I am an advocate of Youth Leadership and I am unapologetic about that. First off, who is a Youth? On the one hand; globally, surveys have shown that the younger generation think that people at 59 are at the start of their old age; while youths end at 41. On the other hand; older participants deemed old age to begin at 68 while youth ends at 52. Given this analogy; I would settle for 60 as the start of old age; and 30-55 as the youthful age, with regards to the political discourse at hand…
But that does not mean that I am akin to discrediting our political elders, who are supposed to be intrinsically, elder statesmen and are the foundation of political structures in the country. Morally, the holistic theory of Elder Statesmen in a polity is their usual aptitude to pass the torch to the younger generation as they exceed the age of officialdom; encompass the younger generation/youths in the participation of politics; and mentoring them on principles of good governance. But the biggest failure in Nigerian politics is the crowding of governance by old-aged politicians who supposedly claim to be Elder Statesmen, and are however, not ready to take a bow in governance.
The encroachment of old-aged politicians on the political system has not only forestalled the essence, significance and credibility of youth leadership in Nigeria (whereas, it is their role to amplify its relevance); but the infusion of technocrats in the democratic process. But such was not the case of Nelson Mandela- Africa’s Iconic elder statesman, who ruled South Africa for 5 years, and honourably rejected the pleas of his people for a second presidential tenure. Instead, he handed power over to his Deputy, Thabo Mbeki who was younger than him. My question is: How many Nigerian leaders have willingly stepped down after a single term without fighting dirty for a second term? Worse off; and adding insult to Nigeria’s injury, our first democratic president even defied humanity by attempting to juggle for a third term!
Laughably, I could not forget the period Africa mourned Mandela’s demise… The most pathetic aspect of Mandela’s funerary was not his death, but the fact that Nigerians mourned him more than his country! Mandela hype in Nigeria then, inordinately became a syndrome and a lot of Nigerians- of which, some amid the lot, who did not even know what Mandela was celebrated for; joined in suffering the Mandela disorder”. I watched in the media then, some of our elder statesmen cum political elders eulogise “Mandela like he was a god of some sort. But ridiculously, in their bid to outdo each other in an ostentatious show of “who commemorated Mandela the most” in the media; they looked like confused ants lost in a sugar bowl; moronically forgetting the genuine reason why Mandela was/is idolized globally. They forgot/forget that Madiba sacrificed 27 years of his life in prison for the liberation of South Africa from Apartheid government. My question is: How many supposed or self-acclaimed elder statesmen in Nigeria have genuinely fought for the liberation of Nigeria from political and economic vices? Currently, how many Nigerian elder statesmen have challenged or fought the grip of military rule disguisedly applied in our nascent democracy? None.
One of Mandela’s leadership virtues I love to bits was his flair and support for youth leadership. And I wish his counterparts in Nigeria could emulate him. Old-Age (above 60 years) is supposed to be a stage when Man begins to take stock of his life; retire to a more serene life; make peace with his maker; and as well as, impact on the younger generation by grooming his young followers on how to succeed and how not to make mistakes -given his outlived experiences- is unfortunately, when Life actually starts kicking off for the Nigerian politician. Old-Age for the Nigerian politician is the New-Age when life begins afresh: appallingly, that is when he believes that he has gotten a ticket to relive his youthful life: a time to wear designer digs, drive posh cars, bask in the cuddles of vain-women; globe-trot the world; and worse off, loot public funds in order to save for his future. But, which future?
Fore-sightedly, the old-aged politicians due to their undue pressure to remain relevant in politics and governance are usually the fashioners of the brawls and blows exchanged in the political and economic sectors which cruelly lands on the pockets and stomachs of innocent Nigerians. Given the aggressive way political senility is recycled in Nigeria; I begin to wonder what hope is left for youth leadership; lest the hope for the salvation of the common man?
Nigeria is advancing globally and “generationally”… Therefore, it is an error that a maturing-Nigeria is given to an “obsolete-thinking” set of politicians to manage (please, no offence intended). Given her rather complex nature; politically, economically, socio-cultural diversities et al; Nigeria needs to be skilfully handled by technocrats vis-a-vis the younger generation who are intellectually/skilfully trained to propel Nigeria to global advancement; and not the breed of old-aged politicians we have been dealt with over the years, who probably, were military lords with little or no proficiency to straddle a democracy.
We keep bemoaning that our leaders have failed us. Why won’t they fail us when we carry the weight of a complex Nigeria and place in the palms of a set of people with no competence on leadership and its entirety; and who unabashedly, have nothing to offer a Democratic Nigeria besides their usual mushroom card-carrying tautologies drawn from their mere membership with political parties? If indeed the political class is screened; you would shockingly find out that about 70% of Nigerian politicians who hold power sway are not properly educated or skilfully trained to manage a complex and growing country like Nigeria. Don’t be deceived: many of them who parade a file-load of school certificates, bought them.
And Nigeria should please, not be compared to other countries who may be doing well with old-aged leaders. Nigeria is the most ambiguous and difficult country in Africa; and given its cumbersomeness, Nigeria needs vibrant and no-nonsense leaders, who mean business. It would have even been fair if perhaps, our old-aged leaders were high-profiled technocrats, like President Donald Trump of USA. Judging his proficiency; Trump’s old-age means nothing, in justification to the quality of leadership he will offer Americans. More so, Trump has in his cabinet, high-ranking seasoned technocrats who will pummel issues bothering on America with the professional hammer. But, his Nigerian counterpart has a blundering cabinet… Some of the appointees are novices in their area of designations. For instance: A Lawyer was given three ministerial appointments, albeit the fact that, there must be two credible persons out of over 180 million Nigerians who could have been proficient enough to manage two out of his three appointments. How can a Lawyer skilfully manage three different positions: Power, Works and Housing? How do these designations relate with his profession as a lawyer? Are there no competent high-skilled engineers who could have managed the Housing and Works ministries? Need I forget some of the educated-illiterates sent to the Senate for screening as ambassadorial nominees by the presidency: of which, some could not speak good English, lest recite the national anthem? These are issues.
