LET me enter a caveat: I haven’t played an appreciable role in the politics of the Plateau Youth Council in a manner that one could be said to understand how things work. That being explained, therefore, I can safely conclude that I have followed to some level the popular politics that may have built confidence in the youths of Plateau over the years; and who have led or may have been involved in building the youth-based organization in the state.
Having served in a position in the past that depended on the whims and caprices of its members; it is only normal to imagine the apprehension and apparent acrimony that has built over time about the development in the Plateau Youth Council. If this situation does not give the Plateau youth concern for their future, pray tell me what else could be exigent and troubling to them now?
Popular opinions on the activities of the Council in the past suggest that it has been progressive to a fault. Even though there may have been some aberrations arising from alleged official misconducts; nothing can obliterate from memory popular decisions for which a number of people are beneficiaries of the struggle.
Most of those recorded victories did not come easy. At points when ordinarily the circumstances dictated that they could have been easily subjugated by the sheer use of force and other apparatus of coercion by the state; they were further propelled to achieve more as everyone knew they were on the side of the people they represented; and their actions would engender development.
They never went to sleep. The Plateau Youth Council was reputed for developing the youths, speaking for the state, criticizing where the council felt they needed to put the state on the path of transparency and accountability. But above all; and which worked for them, the council did not depend on the military or politicians for their struggles. That really paid off in no small terms.
Talking about development when placed side by side with what we later had for the struggle, the comparison quickly pales into insignificance as the conditions under which the forerunners operated were far harsher than in the following years. Those conditions did not make them succumb; they beat even the military into retreat on certain policies that the Council considered inimical to the progress of the state and its people.
To think that they withstood some of these conditions during those days when the state was larger is enough reason to energize them for further rounds of productive struggles. The power to struggle legitimized by popular mandates; from all intent and purposes appeared to have been whittled down or so it seems with the years.
Where did the youths get it wrong? Did they not learn from the teacher called experience? Who must have misled them to think that the path to power is not filled with thorns and thistles laid all on the way up? While some of the landmines are the creation of society; majority may have arisen as a result of activities of the council. To imagine that it would have been a smooth sail is to think that when it rains, it does not wet the person exposed to it.
Quickly, it should be noted that when the National Youth Council of Nigeria was established in 1964 but had its legal recognition in 1990, basically, it was ‘charged with policy formulation and issues bordering on youth development and the umbrella body and the mouth piece of the Nigerian youth’; and supervised by the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development.
The struggle for the soul of the council in Plateau State has had a number of fire brand chairmen. To be fair, looking at those years, Prof Thomas Anpe (1987-89), Dr Sam Piwuna (1989-91), Barr Tanimu Adamson (1991-93), Dan Manjang (1993-95), William Wohyit Audu (1996-98), Adamu Kevin Kesuwo (1998-2001), Yakubu Ibrahim Itse (2001-2004) and Emma Dashe (2004-2007) were, in every sense worth remembering.
A number of them had close shaves with the authorities in the course of the struggle, just as some were allegedly found culpable in certain areas; while one or two were later reinvestigated and discovered not to have soiled their hands in the tills of the council. Such vibrancy enabled them concentrate on their core mandates; for which results came in abundance.
For obvious reasons, it should be noted that over the years, the council as elsewhere has benefited on an aberration that seems to give room to ‘members’ considered outside the age bracket of 18-35 to run the affairs of the council. I am aware there are younger persons who have the capacity to run the council when given the chance. I am, like some of the youths worried that they have not been given the opportunity to be masters of themselves.
Several years; to be specific from 2007 until 2017, there was a lull in the activities of the council largely due to internal wrangling that paralyzed all manner of issues relating to it. If that was all it would have been easily forgiven; the tussle was so ferocious that it became a subject of litigation, until the Governor Simon Bako Lalong; himself a product of the movement intervened to save it from being taken to the undertakers by ensuring that it was settled out of court. As expected, the wilderness experience should have brought out the best in the youths, after the squabbles were addressed.
Without sounding prejudiced to any of the sides (that is if I know of any one) involved in the struggle to take control of the soul of the PYC; the Ministry of Sports and Youth Development was right to have taken over the activities of the council. This became apparent when there appeared to be in motion a subtle manner in which a tenure elongation was being sought.
The constitution allows for three years tenure. The officers elected on May 22, 2017 were expected to hand over the reins of leadership on May 22, 2020. For the chairmanship of the council, the following contested: Bulus Balnan, Mikang, Humphrey Dashe, Quan Pan, Fabong Jemchang Yildam and Timzing Manasseh, Langtang North. Fabong Jemchang was returned as the state chairman.
That appeared to have been in the process until a press statement issued by the leadership indicated otherwise. The reason was not farfetched: ‘The Council informed the youths that Plateau State Youth Council’s Constitution does not recognize any form of a Caretaker Committee or Interim Government, and to that extend, there can’t be a vacuum in the event of the expiration of tenure of office due to the inability to midwife the process of elections because of the pandemic and unequivocally call on elected Officers of the Council at all levels to maintain status quo until the ban on all forms of gathering is lifted by the Government.
Instead of conducting elections and handing over to new officials on May 22, 2020 however, ‘the extraordinary circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent ban on all social gatherings have made elections impossible. We are determined more than ever to midwife the process of a new administration immediately Government lifts the ban on social gathering’.
You may doubt it, but I am aware that the crisis started right from the inception of the leadership. The executive committee was made up of candidates from different blocks (particularly those who contested for the chairmanship), and for which nothing is bad about it. That development, therefore, made it difficult to get to work with the winner. It was easy to have some of the members to boycott the activities and meetings of the council.
At this point it was the responsibility of the leader to ensure he brought his ‘enemies’ in council to work together under one umbrella, if he wanted to succeed no matter what it will take. What further compounded the apparent difficulty in working as a team was the division of the executive into two camps. While there were eight opposing the camp of the chairman which had four, it became manifest that the house had since been divided and the center was difficult to hold them together.
You may not agree, but I am persuaded to believe that a number of things allegedly brought the PYC to a state of disrepute: Many allegedly thought that if there was money or fertilizers they should have been shared to them; to have refused to call for meetings for two years was enough to create the space for suspicion; the bogus creation called ‘Larger House’ ought not to be heard of (it is a house that has been built in a house) with both occupants collecting rent; the division in the house was a panacea for failure; even as the council appeared not to have been focused on youth development but allegedly relied on certain perceived political camps. But above all, the ministry should have served as a constant guide and not allowed it to be controlled as a fiefdom.
With all the distraction which they brought on the council, the agenda they set to achieve may have been scuttled. The altercations lately about the tenure and what should have happened had there been sincerity exposed a number of areas which are representative of the frustration that the PYC was led to.
The inability to have commenced the process of transition some three months before the expiration of the tenure added to members’ frustration. If it was difficult to have done that I am aware the Central Working Committee, which is still in place and is mandated by law to initiate the process. What the ministry has done is to facilitate and not allow council return to those dark days of uncertainty. The right things must be done to ensure PYC returns to the struggle for Plateau youths.