Bello Bala Shagari, 30, is one of the grand children of Nigeria’s Second Republic President, Alhaji Shehu Shagari and a youth activist. A graduate of Business Information Systems and Information Technology from Middlesex University London, Shagari, in this interview, argued that Nigerians must look beyond primordial sentiment to build an egalitarian society. He spoke with ANKELI EMMANUEL
You have over the years been an active member of the youth emancipation movement, what is your motivation?
My motivation is derived from a sense of duty and service which I have developed over the years. And it is as a result of my obsession with history. Who doesn’t want to be remembered in the best way possible? who wants to leave this world without having any contribution to humanity? No sane person would like to pass through life without giving his own period of living a purpose bigger than oneself. Therefore, History is my motivation.
Do you truly believe that our youths can deliver?
Nigerian Youth are amongst the most resilient, energetic and creative you can find from around the world. But unfortunately, they are being accused either wrongly or rightly for using such qualities. Our youths are performing wonders outside the shores of this country. They are breaking records in different endeavours. But most pathetically, the empahasis has always being on those areas that are considered negative.
But for me as a person who has had course to interact and interface with Nigerian youths from South to East and West to North, I can assure you that our youths are brilliantly creative. If you know the kind of wonders that Nigerian young people are capable of, you would know that it is enough talent to run Nigeria successfully if they have a good orientation and opportunity to do so.
What are your reasons for seeking to become National President of Nigerian Youths Council?
Let me correct an impression here, my resolve to contest was never personal. I was rather encouraged to seek for the office. I was doing my thing comfortably when a youth council veteran approached me and said he thinks I will make a good youth council president. He said as he is getting over aged and wants to leave a good legacy in the council, his greatest happiness would be to bring youths who are visionary, bold, critical and outspoken, especially to government and powers that be.
When he told me, I laughed over it and replied that I could not be convinced. Because I know the history of our Youth Council. At one time I have dealt with those people and the ones I met were not very straightforward, until now that I realise that there are some good people in it. However, it took me weeks of consultation in my personal cycle, before I could even agree to be part of the council. My father was the last person I consulted with because I knew he was going to discourage me, but he didn’t to my amazement. So I had to be convinced, that I may be the one to salvage the council because it is having many problems. So it is on that ground that I joined the Youth council. I am a man on a mission! I began as the Chairman of Sokoto State Chapter where I believed we did quite well.
Therefore, given some of my experiences and the nature of my media profession which gave me the opportunity to interact and have contact with some political leaders in and outside Nigeria, I believe I am well prepared to do the job.
Are you seeking the position for any political relevance?
Every person who feels obliged to contribute to any kind of development would like to be relevant. Relevance in the sense that your service will always be required. Relevance in the sense that you will always be consulted because you want to contribute your own quota. Relevance in the sense that you want to speak for those whose voices are unheard. Yes, that kind of relavance. But not the relevance of name making, the relevance of taking credit or the relevance which makes you arrogant; making you think that nothing can be done without you. God forbid! may we never be irrelevant in our lifetime, and may we be relevant for the advancement of humanity.
Your grandfather, Shehu Shagari was the first democratically elected president of Nigeria, what lessons have you learnt from him?
Peace, love and patience. Honesty and truth. There is this saying of his in Hausa which was a verse in one of his poems where he said “In zaka fadi, fadi gaskiya, komi taka ja make ka biya”, which translates to whatever you’re going to say, say the truth, for you have done what is best, no matter the consequence. Secondly, I have also learnt from him that Nigerians are one irrespective of our differences; that I cannot be biased for whatever reason.
To what extent can you assuage the glaring division among the Nigerian youths?
To a very great extent. Everyone who knows me closely will tell you that I am one individual who does not subscribe to any form of ethnic, religious or regional discrimination. Up till now, I am one Nigerian I know who does not believe that the 1966 coup in Nigeria was an Igbo plot. Yes! But some might say I am naive on that! “You are a small boy, you don’t know anything” I said no problem, let me be a small boy. For me, however, I believe that coup was just a plot to create an everlasting problem for Nigeria which is working against us well so far.
But I believe my generation will see beyond tribalism. We should be talking about pan-africanism but we are here talking about nationalism? It is too small a cause! There is a northern Muslim, there is a northern Christian, a southern Muslim and a southern Christian. Christian Fulani and Muslim Fulani. The same applies to Hausa Igbo and Yoruba. With these interconnections, where is the line anyone is trying to draw? Yet to a white man, we are all the same. It is quite unnecessary to limit ourselves in such a way. As for me, I said I am Hausa by language, Yoruba by food, Igbo by business and Fulani by tribe (Laughter) therefore I am a complete Nigerian. I believe with constant reminder and better education, we will get over these unnecessary segregation that has no impact on our development.
What is your stand on the Not Too Young To Run law recently signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari?
It is an experiment, and a great one at that. It is an inspiration for the youths of Africa at large. It shows that the youth can rise up and seek for anything they wish and they will achieve it. It is also commendable that the government has tolerated our agitation which has been peaceful and cooperated by assenting to our quest.
On the other hand, many other people are condemning the law saying it only carries us halfway. But at least we have started the journey. It is a basic right and we deserve it. We also deserve some accolades for achieving it (laughter). What we want to do with the youth council if we win is to complement that effort by preparing our youth for leadership. It is necessary to be prepared because without that, there wouldn’t be much difference. After all, we are all Nigerians. Competence is the bottom line not age, but age too is an advantage because youths are more energetic and in tune with the emerging world.
There seems to be conflict of interest in the nation’s political direction at the moment. In your view, what is the way out?
The way in is the way out.Those people at the top know what they want, and the people who vote also know what they want. We will not know what everyone wants until votes are casted. But no matter what happens, we want our leaders to show good example of sportsmanship. It is not a do or die affair for anyone who means well for this country.
Will the youth council present a presidential aspirant in 2019?
Yes. But President Muhammadu Buhari has appealed to us to wait till 2023 (Laughter). Maybe we should prepare towards the 2023 general elections. By then we must have come up with every good formular of unanimously preparing and choosing a youthful candidate. There is need for a paradigm shift in Nigeria, it is 21st century!
Another electioneering period is by the corner. What is your call on Nigerian youths?
It is very important that we do not buy into this fake news propaganda that is going around. Sharing incisive message alone makes you an agent of violence. We should not allow ourselves to be divided on ethnic or religious grounds, not even party grounds.
Parties carry ideas, choose your party and let others do the same peacefully. Nobody’s ambition is worth the blood of anyone. Some politicians will wear any kind of mask to persuade you into hating one another. We must stand above hate and be objective rather than subjective. That is the only way we can maintain progress. We must continue to insist that, Nigerians look beyond primordial sentiment to guarantee an egalitarian society where everybody is loved, respected and cherished if not while other nations are busy developing, we will still be here trying to stabilise.
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