In February, 2013, I – and a handful of other young people – received an email from Barrister Ismail Ahmed, who had aspired to represent his constituency in Kano State at the Federal House of Representatives on the platform of the CPC. His message was concise, yet poignant. He told us that the parties we all supported were in the process of merging and although this was no longer news, young people had to come together and form an organised body even before the registration process had been concluded. Thus, the All Progressives Youth Forum (APYF) was born.
At the time, I was about investing the money I had saved while in the university and during NYSC into a business, but I moved to Abuja instead so that I could execute my duties as PRO of the Forum. Why? Because I felt that it was an opportunity to be a part of something that would outlive me. Many other members of the youth structure made similar sacrifices because they had faith in the vision of the APC and in the people of impeccable character and unquestionable political credentials who would lead the party.
This journey that we embarked upon over two years ago has taken passion, hardwork and dedication, and although some gave in to the seduction of wealth that the other party offered, many remained. We were resolute in our decision to stand with the APC not because we wanted some form of reward, but because we wanted so badly to have a departure from the deplorable status quo as established by the PDP. I do not intend to assume the position of spokesperson for all APC Youths, but I do believe that we have never had cause to regret that decision.
Along the line, we faced challenges of our own but were able to overcome them. The drama which ensued after a youth leader was elected is still very fresh in all our memories, but today, we all work together. In fact, I was one of his harshest critics but at the moment, he is a brother, a friend and a highly respected colleague. We overcame that challenge because we knew that it was about the party and the youths of Nigeria, not any of our personal ambitions.
Addressing members of our great party as one of the five youths who unveiled the roadmap at the 2014 APC National Summit was one of my proudest moments ever and I said that day, that my generation was grateful to leaders of the APC for casting personal ambition aside and forging a common front; that generation that I spoke of then, is today doubtful of the party’s ability to take Nigeria to the Promised Land.
The young people who donated their scarce resources and invested their time in campaigning for the APC are teetering on the edge, hanging dangerously close to losing faith in the party to which they entrusted their collective future. This generation now looks on, aghast, at the kind of stories emanating from a party which once filled them with hope and the confidence that Nigeria would be great again. This generation had hoped to read about the empowerment scheme, power projects, prosecution of corrupt officials and plans being made to revamp the healthcare sector but the front pages of newspapers and the blogs we visit for the latest news are instead awash with details of how APC lawmakers are at each other’s throats and the fault lines which suggest deep cracks within the party. This is not the APC we put our names and careers on the line for and this is most definitely not the APC we voted for!
We all have our favourite leaders within the party, people whom we respect so much and whose actions we would never fault, but at this moment, our plea is to these leaders to do everything within their power to ensure that what they toiled so hard and for so long to build does not amount to naught. The thread of unity that binds us all, without which the APC would not have attained victory over the PDP, must not unravel! It’s been barely a month after inauguration and the huffing and puffing of discord must NOT be allowed to tear this house down!
Ismail often said that the APC is not a party for the next election, but one for the next generation. We have been the leading party for only a month but we already have a crisis on our hands; this does not inspire hope in the youths of this country, this does not inspire happiness in the hearts of members of the APC youth structure, and this does not increase the prospects of our great party being here for the next generation.
For the sake of Maryam, the student who travels to Abuja from Kano to take part in APC Youth activities, for the sake of Latifah, who attends meeting with her baby in tow, and Bisi, who flies across the country so she can be present at APC rallies, and the MILLIONS of other young people who support the APC in their own way without actually being members of the party, then this challenge is one we must overcome.
For the sake of the millions of Nigerians with miniature APC flags hanging from their windshields, those of us with APC magnets on our doors and refridgerators at home, and those who pay to have APC branded shirts made for them, this house must stand.
Nigerians defied the threats of bombs and trooped out en masse to be present at APC rallies. The crowd in Borno, despite the threat and devastation, was unprecedented, and we received the same warm welcome in Gombe, Kano, Kaduna, Ibadan, Abeokuta, Lagos, and even Bayelsa. Those Nigerians who showed their support both during the campaign and on election day did so because they had finally found a reason to believe.
Leadership is a trust; Nigerians spoke with their thumbs and entrusted this country to the APC. At every point in time and at every step of the way, we must remember this, and make sure that the people have no cause to regret that line of action. There have been calls from many quarters for the President’s cabinet to be fully constituted, but how will this happen when the Senate – which is required to screen candidates – isn’t settled?
Nigerians yearn for real progress – which our party promises – but with this spectacle, how will they not lose patience? With supposedly honourable members of the House of Assembly descending to fisticuffs, how exactly is the party supposed to inspire confidence in the people?
Boko Haram continues to claim lives in Borno but the media is fixated on the drama in the National Assembly so this is not getting the coverage it ought to. Our Chibok Girls are still not back, but pertinent issues like these and a lot more have been pushed to the back burner.
The APC we lent our support and voices to was that party that inspired hope and was laden with promise for a new Nigeria; the APC we are observing right now feels foreign and alien.
This is not the APC we know.
We long for the APC that filled us with hope, pride and sense of purpose and pray that these issues are resolved, and quickly too. If not for any other reason, but for this generation to know that a group of committed Nigerians really can get it right.
Rinsola Abiola is a PR Consultant. She served as PRO of APYF from 2013-2014, and is currently PRO/Secretary of the APC Young Women Forum.