By Abiodun-Oni Taiwo
Again, as I had said in my previous article, the EndSARS movement birthed many sub-movements generally calling for an end to bad governance and maladministration in the country and which eventually led the call for youths to take over political offices. The perfect picture was, a president from amongst the youths and a dramatic yet sporadic political retirement of the so-called ‘recycled old leaders’.
Pointedly, it would be circumspect to mention that, a youth within this context, might not necessarily mean an individual who falls within the ages of 18 – 35, though important, but, rather, someone who is modern, science-driven, vast, and advanced in contemporary areas of administration and socialization.
The emergence of Emmanuel Macron in France or the now removed young President of Austria and many other ‘youthful president’ did not the result from mere aspiration, nether were they conjured from some political abracadabra but long-term work, alliance building, strategy planning and implementation, sufficient doses of sacrifices and most importantly a mastery of the game called ‘politics’. The potpourri of which all of these beautiful features and nothing less would make the dream feasible.H
However beautiful dreams and aspirations are, they must match reality; which are adequately represented with facts and figures. The reality of things as they stand now is that there is an unprecedented ‘I don’t care attitude’ or what the political scientists call political apathy’ or voluntary disenfranchisement amongst the Nigerian youthful population. One must be careful never to confuse social traction for organic terrestrial traction. while the latter is satisfier of a sense of accomplishment (however false), it is only the latter that matters. Year in year out, statistics point to the underwhelming involvement of the ‘youthful population’ in comparison to the same ‘old generation’ they plan to politically excommunicate.
To put in perspective, available statistics by the nation’s electoral umpire shows that 51.11% of the registered voters in the country are youths from the 18 – 35 age bracket, with the middle age (36 – 50) having 29.97% and the elderly and old with 15.22% and 3.69% respectively. Also, polls conducted by NOI Polls clearly show that of the 51.11% registered youths, just a poor 27% have had their permanent voters cards (PVCs) collected leaving the remaining 73% lies with INEC. The truth is without those PVCS, you have as much as lost your moral rights to complain about election processes and outcomes.
Unfortunately, neither the Nigerian constitution nor did the Electoral Act make any provisions for independent candidature and so there are only two options; to either join an existing political party or form a new, rugged political party. There are only a few card-carrying members of parties that are youths and statistics state that these members rarely partake in the party politicking.
Hence, it would seem that the statistics as it stands point to only one possible conclusion; that the idea of youths seizing political power increasingly feels like an illusion. In the recent past, some persons (mostly youths) called for Musician Falz, Comedian Macaroni, Twitter Influencer Rinu, and DJ Switch to act as the foundation on which the youth would build a new political party to contest the country’s elections in 2023. When I saw the momentum that this idea was gathering, I fidgeted.
I found it disappointing that many youths would think that activism equals competence or that it was an absolute qualifier for political office. It has worked for some but it has not worked for great many others. Moreover, the worst leaders in the history of the world are those who came in through populism. Examples are: Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, and Maduro of Venezuela, Cite Mugabe, Idi-Amin, Ghadaffi, Mobutu of Zaire and even President Buhari of Nigeria. All these leaders were revolutionaries in their own right, but after gaining power, had the worst economic policies and eventually became oppressors and dictators.
I am not unaware that Ronald Regan was an actor before he became President of the USA, Arnold Schwarzenegger was also an actor before he become the Governor of California and Manny Pacquiao doubles both as a boxer and Senator in the Philippines but make no mistake to think that the political successes of these three political enigmas happened without passing through the proverbial ‘eye of a needle’ but years of proven competence, collaborative political alliances, personality shedding, genuine fan love, and politicking at the highest level. The details of which are not the concern at this point.
The love of country is not enough to qualify you for political power or office. Kwame Nkrumah loved Ghanaians and Africa so much that he believed that love and compassion would make him a good leader, but he was wrong. His socialist policies were a disaster and created scarcity and hunger in Ghana. Unemployment skyrocketed and he became dictatorial in a bid to preserve power until his exile.
If the Nigerian youths wish to take the reins of power, they must be ready to soil their hands, dirty their boots, and drive an ideology-driven campaign and not a populistic one.
Another fear is that the idea of a youthful President seems anti-culture to many. A large number of the aged and adult population perceive the average Nigerian youth as largely inexperienced, profligate, anti-tradition, too westernized, and ultimately disrespectful and are thus subconsciously averse to the idea of a youthful candidate. Remember, they hold the voting majority.
This makes the illusion even more deepened.
Now, after all of this is said. I do not doubt that the Nigerian youths (the soro soke generation) will deliver us from poverty and generational mediocrity but maybe it won’t come through political power but through economic and technological power. Maybe and just maybe, the Nigerian youth should not seek power, remain apolitical, and succeed in 21st-century power areas. I have seen this first hand from the many million and billion dollars start-up ideas that the Nigerian youths popping up all around. It has been truly mind-blowing.
What If our true power lies here? What if, this is how we beat them into submission? Just, What if?
After all this is said and done, the elections are less than two years away and the ‘old recycled leaders’ are already showing interest, forming alliances, and gaining momentum. The youths on the other hand are still second-guessing, immobile, and largely distracted with issues of survival and socialization.
The future of the Nigerian youth is bright, it shines brighter by the day but unfortunately, the light on the idea of a worthy youthful third force is so dim that it can only pass off as a fond illusion.