ONE-ON-ONE WITH SAMSON ITODO CONVENER OF THE #NOTTOOYOUNGTORUN MOVEMENT

video credit: wakeupafrica360

He looks gentle but speaks with enough passion to stir up a hornets nest. He loves democratic principles, believes in it, fights for it and uses it as a weapon for change. He is passionate about young people and is willing to stick his neck out for them. He believe so much in the power of oneness that he demonstrates it in all that he does. And yes, he does not take the credit alone, but gives honour to whom it is due, be it his team members, comrades, politicians, elder statesmen, etc.

This in a little way describes the young man called Samson Itodo, Executive Director of YIAGA AFRICA and Convener of the #NOTTOOYOUNGTORUN movement. WakeUpAfica caught up with Samson during the #NOTTOYOUNGTORUN Celebration Conference in Abuja and got to know more about Samson Itodo, his beliefs and his hope for youth of Nigeria…..

WHAT EXACTLY DOES YIAGA DO?

YIAGA AFRICA is a hub, a youth-based non-governmental organization that promotes democratic governance, human rights and youth political participation. YIAGA AFRICA focuses on in-depth research, capacity development and public policy advocacy. YIAGA also provides critical analysis of key democratic and governance issues, and also proffers practical solutions, trainings etc. among other things.

IN THE HALL YOU HIGHLIGHTED SOME OF THE CHALLENGES YOUR ORGANIZATION HAD GONE THROUGH IN THE PROCESS OF GETTING THE #NOTTOOYOUNGTORUN BILL SIGNED. WHICH WAS THE MOST FRUSTRATING OF THEM ALL?

Getting the bill signed into law was the most frustrating. Because it is not easy to get our legislators to get up and pass a bill into law, especially something that seems like a possible threat to their jobs in the near future. It took a lot of patience on our part, a lot of resilience in our efforts and of course the needed support from some key legislators who believed in our course to get it signed. It was a frustrating period I must tell you.

THIS SAYING THAT ‘YOUNG PEOPLE DON’T HAVE THE FINANCIAL CAPACITY TO CONTEST THE ELECTIONS’ IS ACTUALLY A REALITY’. NOW THAT STEP ONE HAS BEEN ACHIEVED BY SINGING THE BILL INTO LAW, WHAT DO YOU THINK CAN BE DONE TO OVERCOME THIS HUGE FINANCIAL HURDLES AND BE ABLE TO COME OUT AND WIN THESE ELECTIONS.

Well first, it’s about building capital, social capital, we want young people to go to the grassroots and demonstrate those leadership qualities so people can see those qualities and they can be part of what you do and support you. So go to your community, go and show leadership in the community developments and build that capital, people will see the leadership qualities in you and they will vote for you.

The second way is to reduce the campaign costs, the law is clear on how much you can spend to office. Can we regulate that and actually limit the costs of elections to what our law says should be spent. Another one is raising funds, can you have people believe in you, believe in what you stand for enough to drop their monies or raise funds to support your ambition. So those are some of the things that can be done as regards funding political campaigns. It’s also very possible to win elections in this country without spending so much, people have won elections without spending money, and we just need to encourage them with good systems and processes.

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PERSONALLY DO YOU HAVE ANY POLITICAL INTEREST?

I shall not be running for office, but I will be supporting people to run for office.

WOULD YOU SUPPORT THEM FINANCIALLY AS WELL?

If need be, I will support financially, I will support morally, I will support with every resource that I have. I believe in the youth, and in the 2019 elections I am going to support a lot of young people to run.

SHARE WITH US HOW YOU BECAME AN ACTIVIST?

Activism is just a calling from school, I mean the university. My colleagues and I got angry that the school authority back in those days were not only banning students, but they were rusticating and intimidating them for any offence. So we decided to speak up, and democracy is about speaking up. We were very angry and from conversations in our hostile room, down to coffee shops, down to classrooms, that was how we built our movement to this particular place we are.

HOW DO YOU INTORDUCE YOURSELF TO THOSE WHO DON’T KNOW YOU?

Well I love to say that I am a Nigerian, my parents come from Kogi State, but I am a Nigerian. I am from Olamaboro Local Government of Kogi State, law is my background, I studied law from university of Jos proudly so. And I am currently a doctorate student, doing my PHD in law. That’s all.

RATING THE ACHIEVEMENT OF NOT TOO YOUNG TO RUN, HOW FAR WOULD YOU SAY YOU HAVE COME?

I think we have come a long way, this was a struggle that started 10 years ago, but this is where we are. But then why must it take 10 years, to change an age situations in our constitution. Can we change that? Can we get to a point where when citizens want something changed, they can walk up to their legislators and say what they want, and their legislators would hearken to their voices and do what they want because they are employed by the people, that’s where we need to get to. But yes we have come a long way but we are nowhere near our destination. There is so much ahead of us, but we have to come together.

PROJECTING THE 2019 ELECTIONS, DO YOU THINK SINCERELY THAT IT’S POSSIBLE FOR A YOUNG PERSON TO BECOME THE PRESIDENT?

It’s very possible everything is possible. No one ever thought that #NOTTOOYOUNGTORUN was going to be possible. At some point even we on the struggle thought that it wasn’t going to happen, but we are pleased that this is actually happening now, and we are so grateful to God, we are so grateful to the Nigerian people, we are so grateful to the national assembly and it’s leadership and we hope that we will keep it gowig.

FINALLY ENVISION THE NIGERIA YOU WANT TO SEE 10-15 YEARS FROM NOW POLITICALLY?

I want to see a country where the values of citizens are respected. I want to see a country where we don’t wake up to see death. The Jos, the Benue, the Zamfara and other parts of the country. A country that respects the dignity of the human person, a country that respects human rights, a country where the security agencies are not the oppressors of the people, but protectors of the  people, a country where our economy is diversified and we are not paying so much premium on oil but rather we are looking at different sectors, a country where it takes at least a quarter to update our national census or database, a country where politics is about the common good and not the good of only those in leadership, that is the kind of country I visualize and that is a country I believe we can achieve.

Do you agree with Samson’s dream that a better Nigeria is possible?

Photo & Video Credit WakeUpAfrica360

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