On Tuesday, January 21, 2019, the All Progressives Congress (APC) Director of Youth Mobilization Tonye Nwoye quoted President Buhari as saying he would appoint more youths as ministers and heads of government agencies and Parastatals upon his re-election as president. He said the Directorate was able to “extract the commitment” from the President after interacting with him on the needs of youths across the country.

These needs, according to Nwoye, they were able to gather after a “one week of non-stop nationwide consultations that l spearheaded…”. In other words, what Nwoye is saying is that it is the wish of majority of Nigerian youths to see more of us represented in government. He went on to state that “…the polity is ready for… youth developmental programme to the ‘Next Level’ of higher youth inclusion in leadership and the economy”.

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Although this promise by Mr. President came during the build up to the 2019 general elections, Recently the president approved the appointment of Mr. Ahmad Salihijo Ahmad to head the country’s Rural Electrification Agency (REA). It is obvious that this president is determined to make good his promise to the Nigerian youths.

That is why I was pleasantly surprised when some news media reported the appointment in a manner that suggested disapproval to the extent that one paper even stated that “President Muhammadu Buhari approved a former mid-level civil servant to head a crucial electrification agency, …Perhaps to conceal the fact that the appointment would be questioned by Nigerians’’ the appointee was described in a public press statement as an expert with vast knowledge and experience in power sector development’’ Now, we have a president who has decided to make good his promise by appointing a young man as demanded by the majority of Nigerian youths, why should anyone raise an eyebrow? It is quite unfortunate that the same platform will even go as far as describing the appointment as nepotism. The question to ask is that, is he not qualified? Can he deliver on the job or is he not a Nigerian? I beg to differ because, as I shall also show here, those who pick holes on the issue of experience, may not know, or may have chosen to ignore one important aspect of Mr. Salihijo’s life; his antecedents.

They talk about his age, wait a minute, when the government promised to include Nigerian youth in its administration, what were they expecting? A man of 60 or 70?
I mean, how old were our First Republic founding fathers when they held various government positions that greatly affected the lives of our people for good? Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello, Okotie-Eboh and Enahoro were in their twenties and thirties when they led the struggle for Nigeria’s Independence.
Generals Danjuma, Babangida, Abacha and Yar’adua were all in their late twenties and early thirties when they came into positions of decision making. With all due respect, what experience in governance did General Gowon have when he led Nigeria at age 32, yet he led well. Since independence, we have seen youths take positions of authority, so if this president decides to keep his promise, we should support him because there is a quota of youth inclusion that is required and we are not even there yet. This is why the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN) recently urged the President to include more youth in his cabinet as promised during the 2019 electioneering campaign, and I urge this government to do more.

So, you can understand my astonishment when I read in some media platforms talking about age and experience when clearly, it is a youth that is being appointed, or when they regard the appointment of Mr. Salihijo as nepotism. Quite frankly, all these lamentations are uncalled for. To start with Mr. Salihijo is not a relative of the president nor is he from Katsina state.
Personally, I think the appointment of Mr. Salihijo by the federal government is in order. It is not just a statement that the government is ready to give the youths their rightful place in the government, it is also a case for the Nigerian youth that yes, our time is now.

Like many, especially stakeholders in the agency, I see nothing wrong with this new appointment because Mr. Salihijo is eminently qualified for the job. It is my firm believe Mr. Salihijo will deliver on the mandate of the agency and make Nigerian youths proud considering his track record. It is highly unfair to link his appointment to patronage or sentimental tendencies.

Salihijo was born on 20th October, 1983. He attended Essence International School, Nigeria and British Secondary School of Lome, before securing admission to study Electronic and Electrical Engineering at University of Leeds, United Kingdom. After graduating in 2006, he did his one – year National Youth Service Corps and enrolled for Master in Project Planning and Management at CADD Centre Abuja in 2008. In 2018, he obtained a Master of Development Studies from Nigerian Defence Academy Kaduna.

Ahmad is a Member of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) and registered with the Council of the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN).

Between 2009 and 2012, he worked as Pioneer staff at Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission.
From 2012 to 2014, he worked as a Technical Adviser to the Project Director
Community Services and Women Employment Programs of the SURE-P under Federal Ministry of Finance. During his time at the SURE-P, he led the development and implementation of a project that empowered over 50, 000 youths.

In 2016, he was appointed as the Special Adviser to the Honourable Minister of Environment and current deputy secretary general of the united nations Hajiya Amina Muhammed, where he was responsible for coordinating various projects including Clean and Green Campaign to end Open Defecation, Waste to Wealth Management/Recycling, Repositioning of the Great Green Wall Project and Ogoni Clean up Exercise.

In 2017, he was the Coordinator, Nigeria Green Bond Program under the Federal Ministry of Environment, during which he coordinated the secretariat for issuance of Africa’s first Sovereign Green Bonds valued at NGN10.69 billion. He has also worked as Technical Lead of Energizing Education Program at the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), Afforestation Program at the Federal Ministry of Environment and the Renewable Energy Micro-Utility at the Federal Ministry of Power.

In 2018, he started working as the Executive Director Operations at eN Consulting and Projects, and managed the execution of solar photovoltaic Greenfield security lighting projects with Federal Capital Territory Administration.
Salihijo is the founder and chairman of FlexiSEF Foundation, a non-profit organization that focuses on promoting education and ensuring that out-of-school children have opportunity for education. He has led the organization to set up a school, known as Accelerator Learning Project (ACCLEARN) in Safe space Rugga community, Wuye, Abuja Nigeria to teach out-of-children and prepare them for formal education. The ACCLEARN School has benefited many children in Nigeria.

The man’s resume speaks for him, and this is the criteria I think the government used in his appointment and that should be the yardstick to be considered not one’s age or any other primordial sentiments.

With Mr. Salihijo’s appointment, the President is telling us that politics should no longer be typically regarded as a space for only politically experienced or old men, where young people are systematically marginalized because of their age, limited opportunities, and projected lack of experience. Please let us all bear in mind that the presence of young people like Salihijo in decision-making positions benefits all citizens and not just the youths.

How can we continue to complain about the poor representation of young people in government and then turn around to condemn an appointment such as that of Salihijo under any guise? I think instead of criticizing the president on this appointment, the question rather should be how can we support more young people who are interested in channeling their potentials and energy through formal political institutions and engagements.

While appealing to Nigerians to please give Mr. Salihijo a chance to prove his worth, let me end this piece with words of the minister’s media aide;
What many care about right now is what the new REA boss has to offer and we have confidence in the president’s decision.

I wish Mr.Salihijo good luck in his new appointment, I urge him to surround himself with technocrats and I pray God to grant him success. Thank you and may God bless Nigeria.

Sani Isa Hammanyero
Youth activist
Writes from Yola