For a long time, the youths have been referred to as leaders of tomorrow. Ironically, there is no conscious mentoring programme, leadership recruitment process and a planned transition for this change of baton to the younger generation. In the 90s, the President Ibrahim Babangida-led government introduced the concept of new breed politicians, by banning all people who have held public office in the past. The idea, according to him, was to build a new Nigerian on a clean slate. However, that experiment failed even before its implementation. In fact, the policy was fundamentally flawed because it attempted to hand over the country to political greenhorns.
Significantly, Malam Nasir Ahmad El Rufai, the Executive Governor of Kaduna State, has thought out of the box, by recruiting young people and saddling them with responsibility and allowing them to learn on the job. At first, the ‘’catch them young’’ policy was dismissed by critics as turning governance into a laboratory. According to them, El Rufai was experimenting with the destiny of Kaduna State. In a recent media chat, the Governor explained the rationale behind his policy. He argued that the world has gone digital and the complexities of modern governance have made it difficult for the older generation to cope. First, their energy levels cannot come to speed with the frenetic pace of governance and more so, most of them are not IT-savvy.
In the last four years, El Rufai’s protégés have not disappointed their mentor. In fact, the ‘’leaders of tomorrow’’ have brought their energies, innovations and enthusiasm to bear on their assignments. So, youths in Kaduna State can now look up to these icons as role models, unlike before, when they were often recruited as political thugs.
For example, in July 2019, 36-year-old Dr. Zaid Abubakar was entrusted with the task of taking the Kaduna State Internal Revenue Service (KADIRS) to greater heights. With a solid background as a tax auditor with the Federal Inland Revenue Service, Abubakar and his team increased the state’s average monthly collection to a record N3billion every month, from the paltry monthly collection of N800million before 2015. In summary, Dr Abubakar and his team collected N44 billion last year, surpassing the projected revenue by N1 billion.
Similarly, in line with Governor El Rufai’s commitment to saddling young people with leadership positions, 38-year-old Rilwan Hassan was announced as the new Secretary of the Kaduna State Scholarship and Loans Board in September 2019. By December, Kaduna State became the first in Nigeria, to put in place an education loan scheme. The N2billion loan deal was signed between the Scholarship Board and First City Monument Bank. Government officials, self-employed individuals or private sector employers can now access up to N5million naira loan to either finance their education or their children’s schooling, in Nigeria or abroad. The Government also provided a counterpart fund of N1billion to bring down the interest to 8% per annum.
Likewise, shortly after Rilwan’s appointment, the Future Fund was announced to provide funding for First Class students from Kaduna State, in any course of their choice, ranging from the emerging world of artificial intelligence, robotics, genetic modification, cyber security threats and environmental changes. In addition, The “Free an Inmate Scheme” is another scheme that has been brought to life by the young and vibrant leadership of the Board. Specifically, the scheme aims to provide scholarships to law graduates seeking admission into the Nigerian Law School. Upon finishing law school, they are expected to volunteer and give back to the society, by taking up at least one Awaiting Trial case and seeing to its conclusion within one year. Clearly, this is a creative way of easing prison congestion.
Similarly, Muhammad Hafiz Bayero, is another young man who is changing the way markets in Kaduna are structured and run. As Managing Director of Kaduna Markets, the 33-year old, his team of dedicated staff and reputable contractors are upgrading and constructing befitting markets around Kaduna State. Notable among them, are the N3.9Bn Ultra-Modern Kaduna Galaxy Shopping Mall, the construction of a solar powered market with 2,024 shops to replace the one that was destroyed during the violent conflict in Kasuwan Magani, a town in Kajuru Local Government Area. Others include the reconstruction and upgrade of markets in Zonkwa in Zangon Kataf Area Council and Dan Magaji Market in Zaria metropolis.
In addition, there is Alhaji Muhammad Sani Abdullahi, the 40-year old Chief of Staff of Governor El Rufai, who sees to the day-to-day running of Sir Kashim Ibrahim House or Government House Kaduna. In 2015, he was Commissioner for Planning and Budget and in that position, he made sure that Kaduna state presented and delivered budgets in time. Right now, Kaduna is one of the few states that has aligned the fiscal and calendar years, as budget implementation always begins on the first day of January. An international development expert, Dattijo as he is commony referred to, served as a policy adviser at the Executive office of United Nations Secretary General, Mr Ban Ki Moon before joining Kaduna State Government.
Significantly, El Rufai’s youth-friendly policy goes beyond political appointments. In fact, Kaduna State Government is actively empowering its young population, by creating job opportunities in its civil service, granting Fellowship opportunities, providing loans for graduate entrepreneurs and vital artisan training for the unemployed. On 1st August 2019, the administration issued a recruitment notice, inviting online applications for jobs in its core civil service and 26 parastatals. At the close of submissions on 26th August 2019, 41,971 applications from all over Nigeria, were received for entry level, middle level and management jobs.
At the end of the first stage assessments, persons aged 35 or below, constituted 78.48% of the 13,700 applicants shortlisted. To ensure transparency and limit human interference, the applicants were subjected to a computer-based test, where 5,351 persons emerged successful. Right now, they are currently awaiting interviews invitations, especially by the Ministries, Departments and Agencies in which they indicated interest.
Likewise, Governor El-Rufai’s commitment to raising the next generation of leaders, underscored the creation of the Kashim Ibrahim Fellows Programme in February 2018. In August 2018, the pioneer Fellows began the programme and it consisted of 16 young men and women between ages 25-35. Specifically, young people from all over Nigeria who applied for the Fellowship, were selected after passing through a rigorous process by members of the Governing Board, chaired by Mr Hakeem Belo-Osagie, a lawyer, former Chairman of United Bank For Africa(UBA) and an astute businessman. Thereafter, they spent time understudying the Government as they are attached to various ministries and rotated on a regular basis. In addition, leaders from various facets of human endeavor are invited to lecture them on leadership. Right now, the second cohort of Kashim Ibrahim Fellows are undergoing tutelage under the programme.
Recognising the need for the youth to be self-sufficient, Governor El Rufai also started the Kaduna Start Up Entrepreneurship Programme (KADSTEP), a tripartite arrangement in partnership with Bank of Industry (BOI) and Kaduna Business School (KBS). Specifically, the programme was initiated to equip young graduates with requisite business and entrepreneurial skills. Under this scheme, applicants can apply for loan of N1million to N10million, depending on the business financial requirements. Today, over 500 entrepreneurs have benefited from KADSTEP and they are running thriving businesses in different sectors of the economy, providing jobs in the process. In addition, there is also the Kaduna Artisans Training (KADAT), which is being run in conjunction with the National Open University of Nigeria. So far, it has trained 800 artisans on construction-based skills. Likewise, the administration is also implementing policies and programmes to encourage start-ups in the ICT sector. Specifically, the Kaduna ICT Hub is partnering with Google to train 5000 youths annually, to become ICT entrepreneurs, computer engineers and software developers.
In the last four years, Governor El Rufai has saddled young people with positions of responsibility, recruited them into the civil service and given them training and opportunities to acquire skills, in a bid so prepare them for the future. As the Action Governor that he is, the concept of ‘’leaders of tomorrow’’ is beyond mere slogan; it is about empowering young people to truly take over the baton of leadership.
Farida is a Special Assistant on Media and Communication in Kaduna State Government.