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Youth Not Yet Ready For Leadership Role.

By Ita Offiong
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In Nigeria, most times the things that attract wide media attention are often white elephant projects. People are simply being drawn to support a cause neither because it is possible nor practicable but because it is popular. Fly a little kite here and make few wads available for the boys then social media will be both active and alive, resonating with sundry tones and tunes in its support. Very few people would do a research or feasibility studies to ascertain the desirability or otherwise of such idea.

The wide media publicity the ‘Not Too Young To Run Movement’ has continued to receive even prior to the passage of its bill in July 2017 by the National Assembly and the recent pressure being mounted on the President to sign it to law makes one wonder if such urgency would address the nation’s economic woes in any specific way.

I’m sure not many Nigerians have short memory, although History is no longer taught in most schools. This writer is of the view that the present political and economic predicament plaguing the nation was caused by the yesterday’s youth involvement in leadership of this nation. For instance, the unfortunate civil war of 1967 to 1970 would have been averted if more mature people were at the helm of the country’s political leadership position at that time. The two major gladiators of that senseless pogrom- Gen. Yakubu Gowon (Rtd) and Late Col. Odumegwu Ojukwu who were all within the age bracket of those who are regarded as youth today.

In fact the key political actors of both pre and post independence era were all young people. The first republic was considered by the military as being corrupt hence Chukwuma Nzeogu, a young military officer below the age of 30 years led a coup that truncated that administration and remotely culminated in the civil war. Therefore one would not be wrong to conclude that the youth of that time, mismanaged the destiny of Nigerians which Providence placed in their hands. Mention any prominent leader at that time who was not either in his thirties or early forties and ask what legacy was handed down by them.

Yes, few leaders like late Chief Obafemi Awolowo performed well as the premier of Western Nigeria in providing free education for his people and some notable infrastructure which made other regions see them as pace-setters. Did he achieve all that just because he was a youth or was he the only young leader in the country?

So the whole clamour of Not Too Young to Run Law makes no sense as it is not likely going to add any value to the polity. Come to think of it, why are people dissipating their energy in such a venture? Even now, the few young men who are occupying political positions in the country; are they justifying the mandates of such offices to compel further demand for increasing youth involvement in governance. For instance Kogi state governor, Alh. Yahaya Bello is said to be the youngest in the comity of governors in Nigeria. What is the socio-economic dynamics in that North Central state? Also the current intractable squabble between Gov. Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and the Minister of Transportation- Rotimi Amaechi who is the immediate past governor of the same state, both of whom are in their early fifties does not seem to portray a good example of young men in position of authority.

What most Nigerians do not know is the level of intolerance, ignorance, tyranny, pride and lack of respect among those aspiring youth. Entrust a young man with leadership position, he goes hay-wired and suddenly becomes a demi-god of some sort. Our recent political experience has shown that most states which have had young men as governors have usually witnessed needless political crises which sometimes resulted in some politically-motivated killings leading to some opposition figures taking asylum in Abuja. So if Nigeria is unfortunate to have any of those men as its president, then the international community would be prepared to host a great number of asylum seekers.

Tolerance and patience are qualities that come with the maturity of both the mind and age, the older and the more experienced one is, the more of these attributes would be expected of him. I wonder how many youths in leadership position would brook attacks and vitriolic criticisms that are now flooding social media against this incumbent administration. It is even a known fact that one of those young men who copiously used the same platform to attack previous governments, on becoming a law maker had advocated its censorship. Also, consider the conduct and activities of National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), then you would not be in doubt about the unpreparedness of youth for leadership responsibilities in the country. Even the nation’s House of Representatives which is populated mostly by people in their late forties and fifties would sometimes throw caution to the wind and denigrate their coveted titles and engage in free-for-all, whereas similar issues have always been handled maturely in the upper legislative chambers. Even a few younger ones in that Red Chamber have also exhibited characters not consistent with the high office they occupy.

In any case the clamour for youth’s take-over of the leadership position in the country is an exercise in futility; despite their population advantage, they lack cohesiveness in their ranks to mobilize for national integration to achieve unanimity of purpose. An average Nigerian youth would like to be recognized based on his ethnic affinity rather than national disposition. Ethnicity is rather stronger in the national psyche than nationalism. Apart from this, the present economic situation where most young men are still battling to find their footing in the face of unemployment, under-employment and unemployability; these ugly realities which have taken not a little toll on them have also made many of them toothless bull-dogs. They have been relegated to only scramble from the crumbs which politicians dole out. They are made personal assistant not to understudy their principals but as political settlements.

Where would the youth have the prerequisite experience or the financial muscle to wrestle power from the old guards who are not in any haste to leave the stage? Just ask the cost of nomination form from any serious political party for any elective position and you would wonder if any youth whose father is not one of those national treasury looters could benefit from the signing of this bill. Of what difference would it be if the children of corrupt leaders take advantage of this opportunity and get into power? Would their fathers not be recycled back to power by proxy? This only amounts to a change from an old guard to a new one!

People, the world over would still prefer to entrust the leadership of their countries in the hands of mature people. Few countries have leaders who were below forty years as at the time they took over the mantle of leadership, many of them are monarchies. These countries include France, Qatar, Yemen, Macedonia, Democratic Republic of Korea, San Marino and the Kingdom of Bhutan.

Until there is a general ethical re-orientation, attitudinal and cultural revolution in Nigeria, youth should at best be reserved future leadership role of this country.