The Role of youths in promoting good governance and political transformation by My. Samuel Aruwa

The Role of youths in promoting good governance and political transformation by My. Samuel Aruwa


I wish to express my profound gratitude to the organizers of this conference who have found me worthy to speak here, which I consider humbling and a privilege going by the series of challenges being faced by our struggling country Nigeria.

I was asked to speak on the role of youths in promoting good governance and political transformation, which is very significant in the quest of addressing  serious key challenges of administering sound and good governance in Nigeria, again, it is important because it holds key to cogent and purposeful national development but I digress.

What constitutes  youths and what is youthfulness all about?


According to Wikipedia’s definition: Youth is the time of life between childhood and adulthood (maturity)

Definitions of the specific age range that constitutes youth vary. An individual’s actual maturity may not correspond to their chronological age, asmr. samuel aruwan and rev. mathias yashim leading a discussion immature individuals could exist at all ages.

Other sources defined youth as “The part of life that succeeds to childhood; the period of existence preceding maturity or age; the whole early part of life, from childhood, or, sometimes, from infancy, to manhood.”

I can go and on but however, let me take a look at a few quotes by various philosophers regarding youths.

Albert Einstein: I live in that solitude which is painful in youth, but delicious in the years of maturity.


Mark Twain: George Washington, as a boy, was ignorant of the commonest accomplishments of youth. He could not even lie.

Williams Shakespeare: A man loves the meat in his youth that he cannot endure in his age.


Friedrich Nietzsche: The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.

Ralph Waldo Emerson: Passion rebuilds the world for the youth. It makes all things alive and significant. The search after the great men is the dream of youth, and the most serious occupation of manhood.

Eleanor Roosevelt: Probably the happiest period in life most frequently is in middle age, when the eager passions of youth are cooled, and the infirmities of age not yet begun; as we see that the shadows, which are at morning and evening so large, almost entirely disappear at midday.

Aristotle: Good habits formed at youth make all the difference. Youth is easily deceived because it is quick to hope. Bashfulness is an ornament to youth, but a reproach to old age.

From the above quotes, they have clearly shown that youth comes with a pride, privilege and certain natural processes that all mortals pass through with no one in exception, and so it is practically applicable to all of us. Because our success in life depends on our past, present and also that of the future, being youth is just like history, which is part and parcel of our lives. Everywhere we go, our history is required, and whether in schools where we are seeking admissions, whether in hospitals when we are seeking medical attention and even marriage where we are coming from, who we are and so on are required. And so it is natural that any successful man or woman we have today possesses high morals and integrity in their youthful years, because like I argued the present is essentially part of the past.

The role (s) of youths in nation building is not a new trend or emerging one but a constant one that has been with the administration of states affairs since time immemorial. I will draw cases from many places. If we look at the history of the formation of the United States, it is clearly a manifestation of the hard work and sacrifice of youths.

The history of the US cannot be completed without mentioning of George Washington who was their first President from April 30, 1789 – March 4, 1797.

Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army in 1775–1783, and presided over the writing of the Constitution in 1787. The unanimous choice to serve as the first President of the United States (1789–1797), Washington presided over the creation of a strong, well-financed national government that stayed neutral in the wars raging in Europe, suppressed rebellion and won acceptance among Americans of all types. His leadership style established many forms and rituals of government that have been used ever since, such as using a cabinet system and delivering an inaugural address. Washington is universally regarded as the “Father of his country”.

Let me also take look at Lee Kuan Yew the great leader of Singapore. Yew is a Singaporean statesman. He was the first Prime Minister of the Republic of Singapore, governing for three decades. By the time he chose to step down to enable a stable leadership renewal, he had become the world’s longest-serving Prime Minister.

As the co-founder and first secretary-general of the People’s Action Party (PAP), he led the party to eight victories from 1959 to 1990, and oversaw the separation of Singapore from Malaysia in 1965 and its subsequent transformation from a relatively underdeveloped colonial outpost with no natural resources into a “First World” Asian Tiger. He has remained one of the most influential political figures in South-East Asia. Singapore’s second Prime Minister, Goh Chok Tong, appointed him as Senior Minister in 1990. He held the advisory post of Minister Mentor, created by his son, Lee Hsien Loong, when the latter became the nation’s third prime minister in August 2004.With his successive ministerial positions spanning over 50 years, Lee is also one of history’s longest serving ministers. On 14 May 2011, Lee and Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong announced their retirement from the cabinet after a watershed General Election of 2011.

During the three decades in which Lee held office, Singapore grew from being a developing  country to one of the most developed nations in Asia, despite its small population, limited land space and lack of natural resources. Lee has often stated that Singapore’s only natural resources are its people and their strong work ethic. He is widely respected by many Singaporeans, particularly the older generation, who remember his inspiring leadership during independence and the separation from Malaysia.

