By Umaru Maina Kidaffa
Many may argue that youthful leadership is not the solution to Nigeria’s numerous problems. They may have valid points, but youthful leadership is sure an alternative to the comatose situation we currently have.
One common fallacious narrative in Nigeria is that ‘the youths are the leaders of tomorrow’. Really? Are the youths indeed leaders of tomorrow or are they followers till eternity? It is becoming more and more visible to the blind and to every discerning mind that there is a subtle political revolution sprouting up among the youths and the young people are becoming more aware of their environment and want to actively take charge.
The #NotTooYoungToRun campaign is admissible evidence to this claim as it garners more and more supporters on the social media and even on the streets. A bill to amend the age restrictions for contesting elections have already passed the second reading in the national assembly and will hopefully pass as a law before active politicking begins.
The whole world was in awe when the powerful French nation elected a 39 years old Emmanuel Macron to lead them as president. It was amazing to witness a smooth transition from a much older Francois Hollande to a younger generation. Macron has already hit the ground running and is ticking all the right boxes to the amazement of all. The French election has sparked a series of debate among young Nigerians on the need for a replica of such feat in the country. If a strong and powerful Nation like France can trust a youth with its leadership, why not Nigeria? Nigeria has had young leaders at the helm of her affairs in the past, and worthy of note is the person of General Yakubu Gowon who was arguably around the age of 32 when he became supreme commander of the Nation. General Murtala Mohammed, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo and Gen. Muhammadu Buhari were all at their youthful age when they had turns in mounting the leadership of this country. While a lot of citizens will have different opinions about their various leadership styles, one thing they all had in common aside their youthfulness is the fact that they were not elected leaders.
Since the return of democracy, Nigeria has succeeded in recycling our old leaders to continue piloting the affairs of the nation instead of allowing them rest in their farm houses and seeking their wise counsel when the need arises. Any nation that doesn’t have the counsel or guardians of elders is likely to divert from track and lose its moral values, that is why even amidst the hysteria for youthful leadership, former president Olusegun Obasanjo recently cautioned that the youths should not wish the older leaders death as they will be needing their advice.
Nigeria as a developing nation is in dire need of active leadership, people who are hands-on and fully in tandem with the dynamics of the 21st century, people who will create an enabling environment for youths to thrive within the country and achieve giant strides that will be celebrated across the world and not only when they go abroad. This is jet age and we will never catch up with the rest of the world if we continue moving in a locomotive train.
In an article recently published by Dele Momodu who was one time a presidential aspirant, titled “Why are we playing with Fire?”, he noted that “…. the youths of this country do not share their negative vibes about Nigeria. They see this country as a prospective world power. They dream of a nation that is technologically advanced and self-reliant where people of diverse ethnic groups and religions come together to contribute to nation building. They ignore tribe and religion in their relationships. They do not care where their leader comes from as long as he or she has the acumen, capacity, ability and competence to lead.”
He stated further that “… we, the ageing, decrepit generation, had better look back and not destroy the future of our kids because of our own failed past, bloated egos and self- aggrandisement.”
Let me conclude by noting that, having a youthful leader in itself is not a solution to Nigeria’s deficit, but a leader who is intellectually sound, morally grounded, physically active with a proven track record and at a youthful age is definitely an alternative to the status-quo and will go a long way in fast tracking the developmental growth of our great country Nigeria.