Not-Too-Young-To-Run: Too early to cel­e­brate

Daily Trust - - OPINION -

The long drawn out process of tin­ker­ing Nigeria’s 1999 Con­sti­tu­tion has brought to the fore, the al­lure to cor­rect the in­nu­mer­able in­con­sis­ten­cies em­bed­ded in the mil­i­tary-cooked script.

Amidst the seem­ingly un­end­ing and some­what con­fus­ing - os­cil­la­tion of this ar­gu­ment among the po­lit­i­cal con­stituents, the leg­is­la­ture at the cen­tre adamantly forged on, cul­mi­nat­ing in an elec­tronic vote by law­mak­ers in both cham­bers of the Na­tional Assem­bly, re­cently. And if any­thing, the ac­tion of the law­mak­ers did very lit­tle to sack the neg­a­tive per­cep­tion prom­i­nent among the army of doubt­ing ‘Thomases’ out there. More so, when some of the thorny clauses in the Con­sti­tu­tion ap­pear in di­rect nexus with covert at­tempt to so­lid­ify the po­si­tion of the Leg­isla­tive arm of govern­ment.

As th­ese young pal­adins con­tinue cel­e­brate what is, of course, a com­mend­able bar­gain in the po­lit­i­cal mar­ket, it is equally in­struc­tive to cau­tion them against be­ing con­sumed in the eu­pho­ria.

One is forced, thus, to in­quire: Are Nige­rian youth ready for power?

If all that is needed to oc­cupy elec­tive po­si­tions in a democ­racy at least in the Nige­rian con­text - is sheer willpower and schol­ar­ship ex­cel­lence, then, one can hardly dis­card the un­de­ni­able fact that younger Nige­ri­ans are hold­ing their own in vir­tu­ally ev­ery field of hu­man en­deav­ors, the world over. In what is fast be­com­ing a con­sue­tude, prod­ucts of Nigeria’s strug­gling ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem now grad­u­ate top of many renowned Ivy Leagues in the West.

Un­for­tu­nately, where it ends.

To start with, few young Nige­ri­ans whose shot at power have suc­ceeded, es­pe­cially since 1999, were able to jus­tify the ar­gu­ment that youth are any­thing but dif­fer­ent when en­trusted with power. From the word go, Sal­isu Buhari plunged the coun­try into po­lit­i­cal chaos with his in­fa­mous Toronto cer­tifi­cate saga amongst other fraud­u­lent acts. Not to men­tion the likes of Anyim Pius Anyim, Dimeji Bankole and a cer­tain Farouk Lawan - all rel­a­tively young but rid­dled with al­le­ga­tions of fi­nan­cial im­pro­bity - while their stints as prin­ci­pal mem­bers of both the Se­nate and House of Reps lasted. At the mo­ment, Kogi’s Yayaha Bello is the youngest State Chief Ex­ec­u­tive in Nigeria, at 42. Sadly, his ad­min­is­tra­tion, so far, en­joys no­to­ri­ety for un­re­strained ap­petite in fight­ing al­most every­one in sight - from pol­i­tics to ed­u­ca­tion, to civil ser­vice, and so on.

Ask a 35-year-old Nige­rian on the streets of La­gos or Abuja why he/ she thinks age limit (over the years) it seems that is hin­dered youth from res­cu­ing the sys­tem from the old, con­ser­va­tive plu­to­crats at the helm, and don’t be too shocked that his/her re­sponse would be in­com­plete with­out ref­er­enc­ing French Pres­i­dent, Em­manuel Macron. Re­gret­tably, such re­spon­dents are of­ten armed with sickly ig­no­rance of the tra­jec­tory of the 39-year-old and how he com­bined his rel­a­tive aca­demic bril­liance with ad­min­is­tra­tive ap­pren­tice­ship to garner en­vi­able po­lit­i­cal clout through years of ser­vice as Min­is­ter un­der Pres­i­dent Francois Hol­lande.

To sub­mit that youths in Nigeria are eter­nally in­ca­pable of be­ing trusted with po­lit­i­cal of­fices is tan­ta­mount to sug­gest­ing that the coun­try, it­self, does have no fu­ture. How­ever, the nar­ra­tive must, hence­forth, tilt to­wards en­gen­der­ing an ori­en­ta­tion that th­ese hugely tal­ented in­di­vid­u­als can do more within their im­me­di­ate com­munes and blos­som to higher grounds, po­lit­i­cally. A sit­u­a­tion where an 80-year-old Pa La­teef Jakande would de­file rains to vote in La­gos State lo­cal coun­cil polls while a gang of able-bod­ied youths - with pro­found bi­ceps - was pic­tured down­ing bot­tles of beer in the midst of flood, on the same day, speaks vol­ume of the ap­pre­ci­a­tion or oth­er­wise of what is at stake.

Fun­milola Ajala, La­gos.

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