By Usama Dandare
There were criticism in some sections of the country against President Mohammadu Buhari for not finding the Nigerian youths worthy enough for appointment into his cabinet, considering the fact that youths represent the highest majority of the support base on whose crest he overwhelmingly rode to victory.
Albeit it is true and worrisome to a certain extent, but the gospel truth is that, we, the youths of today are solely the architectures of our own backwardness, especially when it comes to leadership. In particular, this article will examine the problems facing our youth today, with the intent of finding answers to these fundamental questions: are the Nigerian youth ready for leadership? Are they exhibiting the real exposure and maturity required for leadership? In my humble opinion, i don’t think the Nigerian youth have what it takes to be even leaders of tomorrow not to talk of today as the case may be.
Taking a trip down memory lane, one will discover that almost all those who led this country since independence in 1960, have been youth, both the military and political leaders at all level of governance were mostly in their mid 30’s and early 40’s as at the time they took over the mantle of leadership. After the death of Macaulay, those that led the struggles for independence – apart from Chief Nnamdi Azikiwe who was 42 – were all below the ages of 40 while some were as young as 27: Ahmadu Bello Sardauna was 36, Tafawa Balewa was 34, Chief Obafemi Awolowo was 37, Samuel Akintola was 36, while Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh and Chief Anthony Enahoro were both 27.
So also, Major Patrick Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu was only 29 when he led the first coup in 1966, and the coup was countered by a 28 year-old Lt-Col Murtala Muhammed, Theopilus Danjuma 28, Ibrahim Babangida 25, Sani Abacha 23, Shehu Musa Yaradua 23, and brought into power Yakubu Gowon 32, Ojukwu 33, Obasanjo 29, and Buhari 24. Most of the military governors who governed the states under the successive military regimes were under the ages of 30.
So why is it that these old leaders are still recycling themselves in power today?
Well, the fact that these leaders have recycled themselves very often in power over the years may be attributed to the fact that almost all the succeeding generation of youths whom were lucky to be at the helm didn’t fare better either, while majority of them proved to be even more worst than the old elites. We always wail that the same people who ruled before many of us were born are still the same people in power today, and yet, we are foolishly fighting and abusing each other to protect the selfish interest of the same old men we accused of marginalizing us.
Since 1999, when democratic dispensation was ushered in, we have watched and observed that the most youthful leaders of this era did not do better than their elders including many of our states governors, majority of whom only deceived their people and plundered their states. I am sure non of these youths wailing about Buhari’s inability to have enough youth representation in his government can boost of cleanliness when it comes to accepting or giving out bribe in one way or the other, and majority of them will steal from the public even more than the old hands given the slightest opportunity. It is a big shame that our youths today doesn’t even understand the meaning of ‘leadership’, they are more or less new cars carrying old engines. They overwhelmingly lack the skills, characters, vision, and qualities to believe in themselves not to talk of governance where millions are expected to believe in them. Are these the kind of people we want to govern Nigeria at this critical stage in our national development?
The problems facing Nigeria today are too deep and intricate for a large chunk of misinformed, misguided and corrupt youth to solve, as the Nigerian youth only view leadership position as an avenue to make quick riches and as such, we relegated ourselves to those kind of persons with an out-dated brains and therefore not worthy enough to be in a position of authority. It’s a big shame that while our colleagues in other parts of the world are making incredible progresses in nation building using their little opportunities, we are here selling our future to devilish expired politicians who are nearing extinction. But stupidly, we want to be given leadership roles.
Youth constitutes the highest number of Nigeria’s working class and ought to be the most productive and active contributors in nation building but unfortunately, we are unproductive, misinformed, toothless, corrupt, morally bankrupted, largely incapacitated, and failed to show any convincing reason to be in a position of trust. We ignorantly and foolishly allowed ourselves to be used as street thugs and protesters defending the selfish interests of the old ruling elites.
I couldn’t believe my eyes when i saw some youths protesting on the streets of Abuja few weeks ago, surprisingly, i was made to realized it was a pro-corruption sponsored rally calling on President Mohammadu Buhari to call short the ongoing crusade against corruption. Our youths of today had entirely metamorphosed from being the enzymes of change to being the catalysts of corruption. We have been deplorably dissipated that we never view credibility with as anything and have made material gains our primary objectives at the detriment of our collective development. We have bargained and sold our future to the old ruling class, and remain a large chunk of bigots that always promote anti-masses political ideologies; thus leading the country into too many leadership crisis. Are these the kind of leaders our youths will make if giving the chance? Pitifully, the Nigerian youths of today have woefully failed to put ethnic, religious, and every other affiliated sentiments aside and fight to defend their future. Why must we allow ourselves to be used as tools of destruction and distraction, when we have the qualities and the potentialities needed to change for good and outshine our allies in other parts of the world.
We keep on wailing about appointments but yet, our gross insularity and political bigotry has stopped us from electing fellow youths into elective positions. The old elites ruling us today did get to where they are not by their powers but via our decisions, we voted them in without learning from the past which had earn us nothing but a white elephants, plunging our nation into different fiascos of terrorism, misappropriation, impunity, corruption, irresponsibility and insecurity. Considering the palpability that youth represents over 60% of Nigeria’s voting population, yet we kept given out our mandates to the same expired politicians in exchange for some monetary or material benefits at the expense of our fellow youth vying the same public offices. I personally knew over 20 youths that contested for various elective offices across the nation in the 2015 general elections; energetic, committed and patriotic whom were ever willing to change Nigeria for good but instead, we opted to go for the old elites over the youths who have no enough money and bags of rice to dash out for votes. Just as the case was with Ibrahim Garba Wala (aka IG Wala), Tonye Okio and Preye Aganaba to cite a possible example. Is this how we wants to get involved in leadership?
Nevertheless, i still harbor a lot of confidence in the youths of today, but we the Nigerian youths need to start having faith and believe in ourselves as well as demonstrate to the world that we can perhaps do better than the ruling elites. We need to wake up from our slumber, and captain the much needed Change Vessel to berth the shore of success and champion the journey to our promise land. We must be committed to weasel the possibility of any bewilderments and put together our collective mental outlooks for the betterment of all and sundry. We must also have a common manifesto coxswain by a libido to outshine, and must be able to lift ourselves higher than expected to prove we have all it takes to do better.
Albeit i am of the opinion that it is not time for the Nigerian youths to lead this nation, but I believe we may offer a vibrant and a promising future for Nigeria if only we utilize our chances for growth. This is the time for us to reflect and amend our sense of reasoning but not leadership, a time for us to learn and refocus our sentiments into seeing leadership positions as places to serve the people not avenues to make quick riches.
Without doubt, this is our time to change our world and abstain from being political thugs. We must stop selling out our future to bad politicians for some token, we must rise up to defend our mandates and rescue our dear nation from the burden of aged leadership.
This is not the best time for the youth to rule but rather a time for the experienced to lead and mentor us. Many may argue that some of these experienced hands have been involved in creating all the problems facing the youths today, but perhaps, we must mingle with them to summon the will to right their wrongs and redeem ourselves from their devilish antecedents.
I believe, with a bit of conviction, commitment and guile, we may be able to produce a young, vibrant and dynamic Nigerian as our President much sooner than expected, but the key to make this a reality is in our hands, and with a little more efforts, the sky wouldn’t only be our limit but our starting point.
Usama Dandare, a social commentator write from Sokoto.