Not too young to run law, opportunity for youth in governance – Youngest lawmaker
The just concluded gubernatorial and House of Assembly election of March 23 2019 in Benue state produced one of the youngest members soon to occupy his place in the hallowed chambers. Hon. Cephas Dyako-Ashwa, member-elect from Konshisha State Constituency at just 27 years will start his political journey on the platform of the African Democratic Congress, ADC as the representative of his people to help make laws that will enhance policy and development of Benue state.
In this interview with The Abuja Inquirer's SCHOLASTICA JOSEPH, Cephas Dyako-Ashwa said the Not-Too-Young-To-Run bill has given young people a chance and a sense of belonging in the country’s political field. He spoke on his victory and challenges. Excerpts:
What is your assessment of the 2019 general elections?
To a large extent, the 2019 election was free, fair and credible. Coming from an opposition that was almost not on ground and winning on that platform is a testimony that the wishes of the wishes of the people was allowed to prevail and that the votes also counted. So it was very fair.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, did a very good job even in places where they had challenges, they worked hard to rectify it. Even the politicians, we all did well in the last elections.
Now that you have been elected to represent the people of Konshisha state constituency, what should the people expect from you?
My people should expect much because I know the challenges of my people. I went to the villages to campaign and I saw with my eyes what my people are going through. I made promises so I owe my people because they believed so much in me to have elected me among the big names and rich people out there. So, they should be expecting from me.
Among the numerous things I will be doing, is to tackle the challenge of land crisis. My ward in particular is a case study. I want to as much as possible sponsor a bill that will find a lasting solution to this problem and I believe that it won’t be restricted to my constituency alone but the entire state. I hope that other parts of the country will learn from us when that happens.
How do you hope to achieve peace in your area especially with the land dispute?
I think the best solution to land dispute has always being dialogue. So, I will gather my people to dialogue and come to certain compromises that will help us achieve peace; a lasting one at that.
Can you assess the performance of youth in the last election?
I think it is better this time compared to the last ones. I had a lot of my friends coming home to vote and most of them followed me for campaigns round the villages. It was better this time compared to the 2015 elections where I had most of my friends staying back in town and in school because that time they believed they had nothing at stake. I campaigned and some other young people triggered a lot of men and women to go back home to participate and vote for their friends.
Did the Not Too Young To Run law make any impact in your ambition to vie for this position?
Before now, there were age limits that were not favourable to a lot of us but the bill has changed the age limit and made provisions on how old you can be before you run for certain posts.
I’m 27years, if that bill was not signed, I was going to lose out completely on just age ground.
I think it did and has done so much. It has given young people a sense of belonging and now, we feel more included, we feel accepted in the system and I think by 2023, we, the youths will give them more run.
What challenges did you face in the course of your campaigns?
Basically, it was finance. The big guys had so much and they never gave us a chance. It was the N1000, N500 from friends and donations around, support from my mothers, and well-wishers. It was small money against the big money bags.
So, finance was the major challenge. We had every other thing; the message was good, we know the terrain, we went into the villages, went house to house and the acceptance was huge and it paid off.
If you had issue of finance, what was the magic wand that gave you and edge over the money bags?
It was basically the message. The message was clear, concise and precise. I was able to tell them in clear terms what I wanted to do and how I was going to do it. I didn’t tell them I was going to give them the whole world, I just told them how I was going to bring that whole world to them.
For instance, I believe that one basic thing that will make us prosper in Benue is agriculture and I have told the young people that you don’t need to stay here in Makurdi to make that money. I have been in agric business since I graduated from the university. I never had a white collar job, I had to start with the little I had. I had been into poultry, fish farming and farm management. So, I hope to rally young people in clusters and help them with finances to start farms for themselves and grow it into big businesses.
What will you suggest to young people aspiring to hold political positions?
As at December 2017 when this idea came, I never had enough money, not even enough for the purchase of forms, but I was convinced that if given a chance, I want to do something for my people.
The basic thing is deciding what you want and go for it. When I started, I was just with my few friends and we just started with the little finance we had and then we started consulting with the big guys. They never gave us a chance but we continued. At some point when we had problems, God or nature will just make a way and somebody will just pop up with some little money. So, I advise the young people to decide on what they want to and just start no matter how small, if it is meant to be, you will scale through.
How did your party support your ambition?
In these few years that I have been on this journey of going to the assembly, I have been into three political parties. I started with the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, later APGA and then ADC. It was a tough fight for me and the truth is that the few people in charge of political parties; the big names and the money bags, they don’t give you a chance as a young man. They feel you just want to try it like the student union thing. So, the challenge was there; ticket problem, nomination problem and I had to switch and switch and finally, I got to ADC. So, I won’t say my party did much for me. No. I will say my friends and my people did all the work.
What were you doing before now, did you hold any leadership position?
Basically while I was in the student union thing, I served for two tenures as Vice President of National Association of Konshisha Students, University of Maiduguri Chapter and before I got into politics, I was as a director of programs and administration Shengeit Global. That has been my little experience about leadership but I know that I'm a first born so I have always been a potential leader.
My father is a polygamist and he has about six wives, my mum is the third and I’m the second born that’s from my mum but of course a boy so I took responsibility as the head of the family.
With all that you went through, do you think politics is a dirty game?
No, politics is not a dirty game. I believe that it is some politicians that are dirty but I played it clean.