On the other hand, many Singaporeans have criticized Lee as being authoritarian and intolerant of dissent, citing his numerous mostly successful attempts to sue political opponents and newspapers who express an unfavorable opinion. International media watchdog Reporters Without Borders has asked Lee, and other senior Singaporean officials, to stop taking libel actions against journalists. Lee has also used the Internal Security Act on numerous occasions to arrest and detain opposing politicians and activists without trial.

In 2004 the National University of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy was named after him, one of the first cases of an institution in Singapore doing so. My boss and Editor-In-Chief of LEADERSHIP Newspapers Group, Sam Nda-Isaiah is a student now in the institution.

Here in Nigeria we have several cases but I will take Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Sir Ahmadu Bello as my example of narration.

Obafemi Awolowo was born in 1909 in Ikenne, present day Ogun State Nigeria. His father was a farmer and sawyer who died when Obafemi was only seven years old. He attended various schools, and then became a teacher in Abeokuta, after which he qualified as a shorthand typist. After which he served as a clerk at the famous Wesley College, as well as a correspondent for the Nigerian Times. It was after this that he embarked on various business ventures to help raise funds to travel to the UK for further studies. In 1949 Awolowo founded the Nigerian Tribune, the oldest surviving private Nigerian newspaper.

Awolowo was a leader who believed that the state should channel Nigeria’s resources into education and state-led infrastructure development. Controversially, and at considerable expense, he introduced free primary education for all in the Western Region, established the first television service in Africa in 1959,and the Oduduwa Group of which the highly lucrative cocoa industry which was the mainstream of the regional economy.

Awolowo first introduced free health care till the age of 18 in the Western Region and also free and mandatory primary education in Western Nigeria. Although, Awolowo failed to win the 1979 and 1983 presidential election which were questionable, his polices of Free Health and Education were carried out throughout all the states controlled by his party UPN.

On his legacy Awolowo is remembered for building Liberty Stadium in Ibadan, the first of its kind in Africa; WNTV, the first television station in Africa, the first skyscraper in tropical Africa: The Cocoa House (Still the tallest in Ibadan) and running a widely-respected civil service in the Western Region. He is also credited with coining the name “naira” for Nigeria’s currency (formerly known as the Nigerian Pound) as the Federal Commissioner of Finance under the Military Government of General Yakubu Gowon. Today, he is remembered by many Nigerians and non-Nigerians as the best president that Nigeria never had. Awolowo’s closest position to federal service was as the de facto Vice President to General Yakubu Gowon when he was Vice President of the Supreme Federal Executive Council under Gowon, a position he resigned immediately after the Nigerian Civil War.

Awolowo was respected by Kwame Nkrumah, and some politicians in the West continue to invoke his name, his policies, and the popular slogan of his Action Group party—”Life More Abundant”—during campaigns. He was also the author of several publications on the political structure and future prospects of Nigeria. Many institutions in Nigeria, honoured him and several regional and national institutions are named after him, including Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife, Osun State, Liberty Stadium in Ibadan is now Awolowo Stadium. His portrait on the ₦100 naira note is in commemoration of his service to the nation. A prolific political author, his most prominent works include Path to Nigerian Freedom, Thoughts on the Nigerian Constitution, and Strategies and Tactics of the People Republic of Nigeria.

On the side of Sir Ahmadu Bello, he was born in Rabbah, Sokoto State. He was the son of a district head and heir to the Sokoto Emirate. His great-grandfather was Sultan Bello, the founder of Sokoto and son of the revered Usman Dan Fodio. Ahmadu Bello received his education first at the Sokoto Provincial School, the only modern school at the time in the Sokoto province. Then, he proceeded to the Katsina Teacher’s Training College. After spending five years at Katsina, he was appointed by the Sultan to become a teacher at the Sokoto Middle School, his former school which had undergone rapid transformation. In 1934, he was made the district head of Rabbah, four years later; he was promoted and sent to Gusau to become a divisional head. In 1938, he made an unsuccessful bid to become the new Sultan of Sokoto. The successful sultan immediately conferred upon Sir Ahmadu Bello the traditional, now honorary, title of Sarduna, alternatively spelled Sardauna, and elevated him to the Sokoto Native Authority Council. In 1948, he was offered a scholarship to study local government administration in England. Ahmadu Bello took the scholarship sensing he needed to shore up his knowledge about the process of governance.

After returning from England, he was nominated to represent the province of Sokoto in the regional House of Assembly. As a member of the assembly, he was a notable voice for northern interest and embraced a style of consultation and consensus with the major representatives of the northern emirates: Kano, Bornu and Sokoto. In the first elections held in Northern Nigeria in 1952, Sir Ahmadu Bello won a seat in the Northern House of Assembly, and became a member of the regional executive council as minister of works. Bello was successively minister of Works, of Local Government, and of Community Development in the Northern Region of Nigeria.

