The youths occupy a prominent place in any society, apart from being the owners and the leaders of today, they outnumber the middle- aged and the aged. According to the CIA world fact book (2017) the present population of Nigeria stands at over 186 million with age structure 0 – 14 years: 42.79%, 15 – 24 years: 19.48%, 25 – 54 years: 30.65%, 55 – 64 years 3.96% and 65 years & above: 3.12%.
THE NOT TOO YOUNG TO RULE MOVEMENT: ISSUES, CHALLENGES AND PROSPECTS IN VIEW. BEING A PAPER DELIVERED BY DISTINGUISHED SENATOR BUHARI ABDULFATAI AT THE NIGERIA 57TH INDEPENDENCE ANNIVERSSARY ORGANISED BY THE FOSSU NATIONAL, IBADAN.
The clamour for the younger generation to vie for elective offices in Nigeria got a major boast few months ago when a bill to amend the age requirements to run for office (Not too young to run bill) was laid on the floor of the Senate on July 20th, 2017 by the Chairman of the Constitution Review Committee, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu and was later passed into law by the Senate on 26thJuly, 2017 and 27th July, 2017 by the House of Representatives respectively.
The new age qualification for running of offices as passed by the National Assembly are 35 years for President, 30 years for Governor and Senate, 25 years for House of Representatives and State House of Assembly.
The passage of Not too young to run bill and the Independent candidate bill has clearly paved way for a new Nigeria where younger people can run for elective positions and participate actively in decision making and nation building.
Let me use this medium to congratulate the Nigeria youths, National Assembly and the entire nation for this great opportunity and achievement.
No doubt the role of the youths on the national development of any country cannot be over emphasised. As the youths are important segment of the nation and are the bedrock of development of any country.
A society that prepares its youths for the sake of the future aspiration will not only secure her future developments but will prepare her next set of leaders with the challenges of national unity and development.
Therefore, the youths must be ready to take advantage of this numerical strength and move to the fore front of governance in the country.
In spite of all these important role of the youth in the development of the country and their numerical strength, the readiness and the level of political participation of the Nigerian youth is still questionable and insufficient.
Some questions are still begging for answers as to the readiness of the Nigeria youths and the workability of the “not too young to run bill” when it eventually becomes constitutional provision.
Few of these questions are: i) Are Nigerian youths ready to take over from the elders? ii) Do they have the political sagacity to challenge the elders? Iii) Do they possess the experience or the where- withal to deliver? These and many more will be discussed in this presentation and conclusion will be drawn as to the way forward for effective representation of the youth at the top echelon of the governance.
NOT TOO YOUNG TO RULE MOVEMENT: A GLOBAL PHENOMENON
The emergence of Vanessa D’Ambrosio (29 years) in San Marino, Kim Jong –un (32 years) in North Korea, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani (35 years) in Qatar, Charles Michel (38 years) in Belgium, Emmanuel Macron (39 years) in France and Justin Trudeu 42 years in Canada to mention few marks the gradual revolution of the younger generation of the leaders around the globe in the last couple of years. Even United States of America gave Barrack Obama a chance at the age of 47 years.
However, this movement is not new rather getting prominence in recent time as there had been younger leaders across the universe in the past. JF Kennedy was 35 years when he became American president, Theodore D. Roosevelt was also young when he assumed office in 1901 at the age of 42, Benazir Bhutto was 35 years when she became the 11thprime minister of Pakistan and Muammar Ghadafi rose to the power in Libya at age 27 years.
Even in Nigeria immediately after independence the foremost nationalist leaders and our fathers Awolowo, Akintola, Azikwe, Sarduna, Balewa were all in the age bracket 33 – 40 years. Richard Akinjide 32 years, MaitamaSule 29 years, M.T. Mbu 30 years were also Federal Ministers and Shehu Shagari was a Federal Legislator at age of 30 years.
