Considering the fact that the Youths are regarded as ‘the building blocks of a nation, and the role of the youths in ‘nation building’ occupies the central place; for the country which utilizes its youth in a right direction are more developed, then we would not be mincing words when we say that a lot of us are fed up with the saturation of the Nigerian political and leadership space by the ‘country’s elders/older generation’ whose ideas have become senile in today’s world-thereby retarding growth and development.
Also, the energy, agility and brightness of the minds of the youth act as a torch bearer for a nation, on the contrary, the country which fails to realize the importance of the youth lags behind in every department of life. That is why the stronger, more vibrant and politically aware and involved the youths are, the more developed the nation is.
With this at the back of our mind, we believe it is about time to allow the enlightened youths of this country with the right attitude to be on the driver’s seat and actively participate in government at all levels. While the older generation that have been in government for donkey years, should quietly quit the stage.
If civil servants can be made to retire at a certain age or by a certain number of years in service, it will not be out of place for politicians/political leaders to also quit the scene at some point in time to give the younger ones a chance. If we look at it very closely, we will observe that some of those personalities who were at the helm of affairs either at independence in 1960 or after the Nigerian civil war between 1970 and 1985, are still around today calling the shots in various positions of political leadership at all levels of government across the country.
This, to us, is an anomaly that does not give room for innovative growth and development, which the nation so dearly needs.
The truth is that the first generation of political leaders of this country were very young and vibrant, and the political space of the country back then gave them the chance and opportunity to serve, in spite of their young age. The Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Tafawa Balewa, Tony Enahoro and others were young, strong and vibrant when they were very active in government. And they had great visions and dreams for this country. Even Agwuyi Ironsi, Yakubu Gowon, Murtala Mohammed, Olusegun Obasanjo, David Ejoor, Fajuyi, Usman Katsina and their military junta were equally young and well-disciplined men.
We can psychoanalyse that era, and indeed the eras after it, to understand how these young political leaders who fought for Nigeria’s independence, were truly remarkable and, if you like, a lucky bunch. They were first among so many of their equals, as they started quite young. A public affairs analyst, economist and entrepreneur, Mr. Tope Fasua, noted in one of his articles how someone like Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, was known by the Europeans and Americans as the ‘Golden Voice of Africa’. And he did not only have a commanding guttural voice and control of the English language, but outstanding intelligence.
He was on top of global political affairs, and was quite erudite. Videos of his visit to the USA in 1961 still make the rounds, and make us proud. Those who have watched it discovered that Tafawa Balewa may remain, till date, Nigeria’s most eloquent national leader. Nnamdi Azikwe was an orator par excellence, and Obafemi Awolowo was reputed for his intelligence. But after the truncation of that era, what happened really?
Nigerians have been complaining about the scrapping of History in our secondary schools. But what do we know as history? Are we talking about rehearsing what the colonialists bequeathed to us (the Mansa Musa stories and Songhai Empire, Mungo Park and others), or can we try something else; perhaps examining, debating and documenting the way we ourselves have evolved?
The next generation of leaders after the nationalists were a mixed bag of military men and politicians. The politicians had a checkered journey as the military constantly heckled them. But overall these were even more privileged leaders. Then we had a civil war. And after the war came the oil boom. At the Nigerian end, it was jollofing, jollofing and more jollofing. Not that people did not suffer but the newly urbanized Nigerians had a great time, while rapidly leaving the rural farmers behind.
That era was captured by great writers like Cyprian Ekwensi, in his book Jagua Nana, among other literary works of the time. It was a heady-time, full of hope. Nigerians and most Africans thought they had arrived; that independence was all it took. Agriculture collapsed. Crude oil reigned. There was money to be spent. And before we know it, they laid the foundation for unsustainable profligacy.
To make matters worse, the military leaders of that era were even luckier; where they were able to escape being shot for planning coups. A few were not very lucky because they lost their lives. This generation has felt quite entitled over time. They awarded themselves rapid promotions into Generalship due to the coups. Many of them were running entire states in their early 30s, and were national figures in their mid-30s or early 40s, by which time there were senior Generals or the equivalents of this rank. Alas, they are still very much on the scene as we write this.
Our current President for instance was a State Governor at 32 and that State (North East) is now six states today at least. He became Minister for Petroleum at 33, and Head of State at 39. He has come back at 74, and there is the possibility that he may come back again at 77, and perhaps to quit at 81. Who can convince someone like that to leave political power?
With ‘lucky’ but now old political leaders who can hardly open their own emails, and simply get tired and bogged down by all these fast-evolving technologies, how does Nigeria find itself in a crazy, globalized world? Can Nigeria get anywhere with political leaders who have to dictate letters to clumsy secretaries who wear coke-bottle ‘recommended’ glasses, or worse still, as it is now embarrassingly the case in Africa, relying solely on some archaic speechwriter to plagiarize and put other people’s words in their mouths?
It is on this note that we believe Nigeria needs younger, eloquent leaders who are also futuristic thinkers, not those who are in the typewriter generation mentally, thinking of manufacturing jobs and agricultural exports when the world is in the milieu of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. We have never heard contemporary intellectual issues being discussed among our current or past political leaders.
By: Zik Gbemre, JP.
We Mobilize Others to Fight for Individual Causes as if Those Were Our Causes.
To Be Continued………