In 1954, Bello became the first Premier of Northern Nigeria. In the 1959 independence elections, Bello led the NPC to win a plurality of the parliamentary seats. Bello’s NPC forged an alliance with Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s NCNC (National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons) to form Nigeria’s first indigenous federal government which led to independence from Britain. In forming the 1960 independence federal government of the Nigeria, Bello as president of the NPC, chose to remain Premier of Northern Nigeria and devolved the position of Prime Minister of the Federation to the deputy president of the NPC, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.

Bello’s greatest legacy was the modernization and unification of the diverse people of Northern Nigeria. He was assassinated during a 15 January 1966 military coup which toppled Nigeria’s post-independence government. He was still serving as premier of Northern Nigeria at the time.

Having traced the numerous definitions of youths and their positive roles in America, Singapore and Nigeria; I now turn to good governance, though I will lump it up with political transformation which is an added dictum that is purely an extension of good governance and as a last status of a sound moral political order.

What then is good governance?

According to Wikipedia, Good governance is an indeterminate term used in development literature to describe how public institutions conduct public affairs and manage public resources in order to guarantee the realization of human rights. Governance describes “the process of decision-making and the process by which decisions are implemented (or not implemented)”.The term governance can apply to corporate, international, national, local governance or to the interactions between other sectors of society.

The concept of “good governance” often emerges as a model to compare ineffective economies or political bodies with viable economies and political bodies. Because the most “successful” governments in the contemporary world are liberal democratic states concentrated in Europe and the Americas, those countries’ institutions often set the standards by which to compare other states’ institutions. Because the term good governance can be focused on any one form of governance, aid organizations and the authorities of developed countries often will focus the meaning of good governance to a set of requirement that conform to the organizations agenda, making “good governance” imply many different things in many different contexts.

In international affairs, analysis of good governance can look at any of the following relationships:

• between governments and markets,

• between governments and citizens,

• between governments and the private or voluntary sector,

• between elected officials and appointed officials,

• between local institutions and urban and rural dwellers,

• between legislature and executive branches, and

• between nation states and institutions.

The varying types of comparisons comprising the analysis of governance in scholastic and practical discussion can cause the meaning of “good governance” to vary greatly from practitioner to practitioner.

Three institutions can be reformed to promote good governance: the state, the private sector and civil society. However, amongst various cultures, the need and demand for reform can vary depending on the priorities of that country’s society. A variety of country level initiatives and international movements put emphasis on various types of governance reform. Each movement for reform establishes criteria for what they consider good governance based on their own needs and agendas. The following are examples of good governance standards for prominent organizations in the international community.

The International Monetary Fund declared in 1996 that “promoting good governance in all its aspects, including by ensuring the rule of law, improving the efficiency and accountability of the public sector, and tackling corruption, as essential elements of a framework within which economies can prosper.” The IMF feels that corruption within economies is caused by the ineffective governance of the economy, either too much regulation or too little regulation. To receive loans from the IMF, countries must have certain good governance policies, as determined by the IMF, in place.

The United Nations emphasizes reform through human development and political institution reform. According to the UN, good governance has eight characteristics. Good governance is:

• Consensus Oriented

• Participatory

• Following the Rule of law

• Effective and Efficient

• Accountable

• Transparent

• Responsive

• Equitable and Inclusive

On their side The World Bank is more concerned with the reform of economic and social resource control 1992, it underlined three aspects of society which they feel affect the nature of a country’s governance:

• Type of political regime;

• Process by which authority is exercised in the management of the economic and social resources, with a view to development; and

• Capacity of governments to formulate policies and have them effectively implemented.

On international humanitarian funding. Good governance defines an ideal which is difficult to achieve in full, though it is something development supporters consider donating to causes. Major donors and international financial institutions, like the IMF or World Bank, are basing their aid and loans on the condition that the recipient undertake reforms ensuring good governance. This is mostly due to the close link between poor governance and corruption.

Democratization comes to mind because concepts such as civil society, decentralization, peaceful conflict management and accountability are often used when defining the concept of good governance, the definition of good governance promotes many ideas that closely align with effective democratic governance. Not surprisingly, emphasis on good governance can sometimes be equated with promoting democratic government.

A good example of this close association, for some actors, between western democratic governance and the concept of good governance is the following statement made by Hillary Clinton in Nigeria on August 12, 2009:

“Again, to refer to President Obama’s speech, what Africa needs is not more strong men; it needs more strong democratic institutions that will stand the test of time. Without good governance, no amount of oil or no amount of aid, no amount of effort can guarantee Nigeria’s success. But with good governance, nothing can stop Nigeria. It’s the same message that I have carried in all of my meetings, including my meeting this afternoon with your president. The United States supports the seven-point agenda for reform that was outlined by President Yar’Adua. We believe that delivering on roads and on electricity and on education and all the other points of that agenda will demonstrate the kind of concrete progress that the people of Nigeria are waiting for.”

