#Nigeria, #Youth and #Politics: Can We Ever be Relevant?

Updated: Oct 7

Olaogun Michael Sunkanmi

Canvassity Democracy Fellow and Policy Advisor, Internationalism. The recent appointment of Prof. Ibrahim Agboola Gambari as the Chief of Staff to President Muhamadu Buhari has generated mixed reactions within Nigeria’s political and public space. Ever since the appointment was announced, it has availed us the opportunity to know the appointee’s scholarly and diplomatic weight and of course his historical positions with regards to the annulment of 1993 Presidential election and the death of late environmental activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa as reported by Sahara Reporter on 12th May 2020. Beyond these reactions and as a young Nigerian building career in policy and diplomacy; I am greatly inspired by his academic achievements and professional strength. The office of the CoS is a position principally designed to serve the president in the management of his personal itinerary and others as duty may demand. Yet, it has generated much reaction. The reasons for this may not be farfetched from the controversy that surrounded the life and time of the late CoS, Aba Kyari. Moving forward, the appointment of Prof. Gambari as CoS to the president should serve as a wakeup call to young Nigerians on the happenings within and around Nigeria’s political architecture. It appears to me that young people have seemingly become irrelevant in the scheme of political appointments which is the purpose for which this article is published. The newly appointed CoS served as the Minister of External Affairs between 1984–1985; while President Buhari was the Head of State; at the time, both were 36 and 37 years old respectively. This is a pointer to the fact that our fathers are still ever ready to continue to “serve” us if we continue in our unprofitable absence from Nigeria’s political space by the time you factor their present age. It is no longer news, that since the beginning of the fourth republic, political dispensations have not been favourable to the youth cluster. This is not because of the intended act of the political elites alone but as a result of the docile nature of the youth and the growing neglect of political participation to compete and wrestle power from those who have brought us into our present state. Despite our numerical strength, we are the victims of unemployment, insecurity, bad education system and host of others. Shall things continue this way? Across the world, leadership thinking has shifted from the erroneous belief that experience, age, and maturity were the dynamics that led to modern and innovative systems. Most countries of the world are diverting significant resources toward securing the future of their countries; preparing the younger generations for responsible and productive leadership in politics, business, technology, and other areas for sustaining democracy. Unfortunately, this is not happening in Nigeria. Nigeria needs a fresh political atmosphere as against the unproductive and unenthusiastic climate of leadership we are experiencing today. It is no doubt, Nigeria is dominated by old set of political leaders, compared to some other thriving western nations and this has been seen to have affected the socioeconomic dynamics and growth of Nigeria greatly. Over the years, the Western world has been grooming young, vibrant, innovative, and productive leaders. The young Western leaders continue to inspire more young leaders around the world. The need for change in political narratives brought about the emergence of the former American President, Barrack Obama, Emmanuel Macron of France, Sanna Mirella of Finland, Justin Trudeau of Canada and others to mention but few. The biggest challenge to the achievement of meaningful and sustainable political leadership in Nigeria, without doubt, is predicated on the belief that age and experience are the biggest prerequisites for leadership. That notion had its root in the native African societies’ leadership dogma of recognizing older members of ‘the family’ as the leaders in succession. This belief system has regressed the Nigerian society for so long a time and it is obvious that “The child that is not allowed to try out new things cannot learn new things”. The erroneous belief that only the older generations should have the rights and privileges to political leadership has caused Nigeria to lose the fresh and dynamic opportunities that the younger generations bring to the leadership podium. The older generations continue to recycle themselves in leadership positions because of greed, self- service, and sit-tight mentality. The mediocrity sustained by the older generations continues to create unproductive situations in our socio-economic life as a people. The political environment is sophisticatedly structured intentionally by old leaders to make political participation very difficult for young, vibrant and intelligent youth.

Given the global shifts and trends at this material time, development is dependent on innovative leadership and technology. There is need for SHIFT in the leadership environment. President Barack Obama was young when he took over governance in America. It was same with David Cameroon, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Both leaders performed brilliantly and turned around the socioeconomic status of their countries respectively. The Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau and French President, Emmanuel Macron are good examples of how the younger generations can lead their countries successfully with all sense of fairness. Indeed, leadership is changing across the world!

It is disheartening that Nigeria’s robust human resources, many of whom are leading lights in their respective professions, are being crippled by lack of visionary, vigorous, enthusiastic and progressive-minded leaders. The era of political leadership based on erroneous ‘age system’ is over. It is time for the younger generations to take the lead and participate in our social, political, and economic activities with the aim of changing things for better. The youth have the strength and number to genuinely wrestle and revive the tempo of leadership in Nigeria. The youth dominates the entire Nigerian population – we can use that to our advantage, ‘politics is a game of number’ and upon this, the youths must be united. The past and the current political leaders have engaged the youth in a time of politics and politicking for personal gains. After achieving their objectives, the older generations rigs the system to manipulate the younger generations into the background or better still the backs stage. The youth in the next electoral dispensation must be serious and determined, in order to strategically take over governance from the ‘political vampires’ and redefine the destiny of Nigeria. We have to reject the worthless gifts handed to us by this plutocratic Yester-generations and regain power from the old, self-centred, and unproductive leaders, who have brought us misfortune (unemployment, insecurity, poor education and more).

We need brilliant young minds with integrity and unquestionable records to take over leadership in Nigeria. Until we are deliberate and intentional, then we ride on the path to becoming relevant. “There is nothing for us without us”

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Legit Originals, Volume 1, Issue 1 (September 2020)

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