Dissecting Nigerian youths’ preparedness for leadership
For decades now, the leadership positions globally, especially in the third world countries have been dominated by the gerontocrats. Nigeria is not an exception in this case.
Unconfirmed reports had it that until recently, the youngest president in Africa was the 70 year-old president of Eritrea, Isaias Afwerki, while the 92 year-old president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe was the oldest.
Reminiscing on the past, Nigeria’s leadership positions were mostly occupied by young, vibrant, dynamic, patriotic, energetic and intelligent youths like Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Chief Anthony Enahoro, K.O Mbadiwe, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Chief Richard Akinjide (SAN) and others, who worked assiduously and selflessly to reposition and develop the country called Nigeria. They made name for themselves, not because of the massive wealth they acquired in public service, but for the everlasting legacies they laid.
While majority of them died wretched, their exploits and antecedents, have till date remained a reference point and exemplar. Today, many are of the view that it is either the Nigerian youths are not ready or prepared to take up leadership challenges or they are not given chance by the elders, who have continued to recycle themselves with nothing much to offer.
No wonder since the return of democracy in Nigeria in 1999 and the great exploits and broken records of Nigerian youths nationally and globally, the gerontocrats have continued to call the shots in the corridors of power, thereby raising the questions-where are the Nigerian youths, how ready are they to lead and when will they be in the lead?
Globally, it appears there is a paradigm shift in the choice of leaders by the people and the trend seems to be growing rapidly. Latest of the trend was the recent election of the 39-year-old, Emmanuel Macron as France president. Before Macron was the election of 45-year-old Justin Pierre Trudeau as the Prime Minister of Canada in October 2015.
Gradually, the scope is expanding and the awareness is growing. Ahead of the forthcoming Rwanda presidential election in August, a 35 year-old lady, Ms Diane Shima Rwigara is one of the presidential candidates. She plans to run as an independent candidate against the incumbent president, Paul Kagame. She is already being harassed but she appeared undaunted.
Whether this growing political trend will trickle down to Nigeria is a matter of conjecture. This is especially as the constitutional impediments to youth participation in political leadership are being looked into by the National Assembly.
Speaking recently, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, said the House is committed to passing the #NotTooYoungToRun bill in order to lower the age requirements for elective offices to ensure youth inclusion in politics and leadership.
He stated this on Wednesday at the National Assembly while addressing the plenary session of the Nigerian Youth Parliament. He said as elected representatives, it is the lawmakers’ duty to make sure that their constituents’ voices are heard, especially in a country with a youth population of over 60 per cent.
“We committed ourselves in our legislative agenda to give priority to “necessary legislative interventions to promote equality and inclusion, and entrench the rights of women, youths and vulnerable groups in the society,” he said.
Dogara added that one of the major challenges affecting Nigeria’s youth population is unemployment. “As your elected representatives, this gives us nightmares.”
The #NotTooYoungToRun bill seeks to alter sections 65, 106, 131 and 177 of the Nigerian constitution. It is aimed at reducing the age of eligibility for elective offices across the board, and to introduce independent candidacy to the electoral process.
Similarly, the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, said the National Assembly is committed to ensuring greater youth participation in governance to guarantee the country’s future.
Speaking when he played host to the Nigerian Youth Parliament, led by its Speaker, Hon. Ayodele John Obe, in Abuja last year, Saraki said part of the change policy of the present administration is geared towards effective engagement of the younger generation so as to raise vibrant leaders who will steer the ship of state in future.
He stated that the Senate would continue to acknowledge the efforts of the youths in governance, adding that, “I want to confirm our commitment as the Senate on empowerment of the youths, not only because you are the majority in the population, but also because we believe you are the owners of the future.
“Both in terms of innovation and entrepreneurship, our youths have displayed much zeal and in the light of this, we will continue to partner with you,” he said.
The Senate President who acknowledged the mandate of the 109-man strong Youth Parliament, said the request of the Speaker to enable members of parliament undergo internship with their respective Senators would be looked into to ensure that the youths are imbued with necessary legislative skills required to pilot a federal legislature.
He further said the Senate would work out a modality to enable the youth lawmakers participate in the activities of the Red Chamber at the committee levels.
Earlier, the Speaker of the Third Session of the Nigerian Youth Parliament, Hon Ayodele John Obe, commended the visionary and robust leadership of the Senate President.
“Under your delightful efforts, commitment and proactive leadership, the 8th Senate has provided the much needed legislative impulse, insight and oversight functions. Thus, worthy of note, is that this breakthrough was recorded amidst severe turbulence,” Obe stated.
The Speaker, however decried the removal of the youth development vote from the 2016 budget which has stalled virtually all the youth activities for the year,” and appealed to the executive to ensure that provision is made for it in the supplementary and subsequent yearly Appropriation Acts.
While it is hoped that Saraki, Dogara and his colleagues in the National Assembly will live up to expectations, it is now left for the Nigerian youths to cash onto this window of opportunity ahead of 2019 general elections and make the difference.
Some are of the view that age has nothing to do with good leadership, stressing that several youth organisations in the country are either crisis-ridden or politicised for selfish reasons. Others argue that Nigerian youths having done very well in other fields of human endeavour, have a long way to go in political leadership because of lack of interest, ability, character and good political tutelage.
Speaking to The Guardian, an All Progressives Congress (APC) youth leader in Lagos, Ifeoluwa Sunday said that Nigerian youths are capable of making great difference in the country leadership if given chance and time.
“Yes Nigerian youths have great potentials to do better in political leadership, but they have not been given enough chance and time. Besides, the electoral system is not favourable to breaking new grounds. There is need for independent candidacy in the election. It will reduce the overbearing influence of party leaders, who see the position as means of making money and encouraging godfatherism. That is the bane of youth involvement and progress in political leadership.
“I am looking forward for the National Assembly to amend those sections of electoral Act and 1999 constitution that impede youths of certain age from contesting certain elections,” Sunday said.
To Ikechukwu Obota, the problem of youths’ poor participation in political leadership goes beyond constitutional impediments.
Obiora said: “I am a young man and I have been deeply involved in leadership roles. Nigerian youths are not ready to take risk and responsibility. They are too emotional and sentimental, though they are very diligent. They are too relaxed and believe much in impossibilities. They are too materialistic, docile and despondent. They don’t believe in Nigeria, forgetting that no place is better than home. They prefer rushing to overseas to be second class citizens, leaving the leadership responsibility to the same old recycled leaders that brought the country to its knees.”