Ahmed Hadji is a Youth Activist, active participant, trainer and analyst within the youth’s and civil society movement and development sector in Uganda. He holds a Bachelors Degree in Social Sciences majoring in Gender and Leadership Development from Makerere University, Uganda an Advanced certificate in Conflict Analysis in Contemporary global economies from the United States Institute of Peace on a distance learning program, currently finishing his post graduate diploma in project planning and management course thesis paper. He also has undergone several trainings in: Transformational Youth Leadership with British Council, Policy Engagement and Advocacy, Gender Analysis, Human Rights, NGO Management, Financial Management, Resource Mobilization; monitoring and evaluation and as an international election observer in Nigeria and south Sudan in 2011.
He is currently the Team Leader, founder of African Youth Development Link (AYDL) a youth Development organisation and a member of young leaders policy think tank all of which focus on youth leadership development. In this interview with Akinola Akinwunmi, He shares his experience on monitoring the Nigeria 2011 elections.
Mission to Nigeria
Its an honour to be a part of the interview and also share from my experience
I am a team leader of African Youth Development Link, Uganda, established to fill the gap for young people to feature in democratic governance and give young people a voice. It is also a structure for young people to consistently participate in the planning of policies and also in implementation.It’s a dawn of hope to be in Nigeria.
My first time in Nigeria was as a result of the National Youth Manifesto Project which I spear-headed in Uganda.
Africa is embracing democracy much more. In 2010, I came up with the idea of having a youth manifesto, youth are in the majority and are better placed to funnel their energies for change in countries. I worked with IRI in Uganda and when the opportunity came to introduce this concept to Nigeria, I was invited to share the process with Nigeria and met with colleagues from all over the country
I was invited as part of the International Republican Institute mission to Nigeria as an election observer/monitor.
Assessment of the Nigerian 2011 elections
My assignment was to look at the involvement of young people in the Nigerian elections
This is an election that I saw the pro-activeness of the Nigerian youth well displayed especially using social media
Young people were interested and collapsed age-long boundaries to engage one another and mobilize for the election
A take-home for me is the way that young people took ownership of the election process especially the idea of the National Youth Service Corps is a good initiative and it has been instrumental to the success of the elections in Nigeria.
Involvement of young people in the elections through NYSC was genuine participation in the electoral process and it is a level of leadership responsibility
It is the 40’s and 50 year olds that manage elections in Uganda and i was thrilled to find that election booths across Nigeria were manned by young people.The Nigerian youth also used their initiatives to redefine the kind of society they want to live in
I was based in Lagos state for 2-weeks. Radio stations dedicated a lot of time to the elections, most of these programs were managed by young people. A lot of young people sacrificed their airtime to give updated reports about the elections
In Nigeria, the young people forgot about entertainment and sports and embraced the elections in a way that i didn’t know was possible. this was particularly fueled by social media
How do youth hold the leaders accountable after electing them?
There is a need to think about post-election accountability structures and keeping the elected leaders accountable to their promises. While in Lagos, I met with Rise Networks, led by Toyosi Akerele, Rise network is involved in using media as a platform to empower young people to hold leaders accountable. One of the powerful tools in engagement is the power of questioning. The needs and aspirations of the young people will always remain static if you don’t ask questions and remind the leaders of the promises made.
When I was mentored by (Madam Karo) she told me to learn to always question the system, if you don’t, someone in a corner of the country will remain unemployed and might be pushed to do violence. We can use our social media tools to raise questions. We can use less-cost means to ask critical questions that will create bigger impacts and translate the lives of so many Nigerians
Advise to Young Nigerians
I want to advise that Nigerians got it right in the first half. It is good to maintain the spirit.
There are so many people with vested interest in post-election Nigeria, Nigerian youth should shun violence
Nigerian youth should focus on the line-up of leaders that will be selected to address the issues that is where the accountability starts from. The first 100days in office is also a great opportunity to push for accountability, we need to ask questions on whether the Goodluck will trickle down in the first 100days. Unemployment is an issue. The same spirit of accountability should also be replicated at the state level, so that the leaders at that level can also be questioned. Politicians respect you when you have a wide audience. Back home in Uganda, we rejected a Minister who was too old to become the education Minister because young people mobilized using the less-cost means of social media to reject her
It is very important for young people to question financial sources especially on the political spending. Politicians are taking up debts and we are the ones who would pay it in the future, so we need to ask critical questions.
A new optimistic generation will never sit back to realize a better life that it seeks to realize
A new OG will use all means within its own means to sustain and build on progresses made
Other side of Nigeria
Nigerians are very receptive despite its diversity. Nigerians are also very frank. Nollywood movies which are widely popular in Uganda portray a different picture of Nigeria, you need to be in Nigeria to feel the Nigerian spirit. I have been watching lots of Nollywood movies and I realize that it represents the true African life
I love watching Omotola Jalade, Genevieve Nnaji and Ramseh Noah. The Nigerian movie industry is a young people industry
Coming to Nigeria was my first time to be on the Atlantic Ocean, I have only seen it on the map, and while studying social studies. I felt so good seeing it.
I took time to visit Babatunde Fashola and I dined with him, he is very intelligent and all Lagosians believe in him because he has delivered, I met with lots of the soccer player,I met Obafemi Martins and Taiye Taiwo (I stayed at the Hilton where they were also camped for a brief period) I love Nigeria so much that I learnt the National Anthem when they played soccer games.
The most memorable period of all is the visit to the Oba of Lagos.
The good roads in Lagos reminded me of the bad-roads in Uganda
My journey to Nigeria was a good one.
I am going to be a dad soon, I am engaged and will be married soon. I will take a brief rest and also continue my work on governance and providing spaces for young people to engage Government structures.
Editor’s Note: Ahmed Hadji’s wedding holds tomorrow July 23, 2011
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