Current Director-General of the Citizenship and Leadership Training Centre (CLTC) and former governorship aspirant in Oyo State, Mr Soji Eniade. He speaks with WALE AKINSELURE on the peculiarities of citizenship, leadership in Nigeria.
THE Citizenship and Leadership Training Centre (CLTC) has a duty to inspire good citizenship and leadership. The centre has a duty to reorientate the youths to lead responsible lives and better society. However, there remains a lot of vices bedeviling the country. Do you think the centre really is living up to this mandate?
CLTC is one of the oldest institutions in Nigeria. It is a 70-year-old organisation. When you see a 70-year-old organisation still not finding its footing, then something is wrong. There has been issue of neglect over the years. However, some organisations still recognize CLTC as a critical institution in nation building in Nigeria. For example, no officer of the Nigerian Army will be commissioned without passing through our training centre. With the law that sets up the centre, it is compulsory for public servants for pass through the training programmed of the centre. But, over the years, that culture has been lost. Sometimes last week, the permanent Secretary of the ministry of youths and sports development inaugurated a committee to review the youth policy of Nigeria from year 2024 to 2027. The policy for 2019 to 2023 will lapse this year so CLTC is represented on that committee and we will do everything humanely possible to ensure that the new youth policy of Nigeria captures the aspirations and objectives of CLTC. So, the institution may have not been living up to its responsibility but everything is being put on ground to ensure that the lost glory is restored.
You are the director-general of a leadership training centre. But, the popular notion is that Nigeria has lacked good leadership over the years. Why has good leadership continued to elude us?
Where will the leadership emerge? Leaders will emerge from the citizens. Leaders are not a different group of citizens. I just watched a clip of a man saying, not all politicians are leaders. If politicians who are expected to occupy leadership positions are not leaders, then what do you expect? Leadership is not acquired overnight. It it not when you get to the National Assembly that you start to learn the attributes of a good leader. It is something that should be learnt from the youthful age. That is why in school, we have class captains, school prefects, student union government. These are preparation grounds for leadership at the highest positions of governance. But, how many people went through this before they find themselves at the National Assembly, in executive positions? It is only in the judiciary, military, police that you say people went through. In several aspects of the public sector, many people just found themselves in positions of leadership without being prepared for it.
But, some say it’s a systemic issue that would shrink the best prepared persons to size. It is just like having a rotten tomato in a basket full of the item; it will make the other tomatoes rotten, let alone one good tomato in a basket of rotten tomatoes. The challenge is that we must start from the start and that is why government must pay serious attention to youth development programmes especially leadership programmes so that these youths will be prepared. The youths are the future of Nigeria. It is from the population of youths that future leaders will emerge. There was a scenario of one Student Union Government President appoints about 40 aides. At that moment, such should be corrected because it is cost of governance that people are condemning at the highest level. Actually it is a systemic challenge but it can be easily corrected if attention is given to the right population group. I see the root of the system we are talking about within the youth population. Incidentally, we have institutions in place but most of them are not given the expected push to deliver on their set goals.
Youth unemployment is a huge problem. What novel things should the Tinubu administration do to tackle this challenge?
The federal government will dish out most of the policies. But, majority of the youths are in the local government, at the State level. I would have loved the question, how do we holistically solve this problem? It is at the federal, state and local government levels. There is need for collaboration in this area. We need multi-track diplomacy to address the issue. We have government, civil society, academia, media, religious leaders, play various roles in policy building process. The first step is to set the agenda and this is where the media plays a very critical role. Unfortunately, the social media has taken control of the situation, feeding the people with wrong information and fake news. To tackle the issue of youth unemployment, there must be an aggregation of minds, involving the critical groups coming together to say the way forward. Most often, most policies of government are just decided in offices not involving the critical stakeholders. For us to determine how to solve the issue of youth unemployment, the three levels of government (federal, state and local) must be involved because if the federal government simply states what it wants to do, the issue might be how receptible will be policy be at the state and local government level. What is good at a particular state might not be good at another state. Some states are completely agrarian where the problem or unemployment can be solved through agriculture. Some states are municipal, in such society; Information Technology may be the solution to youth unemployment. All these ideas must be aggregated but cannot be done without the participation of the states.
One way several political office holders say they tackle unemployment is through what they call, empowerment, where items are distributed to constituents. Is that tackling unemployment?
On this issue of empowerment, I have seen instances where the so called unemployed collect machines, other items; they sell it at that very spot. Is the population of youths we are talking about skilled? Are they employable? Technical education should be revived in Nigeria because. Skill acquired yesterday may not work for the industrial skills required today. Some policies of government that worked yesterday may not work today and that is why you see policies being reviewed constantly. People should be involved in policy formulation to tackle the youth unemployment. The academia should be involved. Is it not time to review the curricula? It is an issue that must involved every segment of the society.
The Tinubu administration is over two months old. What issues must his government address to be ranked as one that provided good leadership in the nation’s history?
I want to see a steady and robust education system in Nigeria, at the primary, secondary and tertiary level. I want to see a robust, sustainable education system. Security is the foundation of everything because if there is no security, you can’t do anything. The issue of power, I think the policy is beinf reviewed that states can generate power too. The issue of the railway system. Thank God for the immediate past administration that kick-started that beautiful directive on reemergence of railway in Nigeria. Nigerian and India got its independence at about the same time. The railway system was introduced to the two countries by the colonial masters at about the same time. If you go to India today, the rail system there is an industry on its own. But, we lost it along the line in Nigeria. Thank God for President Muhammadu Buhari administration that focused on reemergence of the railway system. I pray that at the end of the first term of President Bola Tinubu, the level of rail transportation will have improved. Going to Lagos from Ibadan, you now have options. The rail even takes pressure off the roads. I remember when the Lagos-Ibadan expressway was newly commissioned in the 1970s, there was a weighing bridge at the Lagos end of the Toll gate to determine the weight of vehicles that can go on the expressway. That arrangement was abandoned. But, now that we have a rail system running at least from Lagos to Ibadan, hopefully before the end of Tinubu administration, the link between Lagos-Ibadan-Kaduna, up North and the South-East rail track will have been completed. Air transportation is elitist, the road is choking so the rail should be revived. The people should also appreciate the little being done. The second Niger bridge is being vandalised, for example. When talking of leadership, we should not lose sight of good citizenship. We need the two to grow the nation, for the future of our children.
You were a governorship aspirant of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Oyo State for the 2019 elections. But, since then, you have not been visible on the political scene. Have you given up on your guber desire or are you strategising for the 2027 election?
I must confess that age is no longer on my side. We should give the youth population the opportunity. I have had my fair chance. As a civil servant. I was permanent Secretary and head of service for 10 years combined out of my 35 years of service. This is something I should be proud of and others should be encouraged to come forward. The bible said we should not be anxious of tomorrow. But, I am still in politics and I will continue to contribute my little quota to the development of Oyo State and Nigeria.