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 eventually led to the call for youths taking over political offices while some went as far as calling for a youthful president. Yes, a president from amongst the youths and a drastic political retirement of the so-called ‘recycled old leaders’. Within the context of this piece, A youth might not necessarily mean an individual within the age bracket of 18 – 35, though important, but basically, someone who is modern, science-driven, vast, and advanced in all key areas especially as it related to 21st century.
What is closer to reality is the issue of a youth president or much inclusion of youths in the politics of Nigeria. The emergence of Emmanuel Macron in France or the now removed young President of Austria and maybe Kim Jong-un of North Korea was not the result of what happened overnight or out of mere aspiration. Long-term work, strategies, and on-field performance especially politically and otherwise are major indicators.
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 among the Nigerian youth population. The participation of youths in politics and electoral processes in Nigeria year in year out is far very low compared to the people they plan to phase out and politically excommunicate.
Unfortunately, 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 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.
On the front of voluntary disenfranchisement, available statistics by INEC 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.
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 looks and feels like an illusion.
Recently, some persons (mostly youths) called for Musician falz, Comedian Macaroni, Twitter Influencer Rinu, and Disk Jockey Switch to act as the foundation on which the youth would build a new political party to contest the Nations elections in 2023. When I saw this tweet, I laughed scornfully, it was about the most unintelligent thing I have read all year long despite having read the conspiracy theories surrounding the Coronavirus.
I know 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 was a boxer before he became a Senator in the Philippines but the political successes of the three people like a few others did not come as a sudden flight but years of humanitarian services, formation of alliances, fan love, and politicking at the highest level. The details of which are not the concern at this point.
Back to the main point, I find it preposterous that many youths think that activism equals competence or that it gives an automatic qualification to seek office. It has worked for some but it has not worked for a great many others. It at best will create a leader whose only source of authority is populism.
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 even President Buhari of Nigeria. All these leaders were all revolutionaries at the start, but after gaining power had the worst economic policies and eventually became oppressors and dictators.
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 are to take the reins as they wish, they must be ready to soil their hands, dirty their boots, and drive an ideology-driven campaign and not a populist one.
Another thought that makes me doubt the reality of a youthful presidential candidate comes from the place of the larger African culture. The Nigerian society is deeply cultural, our culture places so much emphasis on age determinable from the ‘eldest son and ‘eldest daughter’ syndrome. Hence, as strange as it sounds, this makes the idea of a youthful President anti-culture.
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 consciously or unconsciously averse to the idea of a youthful candidate. Remember, they hold the voting majority.
This makes the illusion even more assured.
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 mediocrity but maybe it won’t come through political power but 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 are floating this decade. It is 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 in less than two years from today 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.