Political Methuselahs and the danger of building a nation without the youths

June 29, 2017 Africa , Nigeria , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS , POLITICS

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Jerome-Mario Utomi


To think that every aphorism is applied as expressed is synonymous with believing that the lion will not charge at you just because you are a vegetarian. This brings to the fore the maxim “the youths are the leaders of tomorrow” frequently mouthed by political leaders in Africa and Nigeria in particular, but hardly work to make it a reality.

Currently, with the exception of Joseph Kabila, the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, who is a little above 43 years of age and could be described as relatively youthful, no other African sitting president is in the same age range or bracket as they are 50 or above. In Nigeria, the story is not different, except for those that got to a position of authority through undemocratic means in the past, it is only the incumbent governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello, who is a little above 43 years and the immediate past Governor of Lagos State who is now the Federal Minister in charge of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) who governed Lagos State at a relatively youthful age and a handle of others yet to be identified, others reaching power over 50.

The chances are this category of political office holders may remain in leadership positions till they are well above 70. A very good example that readily comes to mind is that of our very own, President, Muhammadu Buhari. This very trend had earned Africa a laurel as a continent that produced the oldest serving president in the world in the person of President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe who is a little above 93.

In this clime, “youths are the leaders of tomorrow” has become a form of a mantra, a sermon by our leaders that we can describe as a gospel without the truth. They preach this without taking pragmatic steps to develop or design strategies that will help it see the light of day. The youths in particular are also beginning to view it as a one sided narrative especially when it is coming from our present crop of leaders. It has become an epigrammatic tale that revolves around a particular plot construed around the electioneering campaign, with the sole aim of achieving electoral victory. In most cases this becomes more of a slogan or anthem for the political parties. It lasts as long as the electioneering period and fizzles out as soon as the winners emerge. Youths are never assured again that they are “the leaders of tomorrow” till the next electioneering campaign. And the cycle goes on and on. This has been the grim fate and burden which successive generations of Nigerian youths have grappled with since 1960.

However, recent happenings around the world’s political arena as regard emergence of some youthful Presidents, such as France’s Emmanuel Macron who is just 39, and other young leaders occupying exulted positions in their countries, have served as an awakening of political and leadership consciousness among Nigerian youths. Heightened youth agitations around the country have become a hot topic for national discourse and have taken centre stage with the 2019 elections around the corner.

Social media has become not just a platform for this debate but a willing tool. Youths on their part are getting unusually busy aligning and realigning politically. Proliferations of politically induced associations are becoming conspicuously visible. Sadly however, our sit tight political elders and leaders who claim the wisdom of Solomon as to how to run the polity are not ready to let go of power or shift political boundaries to accommodate the restive youths. Instead, they are perfecting anti-youth political strategies and tactics they hope to use to perpetuate them in power.

Current waves of political activism on the part of the youths are viewed by political pundits as a step in the right direction. They opine that it calls for celebration because alarming apathy has been the sad commentary about the political participation of young people in Nigeria thus giving some Methuselah politicians the leeway to continue to prance the political space unchallenged.

It recently got to a comical but worrisome stage that some political parties and their gladiators were appointing and anointing men well above 60 as national youth leader of their various parties. Some of these political grandfathers recently at different gatherings declared that the current crop of Nigerian youths are not matured politically enough to be saddled with critical political positions. The youths were roundly accused of not being any different from the “politically matured” adults.

A school of thought shares the opinion that in today’s Nigeria, and in politics, both the adults and the youths in politics are bonded by a common denominator: corruption and abuse of public office.

The above scenario leaves a huge question mark on the political future of young Nigerians. Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri, a Harvard trained Lawyer and Executive Director, Spaces for Change, rues that “the inability of Nigerian youths to occupy political or leadership  positions in the country, be it elective or appointment should be blamed on the nation’s inglorious departure from politics of ideas to money politics or what is currently referred to as the politics of the highest bidder which the youths have no financial muscles to partake in and therefore settled for the easiest option at their disposal which is praise singing or what is referred to as ‘’Otinkpu’’ in Igbo local palace.

On corruption allegations against the youths, the Legal luminary said the allegations have no basics as corruption knows no age, gender or tribe and are not limited to the youths but cuts across all spectrums. She added that the youths lack leadership experience because they have not been given the opportunity to participate and learn what leadership is all about like the Obasanjos and Gowons of this world that had that opportunity at their very youthful stage.

To buttress the critical issues raised by Ohaeri, I have had the opportunity of chatting with some youths on this topic, and the outcome of the conversation revealed that they been fed with the fundamentally wrong tradition, ideals, values and superstition of seeking instant gratification, wealth without work and pleasure without conscience. These imbibed negative and self limiting qualities have dovetailed into making the youths willing and ready tools in the hands of the politicians whom they ingloriously serve.

Constitutional limitation is another point that the youths complained bitterly about describing it as a big snare. Age limit for most of the elective positions imposed by the Nigerian constitution shuts the doors of elective opportunities to the youths.

The book, “Good to Great’’ authored by Jim Collins, a management consultant, opines that “the first duty of a great leader is to find the right people and give their rightful positions.” I therefore, hold the view that there are many ‘right people’ among Nigerian youths whose youthful zeal, energy and intellect will be hugely beneficial to the socio-economic and political growth of our fatherland if entrusted with critical positions of authority and leadership, whether appointed or elective.

To this end, Nigerian youths as a matter of urgency should crawl out of their shells and start thinking as professional politicians so that they could end up becoming political entrepreneurs as advised by Steven Silbiger in his wonderful masterpiece titled “The Jewish Phenomenon”. No time will be better than now, for the youths to learn how to prioritize, distinguishing importance from fundamentals and always going for the fundamentals as they guarantee the best results.





Jerome-Mario Utomi

Jerome-Mario is a Social Entrepreneur and an alumnus, School of media and communication, Pan Atlantic University, Lagos, Nigeria.


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