A few weeks ago, I came across two campaign posters of young Nigerians who had expressed their intent to run for the nation’s top political seat.
Since signing the #NotTooYoungToRun bill into law, young Nigerians in and out of the country are becoming more and more interested in getting involved in the nation’s politics as against the apathy that the idea of politics has been met with in the past.
Asides Fela Durotoye, Donald Duke, former CBN Deputy Governor, Kingsley Moghalu and a number of others within the 50-60 age range and which we can say will be significantly younger than a number of our past leaders, a number of younger have come out to express interest in the country’s number one spot in the past few weeks.
One of them is Chike Ukaegbu, a 35-year old entrepreneur and founder of StartUp52, whose interview with CNN went viral just few days ago while speaking with Zain Asher, a Nigerian-born journalist with the international media house on the reasons behind his decision to run.
— CNN International (@cnni) July 6, 2018
Another, is Atuejide Eunice, 39-year old founder of the National Interest Party (NIP), a young one that prides itself on having new solutions in areas of Education, Health, Economy and Security.
NIP was founded in 2017 and operates a largely online-type operation so it is safe to say this is the first election they will be part of.
Their ideologies centre on transparency and accountability in politics and say they are committed to the proper allocation of national funds and resources for the development of the country and its people.
Shortly after these particularly controversial announcements, this post came.
The conversation that ensued in the comment section I found very enlightening. Very few people actually agreed with Dr. Dipo while many others quickly berated the post citing the failed leaderships of the ”older” crop of leaders who have held countless public offices and insisting that age was no measure of a good and effective leader.
Unsurprisingly, the example of the 45th American President, Mr Donald Trump who has never held political office before was tossed around hundreds of times as was the example of France’s 39-year old dynamic leader, Emmanuel Macron, who just left the shores of the country after a state visit to his septuagenarian counterpart and a well-meaning interaction with a section of the entrepreneurship and arts habitat in Africa’s largest city.
While Ukaegbu thinks his brotherhood with millions of other 35-year olds and under is enough reason to contest for election, Atuejide has listed all these amazing companies she’s worked with and credentials to her name, as basis for her contesting and might I add, our votes.
I think that while we are craving for a young-blooded leader, passionate enough and grounded enough in economics and policy making to navigate international and internal affairs in a way that is beneficial to all, we should be wary of falling into the trap of handing over our country to a toddler who wouldn’t know what to do with it. And this is not a matter of age or even political office.
Despite his age, Macron isn’t the political underdog that he was painted to be by the media after his election into office.
“Under a year ago, a 39-year-old underdog shook up French politics to become the youngest-ever President of the French Republic,”Christine Lagarde, International Monetary Fund Managing Director writes for Time Magazine when Macron made the 2018 TIME 100 List.
“Using this unique window of opportunity, President Macron has swiftly begun to implement an ambitious set of reforms intended to boost economic growth, reduce high unemployment and transform France into a more dynamic, competitive and inclusive economy,” she says.
But Emmanuel Macron’s foray into politics did not begin in a short time frame leading up to the 2017 elections. Macron worked for the Citizen and Republican Movement for two years but he never applied to be a member. He had met François Hollande, a former French president, through Jean-Pierre Jouyet, the ambassador of France to the UK in 2006 and joined his staff in 2010. In 2007, Macron attempted to run for a seat in the National Assembly in Picardy under the Socialist Party label in the 2007 legislative elections, however his application was declined.Macron was offered the chance to be the Deputy Chief of Staff to Prime Minister François Fillon in 2010 though he declined.
On 15 May 2012, Macron became the Deputy Secretary General of the Élysée, a senior role in President François Hollande’s staff. In his time there, Macron was a strong voice and formed part of decision makers on issues like taxes, the French workforce, and budgetary responsibility.
He resigned in June 2014 and was appointed French Minister for the Economy and Finance two months later. As Minister of the Economy, Macron was at the forefront of pushing through business-friendly reforms and so continued his push through politics carrying along his liberal economic ideologies that he believed were in the interest of the public.
American President Donald Trump may not have held prior political office but not only has he succeed in building multi million dollar conglomerates and franchises from real estate, he has since the 80s’ been actively involved in American politics, dilly-dallying at some point between allegiance to the Republicans and Democrats and finally settling in 2009 with the Republican party.
In fact, none of the policies that we see today are alien to the Trump, respected business man and billionaire who had a lot to say about the way the American government ran the world power house.
From America’s interference in affairs of other countries to speeding up nuclear disarmament negotiations, Trump has been involved although loosely and indirectly at first, in American politics from the eighties and sometimes made huge donations to campaigns of politicians whose ideologies he believed in.
And again, at the level of business he was operating, there was no way he would have stayed clear off the government because the trade policies and tax policies that they made affected the average American business.
When it comes to ruling a nation, I think that our young generation are belittling the enormous responsibility and multifaceted task that this really is. Meetings, phone calls, strategy sessions and having to take that emergency call about a crisis in some part of the country, every day in the life of a leader of a country like Nigeria is one that will demand a vast amount of stability, intelligence and emotional balance to deal with and to make the smart decisions that are in the interest of the people who have elected you.
It is one of diplomacy, the finest skills of diplomacy, of knowing what to address and what not address; of exuding the confidence in speech and manner even in the face of damning situations. In a country like Nigeria, deeply divided by religion and ethnicity, and deeply engrossed in mismanagement and waste at all levels and from all angles, this is particularly challenging.
I know that we are eager for a new face of Change for our country and the exuberance of youth seems like the next best thing to try given that we have come out, year after year, with these older, seemingly more experienced lot who recycle promises every election season and fall into the rut of their forbears soon after. But we need to really question how ready the youths are to occupy that seat and create the change that we want and desire.
While they may not have necessarily been a Senator or Commissioner or Governor, we need to deeply consider the question: what has prepared him/her to take the number one seat in the country? Because an ivy-league university degree or successfully running a start-up for the past year or more especially outside the shores of this country, isn’t enough reason to put someone in office.
Moreso, the presidency is not the only position where effective administration is sorely needed in this country. If we are all waiting to become president to create the Nigeria that we want, that day may never come. A lot of our challenges in this country stem from dysfunctional systems over which the president has no direct jurisdiction.
As we rush out to get our PVCs before the deadline and get ready to brave all odds and come out to vote next year, it behoves us to consider carefully not only who gets our votes but why they should. If we are all trying to kick the incumbent out come 2019, then we already have a 50% chance of an encore of the 2015 election. A beginning of another vicious cycle.
Image Credits: Google