Amb. Raymond Edoh, the United States Habitat Youth Humanitarian Ambassador, is also the Nigerian Youth Ambassador to the United States, Secretary-General of the Nigerian Youth Congress, and Convener, Go and Get Your PVC and Youth Must Vote Campaign’. In this interview, Edoh speaks among others, on how homelessness is a contributing factor to the current rise in insecurity in the country. Excerpts:

By Ezra Ukanwa, Abuja

What would you describe as the outcome of housing deficit in Nigeria?

As a UN humanitarian Ambassador on habitation, I know Nigeria’s habitat sector is going to take a new dimension with the help of God, because lots of programs are lined up already for execution. There must be houses that are habitable for Nigerians. It hurts when I see Nigerians in houses that are not habitable. It hurts when I see Nigerians who don’t have houses at all. We have the resources as a nation. It would shock you that a whole lot of Nigerians sleep under bridges. You can go to Lagos; you will see what I am talking about. A whole lot of Nigerians even in Abuja, I’ve seen a few places where people sleep under bridges while a government is running. We have resources and just a few people will loot the resources meant for the populace. It is not the best. I will make sure I work in collaboration with the Federal Government. People are not living up to expectation and these are the major reasons insecurity is the order of the day. They have no places to sleep. They have no source of income. There are no companies to engage these people, and the other day this administration came up and said there are no civil service jobs. But, by the grace of God, things are going to take a new dimension.

How would you describe the state of Nigeria’s habitat?

The habitat state of Nigeria is nothing to write home about but that doesn’t mean that we are not going to improve as a country in that sector. Remember, we are a developing nation, and there is hope for Nigeria. As a nation, we found ourselves in this habitant deficit because the agencies responsible in collaboration with the government of Nigeria are not doing their job as expected. You would have imagined if the town planners, developers, and surveyors are working very effectively and in synergy with each other following the Federal Government-approved plans for the Nigerian lands just as it is been done in developed Nations like the United States, United Kingdom, and the likes, the country would have in reality outgrown the deficit and this is the major reason why we have been experiencing demolition in some parts of the country, especially FCT.

In what way would you advise government to tackle infrastructural deficit in Nigeria?

The truth about it remains that until we understand that we have a problem, we might not have solutions to them. Now that we have understood that we have a housing deficit challenge as a country, I think that is the starting point. I will advise the government to create windows to empower domestic companies on housing to embark on massive housing projects. There is nothing bad for the Nigerian government to say they are rolling out one million housing estates in Abuja; we are rolling out five million estates in Lagos; we are rolling out 10 million housing estates in all the 36 states of the Federation. We have the resources to embark on such projects. All that would be needed is effective payment plans according to categories of beneficiaries.

Do the youths play a major role in Nigeria’s housing development?

The youths and students suffer it most. That is why it is very important that the Nigerian government look inward on how to boost the economy. The Buhari administration stopped food importation. A good idea, but topping importation was not the issue. Before you stop importations, what are the alternative measures? You don’t just wake up and then give directives without remedy measures.

Students are well incorporated in the national project. Because for us to have a good learning experience, there must be good infrastructures. There must be habitable houses for the students; there must be fantastic homes for these youths. If we don’t do that for them, they will find it difficult to do that to the generation coming after them. So, in our plans and programs, we will make sure that all state and federal universities, polytechnics, and colleges of Education are properly incorporated.

Are you bankrolled by the United Nations?

I am not financed by the UN at the moment but we are calling on them to help and come to our aid, so that we can also grow and solve this problem in this particular sector. Those that have the perception that I am being financed are simply wrong.

Even if we are getting finances, it would be going straight to the organization’s account. I am doing it for humanity, and that’s my joy. I’m doing it for a better Nigeria.

Aside the youths, do you also housing plans for the widows, orphans, and other vulnerable groups?

The physically challenged, the vulnerable groups in the society, the widows, the orphans, so long they are Nigerians, we have them in mind. They are incorporated in our programs and they should be rest assured that we will carry them along.

What advice do you have for the Nigerian government and youths?

My advice to the Nigerian government is that they should understand that Nigeria is a nation with lots of diversities and as a matter of fact our concern as a nation should is to take advantage of these diversities to have a formidable nation.

We shouldn’t use these diversities to segregate ourselves, to divide ourselves. The beauty of the nation lies on our wonderful diversities, and we can’t afford not to exploit them for the growth of the nation. We should understand that by virtue of being Nigerians, we are one family, a formidable one for that matter. So, I call on the Nigerian government to embrace nationalism, to believe in one Nigeria and the Nigerian youths.

I also want to plead with the Federal Government to re-orient Nigerians by making them have this confidence that Nigeria is one. There is no need for tribalism, favouritism, regionalism, State of origin. A Nigerian should be seen as a Nigerian and nothing more. There is no need for religious bias. Once you are an American, you are an American, irrespective of the state the local government you’re coming from. That can be achieved in Nigeria in all spheres ranging from appointments. It is high time we started operating on a standard basis and not on who you know. All these are not necessary and that is why certain sectors, ministries and agencies in the country are not working as expected because most people there never came in through merit. So, I call on the Nigerian government to always do the right thing at the right time and in the right place.

What’s your call to Nigerians ahead of the 2023 general elections?

Ahead of the 2023 general elections, as the Convener, Go and Get Your PVC and Youth Must Vote, I call on the Nigerian youths to get their PVCs. It is not enough to register; it is not enough to get it, what makes you a Nigerian is by participating in the electoral processes by casting your vote. Some PVCs are ready for months now and just lying fallow in INEC offices. It shouldn’t be so, go and pick them up.

Due to the numerous challenges and harsh socio-economic environment, many Nigerian youths are now depending on themselves and driving their own future by creating opportunities and by undertaking different entrepreneurial ventures towards self-reliance.

One of the Undisputed facts is that, the strength of any nation depends on the policy framework and initiatives put in place by the public sector and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to develop and empower the youth in order to maximize their potentials, talents and untapped capacities in nation building. This critical group of individuals is imperative for their increased utilization and subsequent improvement in national development.

More also, the way forward for youth development in Nigeria in particular and Africa in general is for sound policies to be put in place and backed up by political will, as well as equipping youth for greater service to the Nation. The question now is: how can this be possible in a nation that sees its youth as a threat to its political interest and socio-economic gains? That’s why the youths must change their mentality of dependence on government and political patronage to self-reliance. Nigerian youth should, therefore, have faith in themselves and hope for a better tomorrow even as we all are bent on exercising our political franchise in getting into power good leadership in the 2023 general elections.