Nigerian Youths Interested In Becoming SAs To Governors, Senators— Sowore Comments On 44-year-old President In Senegal

By Damilare Adeleye

The 2023 presidential candidate of African Action Congress, Omoyele Sowore, has faulted the attitude of young Nigerians to challenge the old guards in the country for key political positions following the inauguration of 44-year-old Bassirou Diomaye Faye as the Senegalese president.

Sowore, however, cautioned people not to be quick to celebrate Faye’s political feat, saying time would tell if he would be a leader of the people.

According to Sowore, youthfulness is not the only criterion required to lead, especially considering how some youths have failed in leadership positions in Nigeria.

Faye was sworn in at the swearing-in event on Tuesday attended by several African leaders, including President Bola Tinubu of Nigeria, who was there as the Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States in Dakar.

Sowore, who featured on Tuesday’s edition of Channels Television’s Politics Today from New Jersey in the United States (USA), said, “This was where we were coming from. We started our political movement in 2018 and people were saying, ‘You need experience’, and we kept on saying experience is not gonna take you anywhere because it is experienced politicians that put Nigeria in the condition that it is today – experienced thieves, experienced murderers, killers, corrupt people.

“And now you’ve seen it in Senegal that you don’t actually need experience, you need leaders that have vision, people who are motivated to lead their people.”

He, however, cautioned people not to be overjoyed yet, saying, “I must make a caveat here that until we see the performance of this particular persons who have taken over power in Senegal, we should not celebrate too quickly because we have had young people in Nigeria lead.

“The guy that just left Kogi is very young and look at the way he left the state. This is what I have always said that my problem is not with old age, my problem is with old ideas of African leaders. They have no new ideas.

“We have had some young people with very difficult old ideas like the likes that we have had in Kogi, not just one, the senator from there, the governor there and several other persons so we have young people who are disgracing their youthfulness.

Stressing the need for political participation, the activist said, “Mr Faye and his colleagues set up a political party in 2014 and when he ran for election, they were thoroughly beaten, they only had one position in the local government or so in 2014 and they kept going and came back later, then came third and eventually now they have won power so political participation is necessary.

“Creating political parties that are not tainted by the old is also very important. But I must insist and agree with you here that just being young in numbers is not enough. You must be persons of character, you must have mission, you must have vision and you must have the will to work for the people of your country.

“The part about experience is also very important, you hear that from Nigerians. I know they do that for different purposes. This guy was a tax collector, that is the best thing he has ever done. He is not even known to have been an activist before now.

“It was him and his friends in the tax sector that came together and defeated the old guards but this is not the first time in Senegal that old guards have been defeated and that is why I said earlier that we should be careful.

“Even the guy whose candidate was defeated, Macky Sall, was also seen as a reformer when he came years ago. In fact, he was saying he didn’t want to spend more than four years in power.

“Then he came to power, got used to it and became a terrible dictator himself so it is very important but the question is: ‘What is our young people doing?’ That is the question.

“Our young people are doing what I call 'tag along,' they are more interested in becoming Special Assistants to governors or senators. I have not seen that clear aspiration on the part of our young people to go and become the leaders of their country and most of the time, it is these young people that are pulling down a few young people who are courageous enough to say it is time to turn the corner.

“I don't see myself as youth anymore but I look youthful. And I can always defend my youthfulness but that is not the reason why I want to become the president of Nigeria.

“It has never been the reason, it has always been that I have such a background in making sure that we fix our country and that is what drove me into running for office, first in 2019 and then in 2023.

“So this is a lesson because our young people also have the tendency to praise other young people who are making this kind of difference in other places but when it comes to their country, they kind of self-sabotage.

“You remember in 2018, there was this law – Not Too Young To Run. And I challenged it at that time, why would you need a law for young people to run. You take power, nobody would give power to you via any constitutional amendments or laws and four years later, how many young people has that (law) produced in the most important sector of the country which is the presidency?”

He urged the youths to be driven to take over power from the old guards with old ideas, saying, “You cannot be young, mission-driven, and a visionary and go and hide your bushel under some of these old people who have no idea of how to even operate a phone.”

“Youthfulness is also important in the sense that you need leaders that are alert and capable and responsive and do not have to spend half of the time in the hospital,” he added.