Nigerian Youths As Ministers? Not Yet!

Nigerias-national-assembly1OVER the last few days, different reactions have trailed the choice of individuals representing the nominees for ministerial positions as constituted by the President and forwarded to the leadership of the National Assembly for confirmation.

While not many names on the list (as that official document is now referred to), sprung a surprise since many of the appointees had been visible in the President’s campaign train and post – election era, the list nonetheless generated no small controversy on account of the ages of the nominees. Those individuals formed the famous “kitchen cabinet”, constituting the committee for handing over and supporting the President on his foreign trips.

On one hand, some Nigerians continued to agitate for new faces, others wanted to see their acclaimed technocrats while some of us had our hopes dashed when we were not afforded the spectacle of having our mates and colleagues nominated to become Ministers of the Federal Republic. Indeed, the President had made the exercise more intriguing when several news reports suggested that the President had appointed himself as Minister for Petroleum Resources.

Even I, like many other Youths had taken to social media, espousing my elementary knowledge of the law that the President could only delegate ministerial powers and functions on the Vice – President and other Ministers. After several heated arguments with “learned colleagues”, I could only but agree that the President is the number one Minister, being imbued with those powers while the Constitution confers upon him the discretion to delegate those powers on the Vice President and other Ministers; provided of course that he is in compliance with the principle of federal character and appoints at least one Minister from each of the 36 federating States.

Interestingly, the President seized the Independence Day Broadcast to chastise the impatient amongst us while informing that other nominees would have their particulars submitted in batches. Some of the factors, which would keep working for and against the President as he assembles his team for the herculean task of orchestrating Change include party policy, federal character, mandatory minimum of one Minister from each State, gender and age.

As a young man of three decades and a half, I had become dissatisfied with the steady spiraling downward trend of governance, state of the economy and standard of living over the years. Even education as I knew it in the early 80s till the early 90s was a lot different from the state of that important sector in recent times. It was as though our founding fathers saw into the future when they composed the second stanza of the National Anthem in that part of it which prays, “help our Youths the truth to know”.

The truth we must admit to ourselves is that Youth Ministers in our country is a concept best regarded as a pipe dream, at least for now. Those of us clamoring to have our fellow Youths appointed as Ministers probably yearn for it because we believe that it is the first Change we require, away from old men and women, elder statesmen who should remain in the background but continue to offer wise counsel for governance. We hinge our argument on history, which we relay with glee and zest, referring to Muritala Mohammed, Pat Utomi, Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Yakubu Gowon, etc. who first held national offices when they were between the ages of 24 and 38 years.

What we however refuse to acknowledge even to ourselves is that the enormity of the challenges of national rebirth back then, the resources deployed at the time and the desperate need to turn every facet of the country around coupled with the wherewithal to execute same at this time are incomparable as the distance between the North and South Pole in the equator.

Many who are of the view that Youths below the age of 45 years should not be saddled with ministerial appointments continuously have evidences to support their position even though the arguments would always go both ways. Recently though, the National Association of Nigerian Students presented an award to a Senator of the Federal Republic – Buruji Kashamu (he was, until the Election Tribunal directed a rerun on Friday, 9th October, 2015). The award had been presented to him in recognition of his philanthropic gestures.

At about this same time, news also had it that officials of Student Union Government of a South West University had budgeted a princely sum of almost N2m for telephone calls! That also generated a host of controversies and some Nigerians cannot take the chance to surrender governance to the Youths. The social media, which is no doubt the forte of Nigerian Youths was also the melting pot of Youths inclusion in governance just before the national elections while #30percentornothing became a popular mantra. It is not that Youths did not present themselves for elections. Even I declared my intention to contest Governorship elections in Lagos State on the Peoples Democratic Party platform; another young man, Sola Kuti raised considerable funds and awareness to contest the same elections. Jide Obanikoro had made impressive showings in consecutive general elections into different offices.

The APC has also always presented Youths for positions of governance. Desmond Elliot, Ayo Adewale, late Muheez Olayinka Bello, Sultan Adeniji Adele and many other Youths have signified interest in governance. Some have won primaries, others have won elections while many continue to bid their time and wait their turn.

One thing is, however, obvious, the manner of management of resources by Youths could be worrisome sometimes. Latest automobiles, jewelry, high tastes, fashion, gadgets, electronics and standard of living cannot be compromised by the average Youth. Many of our parents built their houses in their 30s with hard earned income though one may argue that times were better back then, good job opportunities, remuneration and stable economy were the order of the day but even now, there are rare entrepreneurs, captains of industries in their youthful years excelling in their endeavors and undoubtedly on the path of success already. Simply put, saving culture and wise investment should be improved upon by the Nigerian Youth.

Those who have attempted to quieten the noise of having Youths nominated as Ministers have also predicated their arguments on the notion that those who made the List have paid their dues in supporting the emergence of the President. They argue that the likes of Babatunde Fashola and Rotimi Amaechi earned the nomination having sacrificed their lives and resources to ensure the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari and that the Youths who limited their contribution to the social media should not expect to be rewarded with ministerial positions.

The clamour for Youths inclusion in the ministerial positions and frantic agitation directed in that regard may be premature. The President continues to have many positions to fill including Ambassadorial appointments, management of boards and parastatals, which may total about 250 at least. One may continue to hope that surely, there must be some appointment of young men and women. The advice would be that when such opportunities present themselves, holders and beneficiaries should justify such vote of confidence and begin a Change with those leadership positions.

The President may, however, be excused since he himself had acknowledged his being advanced in years. He had informed in his broadcast that even as he envisages an all – inclusive government, he had nominated individuals he could trust to run the government with him. Pray, had the President ever worked with Youths, let alone trust them? Having chosen to elect a septuagenarian, we should not be heard to complain of the President’s appointment. He can only but place his trust in those who he had associated with, colleagues and aides. To get Youth Ministers, we would have to elect a Youth as President.

Moving forward, however, the Nigerian Youths have a lot of convincing to do to be accepted into governance and entrusted with positions of authority. Those accolades have to be earned rather than demanded. Even though crime is perpetrated by people of different ages, the statistics are sometimes frightening when considering perpetrators of armed robbery, kidnappings, internet fraud, drug related offences and other social vices.

Youths who are in enviable positions of authority in the western world have earned their dues. Umunna in the United Kingdom, Malala and others have stood for lofty ideals and pursued dreams with vigor and zest. These should be emulated to be where we need to be. Our Leaders also require to be guided right; the enabling environment for development of the Youths such as Education, vocational training are important sectors which cannot continue to suffer neglect if the Youths would be nurtured to become enviable leaders. There is also no gain reiterating that the Nigeria, which the Youths have grown to know, would determine mindset to either become responsible citizens or contribute to the rot.

Lastly, as Nigerian Youths, each of us should identify our peculiar area of calling. Even though tremendous resources would be required to prop up deserving Youths for elective offices, those who have distinguished themselves would always be afforded such resources without much agitation.

Babatunde Raji Fashola was a modest Legal Practitioner before being appointed as Chief of Staff, becoming Governor of Lagos State for two full terms and now a Minister – Designate, Frank Nweke Jnr, Obi Asika are other young
• Oyeniji is Managing Partner,
First Chronicles LP.

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