Youngsters in Politics: Need for adequate preparation, proper mentoring



His Excellency, Dr Olunloyo was Minister For Local Government in
Western Region at 24years.  I was 32 as Deputy Speaker in 1992. There
have been many more in old Oyo and present Oyo state. Even, in the 3rd
Republic House of 1992, there were at least four young graduates with
chain of University degrees  in their twenties.  Amongst them were Hon
Kazeem Adedeji, a highly intelligent and cerebral two masters degree
holder in Political Science and Law who was the youngest lawmaker of
our time at 26. There was also his bossom friend, Ebenezer, a
doctorate degree holder in Sociology who was then 27 years of age.
Our Speaker then was Dr Akin Onigbinde now a Senior Advocate of
Nigeria who was then 34 years of age with BA in English, MA in
Literature, LLB, BL, Msc Political Science, and PHD together with
yours truly with post graduate degrees in Political Science, law, BL
and certificates in International Arbitration.
The House of Assembly was an assemblage of egg heads, young, vibrant
and radical youths with youthful exuberance sometimes.  When we
sneeze, the Executive arm of the government catches cold. We also had
a very independent  Judiciary. Any member of the Executive that flout
our directive  on oversight functions will cool his feet in prison. I
was also the Chairman of Judiciary, human rights and civil society
committee in addition to my position as the Rt Hon Deputy Speaker.
Most of us were professionals who kept our jobs  as our main means of
livelihood.  The annual Salary of the Governor was N25,000. That of
his Deputy together with that of the Rt. Hon. Speaker was N2,500.oo.
transport, Housing and furniture Allowances for the entire 4 years in
office was N100,000.oo. I still keep the details of our emoluments for
future biographies. I was attending to all my cases in court as a
practising lawyer and so was the Rt. Hon Speaker, Dr Akin Onigbinde
now SAN. I knew not the geography of the office of any commissioner or
Adviser in the government.
I would rather summon the commissioner or Adviser to the house in
connection with his official capacity. A colleague who out of envy
challenged my appearance in court on ground of incompetence and
because of my membership of the State House of Assembly  in a land
matter had his nose bloodied by Hon. Justice Laolu Adeniran of blessed
memory. The case of Benson Alegbe vs. Bendel State House of Assembly
was handy in dismissing his objection and the judge lambasted the
colleague for not being abreast with the provision of Decree 50 which
was the “1991 constitution” of the 3rd Republic .
We were fiercely independent and focused and sometimes un-Nigerians in
our dealings with the Executive arm of government.  That posture of
ours earned me a “space” in the boot of a car. That in itself is a
story for another day, God willing. Back to the appointment of a
youngster into Executive, it is a double-edged sword that could  both
be commendable and counter-productive.  A lot of youngsters have had
their lives ruined due to wealth and position of authorities without
foundations.  Take a look around you and you will see scores of
youngsters who “made” it in life without adequate preparation and
mentoring. They were made commissioners, Advisers, Honourable
Speakers, legislators, Local Government Chairmen and even Ministers
“very” too early in the life of their existence on this planet but to
the detriment of their God given  potentials and gifts which were left
unutilised and un-explored albeit to the disadvantage of the society.
Many geniuses, gifted children, wiz kids and specially created homo
sapiens have had their rare qualities truncated very too early in life
due to over indulgence by careless parents who wrongfully believed in
the wrong philosophy of life that ” I suffered so much to reach this
height, so my children must not go through the same challenges ”
forgetting that it was those challenges of life that brought about
their achievements and exploits for the benefits of the society.
Thus, their great achievements and award winning exploits in life died
with them with no worthy successors or inheritors. The children of
their domestic staff who struggled through life to become educated
become great achievers and icons over and above the children of the
masters of yesterday.  It is the society that bears the loss of the
short sightedness in the long run. When a youngster of 25 years is
made a Commissioner or Hon Speaker of the house of Assembly, he starts
life as a public officer with an official car, a free driver, free
furniture, official quarters, retinue of aids etc and after the tenure
of 4 years, he loses that office, where would he start from? If he has
no foundation, can he maintain his car? Can he afford a driver,
Secretary, P. A., cook etc? Can he afford to live in the GRA where his
official quarters was located whilst in office.
The words of wisdom of the immortal Awolowo is still very much
apposite and germane here. The Late sage had urged young public
officers never to live a lifestyle in public office which they would
not be able to sustain in private life. It is rather unfortunate that
many Nigerians are now turning politics to ” a profession” as against
“occupation”. Some have never tried their hands on any profession in
their lives other than politics and public offices. From being a
Councillor to Local  Government Chairmanship, graduating to members of
the State or National Assembly or Commissionerships /Ministerial
positions but when the transitional ambition fails, they become social
problems. They would be ready and willing to do anything to win
elections or hold public offices.  In a society where the dearth of
planning and leadership recruitment is very much lacking, the
multiplier effect can be very destructive. When I became the Rt. Hon
Deputy Speaker of my State in 1992, a highly respected party leader
wanted his daughter to become my Special Adviser and another wanted
his nephew to become my official driver when I had mine who had been
driving me for 5 years before then. I obliged the party leaders of
their requests with a piece of advice.
The Lady recommended to me and the driver would join the services of
Oyo state as civil servants formally as Administrative officer GL 8
and senior driver GL 3 respectively.  Luckily, there were vacancies
created by the exodus of the indigenes of Osun State who were leaving
in droves as a result of the creation of that state in 1991. To the
glory of God Almighty, the lady who was seconded to me as my P. A. is
now a permanent Secretary in the services of Oyo state whilst my then
senior driver retired as a chief driver in the services of Oyo state 7
years ago. Yes, some of us “catch” young were very lucky but some were
not so blessed. The number of youngsters so blessed after being
trusted with fortunes and positions of power is very negligible. It is
not every one that would be T.M . Mbu, Victor Olunloyo or Akin
For everyone of the aforementioned, there have been hundreds that were
ruined. They abound in politics, professions, traditional
institutions, religious circles and even in social circles. The point
being made here is that mentoring, patience, humility, prayers,
guidance and laying proper foundations for such youngsters are
essential elements needed to sustain such laudable step of “catching
them young” . We must do the needful if we genuinely love the
youngsters being lured into positions of affluence and power very
early in their primes, otherwise such laudable step could turn out to
be counter-productive.
Akintola is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN)

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