The Upper Crust

2019: Needless delirium about youth


With Uche Nnadozie

I do not know how we got around in our body politic to begin to measure poll success on the altar of youth. It gets worse when I see otherwise knowledgeable people say it is the youth that will resolve our governance issues. They say old men have dominated every space. They claim, it is until the old men give space for the youth to occupy, Nigeria will be going round in circles. They point to a few far away countries where their prime ministers or presidents are really young people. To these category of Nigerians, youth means ideas, creativity and action. They say those are what is lacking in our government over the years.
I also see that they point us to Facebook and such companies which were pioneered by young people have become very successful global icons. These companies and their owners have gone on to change the world. Surely, the youth have their fervor; but so does the old come with experience. In a fragile country like Nigeria, to me, it is disingenuous to talk about leadership as an age group competition. The idea of reducing leadership recruitment to the age of individuals is numbing. This clearly shows that folks who flow with this strain of thought do not fully appreciate the enormity of the problems in our hands. I dare say, they are the real problems we seek to solve.
At this stage of our development, what folks with access to the public must concentrate on is how to make our leadership recruitment more dynamic. By so doing, we must also understand the various trajectories that have defined our country over the years. Surely disrupting a system is possible and easier these days, it clearly important to note that disruption by itself is not an end. Preaching and campaigning on the basis of disruption which does not add any value to the progress of the country is and should be loathed. But before we get to disruption, this system hardly welcomes such revolutionary changes except of course through unconstitutional means. We have since passed that stage.
Those who mouth youth as change agents on the journey towards 2019 missed the point. We have never had a gerontocracy as an elite group. Yes, we do from time to time have older Nigerians in certain positions but we have only had over 60-year olds (at the point of resumption of office) just twice since independence as heads of state. Shehu Shagari was not even up to 60 when he became president in 1979. it is only Olusegun Obasanjo who was in his 60sand Muhammadu Buhari in his 70s that took office can be said to have taken office as old folks. The rest of Nigeria’s heads of state and government were either in their 50s, 40s or 30s. the charge that old people have not allowed young people to thrive in Nigerian politics is a fable. Therefore, if the anger is misplaced, it is safe to conclude that the outcome will be rubbish.
If people make wild and stupid charges against old people as having monopolised Nigeria’s leadership since independence, that means they don’t even know or understand the country they complain about. If they can not get their facts correctly, it then means they cannot offer a useful succour. And this has been the greatest challenge for a lot of people who have jumped into the fray. I know a couple of them. Their most cherished leadership skill is that they are young. The second one is that they just read a book; the third is that they use the social media. It is that pathetic. Russian President in a recent interview stated that he doesn’t have an email and has never sent anyone. But he is seen as the most powerful man on earth. He is well respected and has shown that he is an effective leader of the Russian people.
Donald Trump is 71. At his old age, he uses the social media more than any other head other head of state alive. He in fact uses the social media more effectively than our over sized young aspirants. Where then lies the hogwash about youth and the effective deployment of social media? As if that is not enough, these young aspirants dismiss everyone in government as being of quack knowledge. And I am here wondering among these set of youths who is brighter than Bukola Saraki or Batunde Fashola and others like them. Are they more intelligent than Yemi Osinbajo and in what way? This is excusing the fact that most of them have no experience in the public sector. Although they will argue that you do not need public service experience to excel as president or governor. I also agree, but how do they make it through the shark-infested waters of politics? Talk is cheap!
Buhari tried on three occasions. He only succeeded on his fourth try. This is a man who was head of state, governor, minister and other military positions. Fortune can smile on you as it did on Goodluck Jonathan, but he was already in the system. He had been deputy governor, governor and vice president. The rest they say is history.

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