisan politics, not only as thugs but now as policy makers. However this works out, it should trigger discontent within the ruling APC and force them to take their youths and others who voted them more seriously.
When Rinsola Abiola, Jasper Azuatulam and Ismail were chosen to be Board of Trustees’ members in the APC, we in the PDP used it to try and push our leaders to take youths more seriously. Having not shown any further signs of involving youths more in politics since then, the APC can surely take a cue from this PDP Youth Conference.
We will not be alone at this Conference on November 6 however. The chairman of the day is Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State alongside many other established politicians within our party. By inviting them, we hope to achieve a synergy of thoughts, voice and effort as well as facilitate access to political mentoring for all attendees.
Getting the party to accept the idea of a Youth Wing is a step – but the journey is longer than that and this conference will also discuss how it should be set up, which and which offices it will have at the national level and all the way down.
The involvement of party Youth Leaders across the country is very strategic as Ismaila Aruwa, the North Central PDP Youth Leader and Chairman of the Forum of PDP Youth Leaders is the chairman of the Local Organising Committee while Anthony Ehilebo is the Chairman of the Conference Secretariat and Secretary of the LOC.
Registration for the event and other information are available on the website pdpnationalyouthconference.com from where supporters can access our social media platforms and from where the conference would be beamed live to the world so that those who cannot be there can still participate.
Youths have taken their place in the media with digital website running traditional newspapers closely. In entertainment with our music being the music of choice everywhere. In business with youths leading embodying the entrepreneurial spirit of the times. In sports, tech and everywhere else. The only place youths have not made more impact at the policy and directional level is in politics and government. Any wonder that the polity is the way it is?
It is time for youths to rise and take their place in the polity.
Demola Olarewaju writes as the Chairman of the Media and Publicity Subcommittee of the PDP Youth Conference.