In contrast today Nigeria youths have lost focus and been relegated to ordinary internet warriors, e–rats, fraudsters and political thugs arguing subjectively, illogically and irrationally in support of their pay masters, ethnic and religious colouration. Instead of using internet as strength, they have turned it to triviality and use it to blackmail, defraud and all sort of immoralities. As chairman of senate committee on ICT & cybercrime I know the report I receive on daily basis.
It is quite alarming and disturbing that Africa generally is excluded from this present trend of younger generation of leaders as there is presently no current African leader that is below 40 years of age.
Sadly the average age of present crop of African leaders is 70 years, as we have more than 20 African leaders that are aged above 70 years. Mugabe in Zimbabwe is 92 years, Biya in Cameroun is 83 years, Mutharika in Malawi is 76 years, Sirleaf in Liberia 78 years, Zuma in South Africa is 74 years, Koffo in Ghana is 72 years and Buhari in Nigeria is 73 years of age and we call the youths the leaders of tomorrow, when will the tomorrow comes?, it is only in Africa that you will see a president ruling for more than 30 years and still want to contest an election. Unfortunately, these crops of leaders having been in power even before some of you guys were born.
Are we Africans obsessed with power? Why are the youths not competing with the elders? They youth must know that power is not served alar – carte.
Researches have shown that apart from obsession of African leaders to power, African and most especially Nigerian youths are their own worst enemy. Looking at their percentage and their numerical strength, they ought to be dictating who gets what, when and how in our political space and even in the country at large.
But it is quite unfortunate they are not coordinated and lacks the political will to challenge the elders. According to the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics 70% of the Nigeria population are youthful and United Nations estimated nearly 50% of the developing world population to be youths and children.
People around me can testify that I don’t subscribe to the cliché “the youths are the leaders of tomorrow” as I believe the youths are leaders of today because the future starts today.
Since return to democracy in 1999 no person below age of 50 has emerged the president of our great country, though we have seen many state governors and members of National Assembly that are below 50 years of age and youthful.
This is why I have consistently argued that the youths should not wait for tomorrow before they come out strong with one voice to dictate where the baton swings. They possess all it takes to determine who will authoritatively allocate resources and dictate their future.
If D’Ambrossio, Jong- un, Tredues and Macron waited for tomorrow they won’t be president of their respective countries today.
Notwithstanding the bulk of the blame shouldn’t only be put on the tables of the younger generation but our political space also seems unfavourable and not encouraging for the emergence of a youthful candidate even in party primaries not to talk of winning in general election. The complex and clumsy nature of our political terrain makes emergence of youthful candidates an herculean task and a utopian ideal because of money politics that will play in this part of the world.
ARGUEMENT FOR AND AGAINST THE NOT TOO YOUNG TO RULE MOVEMENT
While we believe and agree that it is necessary and long overdue for the younger generation to be involved again or take control of the affairs of our dear country on one hand, it is important not to overlook the likelihood of problems associated with willingness, readiness and chances of the youth to taking up this responsibility in the other hand. This has necessitated argument for and against the not too young to rule by certain people in the country.
Majority of the people believes it is high time the youth took over from the older generation, forgetting Rome was not built in a day while other believe it is too early because most of the youth are inexperienced and lacks the political know how to muscle the elders to deliver.
Winning an election to any position (Local to the Central) in Nigeria is not a tea party as it requires proper planning, consistency, wider consultation, consensus building, energy, general acceptance and above all very very expensive.
In as much that I support and voted wholeheartedly for the not too young to run bill, I still have some reservation for its possibility because of the complex and clumsy nature of our political terrain.
You will all agree with me that most of our parties in the country lacks internal democracy which in turn affects outcome of party primaries. It is becoming difficult to have a free and fair primary election because certain elements in the party always belief they can impose their unpopular candidates. Thank God there is a provision in the constitution that if party primary is not well conducted, one can seek redress in the court of law. A classic example is the case of Rotimi Amaechi vs PDP in Rivers state in 2007 that brought him to power without contesting an election.
This goes a long way in affecting people’s choice and even chances of the party in the proper election. We have seen situations where delegates lists were doctored, result manipulated, even imposition and selection of candidates by fiat. All these and many more if care is not taken will affect the chances and emergence of youthful candidate and make mockery of our democracy.