Researchers at the Overseas Development Institute have criticized past studies of good governance to place tool little importance on developing political parties, their capacity and their ties to their grassroots supporters. While political parties play a key role in well-functioning democracies, elsewhere political parties are disconnected from voters and dominated by elites, with few incentives or capabilities to increase the representation of other voters. Political parties can play a key role in pivotal moments of a state’s development, either positively (e.g. organizing and instigating violence) or negatively (e.g. by leading dialogue in a fractured society).While differences in the electoral system play their role in defining the number of parties and their influence once in power (proportional, first past the post, etc.), the funding and expertise available to parties also plays an important role not only in their existence, but their ability to connect to a broad base of support. While the United Nations Development Program and the European Commission have been providing funding to political parties since the 1990s, there are still calls to increase the support for capacity development activities including the development of party manifestos, party constitutions and campaigning skills.

Finally, it is a fact that, the nation’s building is highly dependent on youth. Youth is that powerful resource, which can either construct or destruct the whole nation as already said. According to everyone, youth should step forward to take up on the responsibility in developing the nation. Yes, I agree that, youth is not given a proper chance to prove their potentials in countries like ours, but, “The young” , according to Pearl S. Buck, (a Nobel Laureate in literature) “do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible, and achieve it, generation after generation”.

Isn’t this single quotation of her is sufficient to motivate the whole nation? Or do we still need motivational quotes like the one above to recall our own potentials to attempt the impossible and achieve the success? It seems highly surprising that, we, the youth fail to display the same enthusiasm in nation’s building which we often display for getting ahead in traffic? Have we really forgotten our responsibility towards our nation or that we are knowingly skipping the tasks to achieve development? It is observed that, the youth who always fight for enjoying their rights, never wish to take up the pains of responsibility.

Many educated youth had already realized the necessity of utilizing their skills for the betterment of the society but at the same time, the youth is also misguided to a larger extent by some evil sources making them irresponsible towards the society they live in. It is pathetic but true that, due to many –a-problems that exists in today’s world, youth is highly attracted and/or fancied towards evil sources. As a result, a huge destruction is occurring all over. It is true that, youth is highly amendable, but one must show the guts to take up the challenge to guide the youth to a correct path as my older brothers Malams Nasiru Ahmed El-Rufai and Nuhu Ribadu and other eminent persons did in the past. But, speaking frankly, one must never wait for any as it damages the power of self-confidence and courage.

Evil habits, is a hip in today’s world. It is impossible for anyone to escape from these until and unless they are self-confident to control themselves. Self-controllability is the only measure to save oneself from evil habits. Drugs, alcohol, smoking, undesirable sexual activities etc., also hinder nation’s building. If the youth gets addicted to any of these activities, one can easily predict that, the destruction has started not only as the person but also harms the nation which needs young blood to run and/or construct it. One has to realize the necessity of being healthy in almost every aspect of life.

Youth in order to make his/her country developed, has to sacrifice not only their lives by protecting their country at the borders but also has to protect from internal threats, and make the society a healthy place to live. It is possible only, if the youth realize to stay healthy by sacrificing selfishness, laziness, evilness etc., and by thinking dedicatedly for the growth of nation. In my conclusion, as a Nigerian youth, who is proud of its rich and varied heritage, take an oath whole-heartedly that, I will strive for the development of my country and my people and in their well being and prosperity alone, lays my happiness. I will be happy if every youth who loves his/her country take a similar oath and strive hard to keep up the promise till the last breathe.

Every Nigerian youth has a role to play in the development and in the body politic of the nation. The nation at 51 is bedeviled by so many negative factors. These factors formidable are- low political culture, high illiteracy rate, planlessness, lack of patriotism and discipline among Nigerians, mismanagement, corruption, economic and financial crimes, bribery, tribal and religious intolerance and so many other negative factors that has given d nation a bad image in d international arena. But all hope is not yet lost, as Nigeria still has a bright future. It’s up to me and you strive towards re-sanitizing the nation and bring about the much expected positive development. Nigeria is a nation blessed with both human and natural resources. With these, we have what it takes to be among d best in world. All Nigeria youth are enjoined to be patriotic and shun all forms of political, economic, and social vices. Let us go to the drawing board, and fashion out workable theories needed in moving this country Nigeria forward. There should exist among Nigerian youths, tribal and religious tolerance. It would go a long way in creating an atmosphere where all would co-exist in peace and tranquility. We are one family, we are one Nigeria. Long live Nigeria.

Thanks for listening and thanks for your kind attention.