“This contract is a contract of young people. Half of our people here are below twenty years old. Look at the average age of our presidents, it’s about 66/64 years old. We are the only continent in the world where we have presidents at 90 years old starting new terms. I mean, you guys are crazy or what? We see people in wheelchairs, you know, unable to raise hands standing for elections. This is a joke; yes, you are right to laugh because the whole world is laughing at us. I mean look around you. The United States, an economy of 15/16 trillion dollars; we, all of Africa are less than 1 trillion dollars… The most important country in the world, like it or not… Obama, who is happy to be half African anyway became president when he was 46/ 47 years old. If Obama was in Kenya, what would he be doing now? He would be driving a bus maybe... And he was not the youngest president. (Bill) Clinton was younger than him, Clinton became president at 46 years old. (JF) Kennedy was forty years old when he became president. Why these big countries, much bigger than us entrust their economies, their nuclear weapons, their whole resources to people who are in the 40s. And we only pick up people at 90 years old to lead us. To lead us where? To the grave?”—Mohammed Ibrahim.
With over 70% of the population falling within the youth bracket, the world watches in utter bewilderment as 21st century Nigeria molds into a recycling plant, presuming the ideas within young minds as products of infantile reasoning while magnifying their vivid perennial failures as fitting descriptors of modern-day governance. Already, the president belongs to a relic of an antique era, exhibiting not only traits of some bygone people but clinging to thoughts reminiscent of the Sabertooth days. His consciousness, having been populated by characters clustering around his parochial worldview makes the whole scenario troubling. The Minister of Youth exceeds the average life expectancy!
The founder of Mo Ibrahim Foundation, Mohammed Ibrahim asked if Africa knew what she was doing with men of expired ideas who find it amusing campaigning on grey and seeking re-election over a wheelchair. In their penchant for selfish grandstanding, members of the political elite arrogate absolute wisdom upon themselves, perfecting a worldview where being young automatically puts one within the space of inexperience, of naiveté and of a life lacking in seriousness.
Such a damned ahistorical exercise makes one wonder the kind of substance politicians relish that cause them to foam with nauseating arrogance, the country’s inevitable slip into anomie should the “experienced” adults leave the saddle, painting chilling records of internet graft, corruption and a number of vices as being exclusive to the youth while downplaying their gigantic roles in the transmogrification of the nation into a wasteland. Even with much grandstanding, President Buhari could not help but declare his intractable impotence that has–to the consternation of all—overwhelmed his second coming, howling in faraway South Africa of the loss of his youthful vigor as an inevitable condition responsible for his lethargic standing. Is this not evidence enough to make a nonsense of the vain thoughts of youthful incapacitation in governance?
Mr Ibrahim exposed the contradictions in the governing architecture among destitute and flourishing nations, asking why a nation like the United States with an economy that trumps Africa by almost a factor of twenty could entrust their lives, nuclear codes and other security apparatuses to a 43-year-old President JF Kennedy in 1961, a 46 year Bill Clinton in 1993, and most recently, Barak Obama, who led the nation at an age his African peers had just begun the fight to remain afloat in ward politics. A child born in 1979 when Audu Ogbeh was national crier clocked thirty-six to the announcement of the same man as Minister of Food!
Welcome, ladies and gentlemen to the recycling republic!
Stealthily but aggressively, members of the political elite raise the leadership bar in every regard sans pristinely, forcing the youth to truckle in ways hitherto unimaginable. With this tradition firmly in place, the number of grey strands on the head thus becomes the most fundamental factor in leadership recruitment. Each time a young Nigerian throws a hat in the ring, (s)he is being met with acerbic vituperations of how big the presidential office is, how burdensome governing a state could be, and how fragile the country is to allow for a dark-haired novice to manage.
The story does not end there. With such a condescending bar, is there any wonder that men in their 60s contest as Local Government Chairmen and Ward Councillors—seats that ordinarily should be left for secondary school leavers and young graduates to test their mettle? With grey as hubris, the young Nigerian who is a CEO automatically becomes an inexperienced vessel. One is forced to ask the experience Muhammadu Buhari had when he became governor of a whole region decades ago? Ask the same man what he thinks about such a replication in 2018 and hear him wallow in Janus-faced rationalizations.
Does this not lay credence to Sheikh Abdullahi Faisal’s opinion? The radical Jamaican religionist contends that “every hypocrite is a politician, and every politician, a hypocrite.”
Unfortunately, the battered masses join the career politicians to chorus this thereby giving fillip to such a fallacious generalization alien to common sense without asking them to state the generation that made Nigeria into what High Priest Oladoyin Odebowale called a serially raped polity: ours or theirs? Why is Omoyele Sowore at 47 too young to rule Nigeria? Last year, Tope Fasua put up a post on Facebook indicating his desire to run for president, he got more than he asked as interlocutors fell on one another, asking him to show some respect for the office of president. To some persons, it is nothing short of disrespect for a Fasua to imagine himself on such a “big” seat!
Sowore started Sahara Reporters with less than $20, carving a somewhat unique genre of citizen reporting from the conventional methods of news dissemination in Nigeria. In less than two decades, SR has defied both political witches and economic bloodsuckers to national and international acclamation. Fasua, CEO of Global Analytics Consulting Limited in some ways has become our own version of Robert L Heilbroner, weaving economics with governance and society to put to rest the debate on the supremacy between the brain and brawn. Isn’t it ludicrous that Nigeria keeps parading men with neither books within their skulls nor truth on their lips as leaders in an age driven by intellectualism?
While there are few youths with negative inclinations to life, we must never accept the narrative of blanket generalizations. The reality is that the little progress we are making as a people is tied, strictly, to the ocean of energetic and resourceful youths who litter the length and breadth of the country: buying and selling, studying and innovating to make a better life for themselves. Just yesterday, a student of mine was in my office to show me a letter from the Ministry of Education through the University of Lagos confirming the patent of his innovation. This is why the Nigerian youth must reject in totality, the notion that men who bring nothing to the table except white chins foist illogic opinions on them. We must deplore our brains to sieve whatever we are being told should we ever hope to leave the hell the generation of our parents and their parents have made of Nigeria.
Nigeria fed President Buhari for over six decades; she is still not tired of feeding him. She fed Obasanjo and Babangida for approximate periods. She still does. My lecturers in the University of Lagos do remind me time and again how the Home Economics unit and the place where the Research and Innovation office is used to be where they devour whole chickens. How hypocritical can it be when the generation that got the most from Nigeria yet defiled it the most wear sanctimonious apparel to condemn the youths who are nothing but victims of their collective treachery and indiscipline?
“I don't think that we should follow what many people say that we should fight to be leaders of tomorrow.” Says Kwame Ture in his Black Power speech at the University of Berkeley. “Frederick Douglass said that the youth should fight to be leaders today. And God knows we need to be leaders today, 'cause the men who run this country are sick, are sick.”
The old put Nigeria on life support. They cannot possibly be in a position to revive her. The onus rests on young, sincere and conscious minds to devote as much energy they’ve put into religion and ethnicity to engage governance. We’ve got no urgent task on our hands than that.
The future is here. We either take it, or it consumes us all.
The choice is ours.
Modiu Olaguro can be reached on [email protected]