The Relevance Of The Nigerian Youth In The Nigerian Political (Democratic) System
It was quite disappointing to know that none of the members of the Federal executive council appointed by His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari has any youth included in it. The reason people often give for the exclusion of youths by the federal government is that youths are inexperienced to function as members of the federal executive council.
One begins to wonder what causes the relegation of the youths by the Nigerian political elites. The constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria should and will be blamed for the total relegation of the youth in the political happenings in Nigeria. The constitutional age of becoming a president in Nigeria is 40 while 35 for senator. Putting this side by side some developed countries in the world, like France or USA that has its minimum age for becoming President as 18 and 35 respectively. Even in a third world country like India, the prime minister does not need to be older than 35. In as much that neither France nor America has produced an 18 or 35 year old president, it has given the citizen the psychological boost to participate in the politics of their countries, which makes it more democratic. These countries deliberately do it so as to encourage youth participation, which means young people can get into politics early; thereby attracting young talents into party politics and the political system at large.
In Nigeria for instance, due to the constitutional age barrier, the talented and ambitious young individuals would feel they have to use their productive years in other fields before retiring into politics. By so doing we have a bunch of leaders who lack enthusiasm for the work they do in governance because they have come to retire in politics. Due to the fact that the constitution permits 40 years as the age to contest for President, and all the presidents we have ever produced are 50 years and above. One can literally say; the higher the age barrier to elective offices, the older the people who would get into there and vice versa. In Nigeria, it is difficult to allow youths to fill party positions that has been allotted to them. For instance, in June 2014, during the party election of APC that produced John Oyegun as the party chairman, the party appointed a 52 year old man (Ibrahim Jalo) as its National youths leader. What a satire!
Obviously they were towing the path of PDP who elected a 60 year old man (Umar Garba Chiza) as its National youths leader. They have turned the youths of Nigeria to people that can be used as political touts during electioneering, or better still they place peanuts before them to cloud their sense of reasoning while they seek the high political offices.
Taking a look at the founding fathers of our great nation, one would notice that it was in their youthful age that they fought ceaselessly for the freedom of our great country from the British colony. Chief Obafemi Awolowo was born in 1909 and he ventured into politics in the 1940’s. Meaning he went into politics in his 30’s. Ahmadu Bello was born in 1909 and he co-founded NPC (Northern Peoples Congress) at age 40 and must have been in politics prior to that time. Nnamdi Azikiwe was born in 1904 and in 1937 he founded a Newspaper, The West Africa Pilot and within that period he co-founded NCNC (a political party). This was done in his early Thirty’s. Finally on this is Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, who was born in 1912 and he ventured into politics in 1947 (35 years). He was elected as member of the Northern region house of Assembly. These men fought for the freedom and emancipation of this country in their youthful age. It is pathetic to know that the most recent face of the youths in a high political office was Dimeji Bankole, who was Speaker of the house of Representative at a vibrant age of 37. Instead of making a case for more youthful leadership participation by his didactic example rather he chose to tow the path of the older ones by dragging the name and dignity of the youths to the mud.
Painfully, the older politicians are not mindful of the future of the youths. When APC noticed that Nigerians were tired of PDP, and that they needed a change, they decided to go with the “change” philosophy and it helped them to remove an incumbent government, which has never happened before. Also the PDP has noticed the level of marginalization of the youths by the Buhari led government and in their quest to reclaim the political power of the country, has proposed to hand over the leadership of the party to the youths. But far more than the display of politics by the PDP, the older politicians must know that the youths must be empowered and placed in places of authority.
Our forefathers were between age bracket of 30 and 45 when they emancipated our nation. Professor Pat Utomi was between 27 and 30 years when he became the special assistant to former president Shehu Shagari. The annoying thing is that most youths in this generation who are between age 27 and 33 are still sagging their trousers or still living and depending on their parents for daily bread. What a pity to our generation!
The argument that Nigerian youths cannot lead is a big fallacy. There is a critical mass of young entrepreneurs and executives managing large portfolios in the organized private sector where the leadership determines if the business would make profit or loss. If 43 year old John F. Kennedy could inspire Americans to go to the moon, and if France- a nuclear producing country- can allow an 18 year old to run for presidency, it is complete and total lack of imagination that would make Nigeria not to trust a 35 year old as minister. Therefore, the youths of Nigeria must stand forth and stop been used as political thugs thus killing themselves while they send their children abroad. It’s high time a Nigerian youth became a top political leader. We are the leaders of today not tomorrow!