It bothers me that as exposed and learned as Nigerians are today; that they could readily give their mandates to primitive politicians to rule over them. How do you then Get what you do not Give? How do you expect a Developed Nigeria when you have eroded it with unskilled leaders? For instance: how can Nigeria develop when we keep forcing a Nigeria of 57 years old to wear a dress meant for a 15 year old? How can a set of politicians who ruled Nigeria as military lords, decades ago be able to implement a passionate democratic rule; when all they have been trained to know all their lives is tyranny? Just like a child grows to adulthood, Nigeria is growing with global changes; and judging by the world’s speedy transitioning; Nigeria’s handlers due to their insufficient learnedness, cannot gobble the fastidious trend of globalisation to truly meet up with Nigeria’s requirements for a developed state.
I am not exempting elderly politicians from participating in governance. I am not also saying that there have not been good political elders in power who have treated Nigeria fairly; but a 70:30 ratio of both elders and youths in governance, with the youths racking the larger number, will be a perfect combo to administering a better democracy for Nigeria. Moreover, the agility and Intelligence Quotient (IQ) of youths are sharper and more active than the elderly. Thus, my stance is that: Viable Youths must be allowed to govern Nigeria as well as their governance, being mentored and guided by the elderly politicians.
Political elders must harmoniously work at par with youths to allow space for better governance. Time is far spent, when youths are succumbed to act as second-class citizens in politics, who are then relegated as charlatans to do the dirty work and make an easy win for the old-aged politicians; whilst waiting in hope to replace the old-aged politicians, which barely happens as these elders are busy lobbying for their further stay in power. Just as the world phases by generation; the youths are in better stead to manage the complexity of Nigeria as it advances globally and otherwise. For instance; many years ago, typewriter was a technology but today; computers have phased out typewriters. In this instance; anybody using the typewriter knowledge to lead Nigeria which has technologically advanced to a computer stage is lagging the country behind. Imagine a leader who championed Nigerian affairs in the 70s and 80s; using the same norms to administer a modern Nigeria of 2017? Simply put: old-aged politicians governing the country with the political theories they garnered in their youthful times is not applicable to the success of the democracy we are yearning for.
Each day, “Change” becomes the only political awareness gearing and motivating Nigerians towards the 2019 elections. Nigerians are indeed, eager for a “Change”, given the disappointment the “Change” chanters dished Nigerians after their win in the 2015 elections. And as such, Nigerians, in swerving their authority once more in 2019 must fish-out the old-aged politicians holding power siege; gather them like roaches and spray them into extinction. No apologies.
My “One Cent” advice goes thus:
Just as our stomachs are reeling from the poison we have consumed from our poor selection of leaders and bad governance; Nigerians must be very careful of the political foods they choose to eat henceforth… Do not be fed poison in a bid to rack up little kobos to quell your mere stomach-hunger. Think of Future-hunger. Think of Generational-hunger. The piece-meal bribes you collected from “them” during the elections, has not quelled and has not salvaged you from the perpetual poverty killing Nigerians today. Thusly, Nigerians must kill the Cancer killing us: These ancestral politicians who are wickedly rotated and recycled in government must all be booted out by 2019. DO NOT RE-ELECT THEM.
The Youths must save Nigeria. Given our current predicament; the political participation of the Youths is the only anchor in saving a sinking Nigeria. Don’t just be a voter. Be a party member. Perchance we foresee a situation where the youths would be suppressed and refused to be nominated for elections; then the time is now for formidable and professionally skilled youths to come en masse and form political parties; pressuring INEC for the registration of such parties. Where are the Political Scientists? Where are the Public Administrators? Where are the Economists? The time is now for skilled youths to take up the challenge to save Nigeria and not just hide behind computers to blast the government on Social Media.
The major political sanitation should be on the Federal and State Legislatures. The lawmakers are the root of the problems beguiling Nigeria. When we elect old-aged politicians to represent us at the Legislature; the quality of legislation would be poor, conservative and selfish; and not homogeneous with the actual needs of Nigeria. More so, the actions and inactions of the Legislature has further strengthened the Executive might, whose excesses have impoverished our economic well-being and has offensively infringed on our human rights. Worse off, the Judiciary that is supposed to be the sledgehammer in tackling political and economic vices has been stooped to the hinds as a loyal dog to the Executive.
Imagine a National Assembly in 2019 filled with 80% Youths? When youths occupy the National Assembly, then the Executive will be tamed. Only when the Executive is tamed can Nigeria get it right. A youthful National Assembly would inculcate the Executive into appointing high-skilled technocrats in government. A youthful National Assembly would produce strong legislations at par with the dire needs of a growing-Nigeria.
The youths must pursue, overtake and recover their Birthright. More so, do not forget that these political grannies who are circling the government like vultures; and hoarding the chances of the youths, held Nigeria sway in their 20s and 30s as military leaders when they fought for Nigeria’s Independence. So, who says the youths of today (in my context: 30-55 years) are not mature enough to steer Nigeria to the promised land?
Ahunna Ejiogu is a Writer, Poet, Political Journalist, Publisher/Editor-in-Chief, Prolific Magazine and Prolific Reporters.