(By Jude Feranmi)
“These are germane questions that we need to ask ourselves and find answers to and in cases where these answers are in the negative, find a way to create a message out of the mess and sense out of the nonsense. I have but one opinion and one way to kickstart an evolution of a set of leaders that will see to a change in the way our societies are being built and perceived in the comity of nations. That answer lies in the constitution amendment of the age of contesting from the ages of 30, 35, and 45 to 21. My reasons are not outrageous, They are simply laid out below“.
The debate of whether youth should occupy certain positions in the policy decision making organs of the country is now more popular than the debate between say Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi and who is better. Usually, people quote facts of about how that most leaders of the country immediately after independence were in their twenties and thirties. This is most times followed by conclusions of how the youth of today should be canvassing for more participation in the polity of which I am one. I consider it however expedient to make my position clear as to the pros and the cons of this argument. Most proponents of the other side of the argument have often argued that the term/demography youth is not in itself a qualification for leadership and that most of the members of this demography are usually not prepared to take up leadership roles in the small groups talk less the community. My most referenced quote when it comes to this topic belongs to the former Vice President and now Presidential aspirant Atiku Abubakar who said, this country can no longer afford to have leaders who will need to learn on the job but leaders who are already qualified for leadership offices and would simply get the job done and therefore, youth should stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before them and learn the business of governance. This does not only tell of what fate awaits the youth if Atiku is voted President come 2015, it also supplies a solid argument for which the youth cannot afford to assume offices in the community and should instead watch as the old men in their sixties and seventies take leadership roles and offices while the youth watch and learn. Leaders of tomorrow!
I will try as much as possible to debunk this idea of waiting for a tomorrow before the youth begin to take leadership roles and offices and why it is necessary that by now the youth should not only aspire to support and advocate for policies that ensure that youth participation is included as not just a privilege but also a right for the average youth in Nigeria and by youth, I mean youth in the sense of the word, not some 55 year old men who are claiming strength and life as criteria for calling themselves youth. First and foremost, we should start to take into cognizance the fact that the so called youth representatives we are having as a generation are those that have strived to be successful in the entertainment industry. We should start to think of what tag that attaches to our generation and our epoch when most ambassadors and now political office aspirants are musicians and entertainers. I do not in any way mean to undermine the impact and the capacity of these individuals. I only want us to put our epoch in perspective and consider the way we are performing in other sectors which are determinant in the way history and posterity writes about our epoch and our time. Secondly, and following from the first, we should also start to take as important how the individuals concerned with the polity and the roles we can play and should play as a generation, are performing. I have been dumbfounded by the recent display of the #30PercentOrNothing movement and I am still trying to remain optimistic that my pessimism is as a result of my lack of understanding of the purposes of the movement. Of what roles are the privileged youth who are close to the corridors of power playing? And what responsibilities are they taking up and fulfilling because as trivial as it is, it affects our generation and the expectations that the older generation have of the rest of us. Thirdly, Exactly what roles should we be playing in building a nation and a society that would be left for us to solve its problems in the next 40 years thereabout when those who created the problems are rotting in their graves? How should we be acting, what activities should we be participating in at the moment. How should we be putting in place strategies and systems in place to succeed this generation, What ways are we helping to reduce the problems we would be solving in the coming years or what ways are we helping to increase those problems for the gains of old men and their families for whatever interests they have or we have?
These are germane questions that we need to ask ourselves and find answers to and in cases where these answers are in the negative, find a way to create a message out of the mess and sense out of the nonsense. I have but one opinion and one way to kickstart an evolution of a set of leaders that will see to a change in the way our societies are being built and perceived in the comity of nations. That answer lies in the constitution amendment of the age of contesting from the ages of 30, 35, and 45 to 21. My reasons are not outrageous, They are simply laid out below
Early Involvement. It takes almost a miracle for one to find an average Nigerian in his early twenties or even late twenties that is not diseased with political apathy and the reasons are not far fetched, Nobody in their circles are involved politically and it’s therefore difficult to involve that kind of person in any political brouhaha as it always is in this part of the world. When 21 and above citizens are permitted to contest elections, other 21 and above citizens who are not actively participating would get involved for the purpose of supporting their friends and family. With an active middle class which is comprised mostly of the youth demography especially here in Nigeria, We can expect citizens to demand more good governance from their governors and legislators especially when they are their mates. Most of the problems we have today are borne of the fact that most people cannot face political office holders who are as old as their grandfathers and demand that what they are doing is not what they want, it just naturally defeats the essence of the African Culture of respect for the elderly.
Necessary Accountability. Nature is enough incentive for any development and any change whatsoever. By this I mean that CHANGE is easily achieved when it concurs with nature and why would we decide to swim against the waves of nature when swimming with the waves achieve for us the same goal. When a young individual serves his community in a political office for say 20 years, He still has a long way to go if he lives long, I bet that nobody wants to live his last days with the thoughts of how bad his people hate him as a result of his office days. Of course, there is the mentality that such an individual will have amassed so much power that such will not affect him. It is to be noted however that in this kind of society if achieved, there will be an entire difference in the mentality of the people as we have it right now.
Economic Implications. Those fighting for the 30 percent of all government positions and contracts, I guess, have the least idea of how to go about achieving their goals. To reduce the level of poverty and illiteracy in Nigeria, reduce the level of poverty of youth and provide opportunities for business and entrepreneurship and poverty will vanish in a country like Nigeria in a matter of years. The question we should start to ask is how does getting 30 percent of all government contracts and positions solve this problem of unemployment in such a way that there will be a reduction in the poverty rate of the country. For every youth that gets out of poverty, you can be sure that his parents and siblings are also out of the poverty line or at least close to getting out. When a governor is 30 years old, you can be sure that all the contracts that will go out to the citizens of that state will all go to people who are 3o years old +/- ten years. When the President is in his early 40 years, you can be sure that the minister of the economy could be in his late twenties or early thirties. There is still a lot to prove with life for a young man or woman and it is necessary that we begin to understand the importance of this.
A petition to the National Assembly to reduce the age of contesting to 21 will see a lot of change in the representation of the people in the National Assembly, and with a National Assembly full of people who are optimistic about a future that is still very much available, policies that will benefit the society and its members can actually be expected from such an assembly of representatives as opposed to what we have now of honourables who are merely trying to secure a life for their kids and their families that they never had. It is essential that we identify the obligation of this generation as what exactly it is which I think is the provision of a system that will ensure that the right people campaign for offices and that the right persons are voted in. Even if our votes count in this dispensation, we are merely picking one out of two devils and that alone is enough incentive for political apathy. I hope that this will inspire one Nigerian Youth to prepare for the position of leadership and the right people who are the opinion shapers and recognized national youth frontiers to pick up an hashtag on social media and a campaign slang on the streets to sign petitions that will go to the National Assembly for the amendment of this part of the constitution. And guess what, President Jonathan openly declared support for this bill if it was forwarded to the National Assembly. If what it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing, and not say nothing, then it is high time we start to do and do a little of talking and writing.
I rest my pen
“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”