By Bayo Fasunwon
Nigerians gather together today in different places and different to ask questions, which if well answered would ‘guide our leaders right, and help our youths the truth to know”. Questions arise from the Presidential candidates, which parties have forced on the people. The most prominent of which are elder statesmen whose declared ages are knocking on the doors of the Octogenarian. The question beckons for an answer. Are the leaders guided in the right path, and our youths ever learning but not coming to the knowledge of the truth?
The United Nations defines youth as individuals from 15 to 24 years of age, while the African Union to which Nigeria belongs defines youth as individuals aged between 15 to 35 years. When it comes to voting, youth age starts from 18.
In the close to 58 years of Nigeria’s existence, various men and peoples have governed us. Between 1960 and 1983, their average age was 26 years. Three were less than 40 years, two were in their fifties, and the least age was just 28 years. Between 1984 and 2018, the average age of our Presidents/Head of States was 62 years. The oldest was 73 years, while the youngest was 41 years. Ironically, both the oldest and youngest in this era is the same person. Another interesting thing is that all those who became Presidents above 50 years were democratically elected, while those who became Presidents before 45 years were all military men. The first question, “Can the Youths ever become Presidents in a democratic system? The second question is “Do the youths have to take to arms to rule?”
In the battle for Nigeria’s independence and in event, players in the Legislative assemblies of the country, men and women less than 40 years have played significant roles, and still do. The youths then and thereafter were politically conscious, vibrant, and energetic in the political arena fighting the colonial powers, and the military thereafter until democracy was restored. The question is “Are youths of today vibrant, energetic and politically conscious?”
A research carried on Nigerian youths discovered that more young men than women take part in politics. Is there no Moremi, Tinubu, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, the Aba women, Queen Aminat, amongst Nigerian youths again?” The research also discovered that rather than stand for elections, young Nigerians struggled for positions as electoral officers, observers, party agents, disruptions, intimidations, vote buyers, and sellers and attempted ballot snatching. The question arises, “Are the youths of this day interested only in the money making aspect of politicking?”
The youths of those days who got involved and were therefore engrafted into politics and positions had certain qualities, which we need to inquire if these present generation of youths have.
Quality and qualitative education. Youths that matter politically in those, times were either fully educated and or involved in getting qualitative education in both national and international institutes. However, in order to be relevant, their education was not limited to their disciplines. They schooled themselves in local, national, and international political issues. Their contributions to issues were profound, electric, inspiring, and commanding. The likes of Enamor, Soyinka amongst others was inspiring. Many youths of today are well educated but not self-schooled; hence, their thinking could be shallow and shortsighted.
The youths of those times up to the 1990s were moved by ideology. Ideology could be literarily defined as an idea held by a generality of people, which thus guide their behaviours, and perception of issues. The two ideological stances of those times were capitalism and socialism that is the right and the left. These ideas were the driving force of the youths, and thus initiated them into their political parties and determined their participation. It seems that ideology no longer exists; hence, the driving force to the youths seems dead.
Thus, in relation to ideology, socialism removed the eyes of the youths of those times and climes from the pursuit of happiness through wealth accumulation. Happiness for the youths of those years was defined as ‘the well being of the general masses’. What is the definition of happiness of the youths today? How many youths are willing to participate in politics for the sake of the people and not the sake of his pockets?
At a time, Wole Soyinka in his youth single handedly took over a radio station in what was described as a coup plot. The youths of those days have vision, which propelled a force of boldness to dare the ruling forces (both local and international). This boldness displaced the fear of death and ridicule. The vision of a better nation brought them from their hideouts to the forefront of the battle for the soul and spirit of the nation through active political participation, which transcends the act and art of voting to civil disobedience when the need arises.
In addition, was the quality of cohesiveness and unity of purpose that cut across ethnic and religious divide. They moved in the direction of actualizing a better Nigeria for all. They differed from the youths of these days whose loyalty is not to the nation, but to their political godfathers, religion, and bellies. That which unites the youths of these days is what divides them – money.
Finally, key observers of Nigeria politics would observe that active political players in this nation are often invited to participate, given antecedents. The military were always invited to take over, and the boys would strike. Proactive youths are always invited into the youth wings of the political parties and the climb to the upper realm begins. How active are the youths in their local areas that would warrant their ‘invitation’ to the ladder of leadership.
So, are the current Nigerian youths not too young to rule?
They have the age, the education, and the passion, but lacked ideology, community service, selflessness, and cohesiveness. Are they not too young to rule? Maybe that is not the question to ask. Maybe the question to ask is how can these youths rule?
From my own point of view, the youths should:
Political leadership in Nigeria (as of today), from the grassroots to the center belongs to those who are active members of political parties. Therefore, any youth who wishes to become a Ruler must consciously align and become a member of a political party at the grassroots. While the ruling party may sound appealing to any passionate youth, simple law of economics suggests that where demand is high, supply would be low. Hence, it is advisable for youths to seek for political parties that suit their ideological persuasions and participate actively, irrespective of the newness or otherwise of the party.
Being members of political parties would also afford them the opportunity to have more interest in local and national matters, instead of dissipating energies on discussing football competitions that have little or no value to their well-being. The exhibition of good character traits, responsibility, loyalty, and informed contribution to issues would of course advertise their potentials for leadership. With the exhibition of these potentials, they must add to this virtue by presenting themselves as candidates for elections at every level.
In addition to these, there is the need for the youths of this nation, in their localities to demand for accountability from their political representatives, from the ward to the Senatorial districts. Often time, the strength of the nation has been silent over the arrogance displayed by political party holders who fail to represent those who elected them. It is high time, the youths begin to put these representatives to the task through every means possible, including re-calls, when elected representatives are not made accountable to the electorates, then the dividends of democracy would always elude the youths, and exacerbate unemployment, poverty, and distress.
The youths of today have been made poor by policies of degradation, thus reducing their self-esteem and increasing their inferiority complex. By the population of the youths in Nigeria, they hold the four aces in deciding who becomes either the head or tail during elections. However, the pangs of poverty and hunger have, like the biblical Esau, reduced them to scavengers, who sell their today for a tomorrow through vote buying and selling. If the youths ever have the dream of rulership via democracy in this nation, then, the act of vote buying and selling amongst them must be annihilated.
Finally, youths should desist from chanting the slogan, ‘Not too young to rule’. Oppressive and self-centered politicians would capitalize on the advocacy of the youths to install their children, cohorts, and family members in power. The reason for the possibility of this hijack is that politicians are well aware of the fact that most Nigerians, especially the youth cannot afford the financial stress of elections, which they can easily achieve for their own children. Making constitutional provisions for the youths to rule does not in any way empower them to do so. The slogan that will give the youths the leverage to compete for elections at any level is “Not too poor to rule”. When a nation imbibes this, and is adopted by all political parties, the youths may have a chair in the corridors of power.
These are my views, what are yours?