Also are the youth ready to support one of their own? The youth need to wake up and move away from the era where politician will use and dump them tactically.
Nigeria is blessed with some of the best talents in the world who are doing extremely fine in their various field. I want to boldly say that Nigeria youths are among the best educated in the world, they excel in all spheres of life and whatever they do, any country of the world you visit today you see Nigerians doing extremely fine and representing the country well. Take for example the best auto designer in the world is Mohammed Jelani Aliyu a Nigerian from Sokoto state. So I have no problem with education and experience.
We have seen appointed and elected youths in the country and outside the country that have performed beyond expectation although some fumbled and wobbled but the percentage of the performance is higher.
However, statistically most have not in any way disappointed us, take for example in the National Assembly, business world and even academics today we have crop of young parliamentarians, business men doing fantastically well.
So the issue of education or experience is not the major problem but the readiness, seriousness and the chances of the youths to move to the centre stage is the dilemma.
Some political analyst and commentators believes Nigeria youths cannot be trusted because they lack integrity. The issue of integrity I agree is another problem that youths need to address. Like I earlier submitted, if you read or listen to the subjective arguments of some of these internet warrior/e-rats on the new media you will be ashamed of illogical reasoning and double standard of our so called leaders of tomorrow.
This is why I concur with Dele Momodu in one of his articles that internet is misleading a lot of the youths and the power of the internet is being exaggerated and overrated in our beloved country. Winning election is beyond rhetoric on the internet because most of the people on new media have no permanent voters’ card to vote on the day of election. They are either on internet watching movies, monitoring news or uploading false and unconfirmed information.
The rate of poverty, ignorance, intolerance and level of ill lettered youths in our country is also alarming and some anti – not too young to rule movement believe if this is not addressed the youths can never near leadership position in Nigeria.
THE WAY FORWARD
Conclusively the time has finally come for the youths to swing to action and break the jinx of the long awaited tomorrow which may never come and start leading from today. To achieve this, I want to suggest the following as way forward for both youth and the leadership of our country for consideration and attainment of young leaders in helms of affair.
I. Government should holistically tackle the issue of poverty and youth empowerment in the country. This will no doubt get the youths engaged and make them shun thuggery and other vices.
II. Government should set up leadership training institute or include compulsory leadership courses in the curriculum of schools starting from secondary schools. This will prepare future identified or interested talents in leadership know how and qualities.
III. Government policies and programmes on politics should be directed towards encouraging the youth and they should be carried along in policies that will directly affect them.
IV. The Nigeria youths must shun apathy and actively participate and involve in politics at all levels. This will allow them contest party primaries and increase their chances of emerging.
V. Political parties must encourage the youths to participate in politics by involving them in decision making and stop imposition and selection of candidates by fiat. They need to encourage open, free and fair party primaries for popular candidates to emerge.
VI. In order to attain leadership position Nigeria youths must put aside religious and ethnic sentiments and see the development of the country as their project and ideology.
VII. They are advised to unite, speak with one voice and work as a team if they want to attain the leadership position in our beloved country.
VIII. They also need to equip themselves intellectually through training and retraining because leadership position requires sound education and a lot of experience.
IX. Nigeria youth are also advised to take more and meaningful advantage of the internet and social media other than their present arrogance, uncoordinated and unproductive usage. Therefore they should use their power and knowledge of ICT as a strength to develop our democracy.
X. Also the youth must not stand akimbo, they should show the leadership qualities in them. In most developed countries they head hunt talents. Obama, Macron and other young leaders were headhunted in their respective countries.
Finally, to end this presentation, I will like to quote the words of A.P. Giannini (1870 – 1949) who said “I leave everything to the young men. You have got to give youthful men authority and responsibility if you are going to build up an organisation/nation. Otherwise you will always be the boss yourself and you won’t leave anything behind”.
God bless Nigeria youths.
God bless Oyo state.
God bless Nigeria.
Thank you all for listening.
Senator Buhari Abdulfatai Ph.D
Oyo North Senatorial District