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Giving opportunity to the youths


Aristotle’s much quoted statement is that “Man is by nature a political animal”. It is an oft-repeated claim that Nigerian youths are denied rightful opportunities in politics. How are Aristotle’s statements and the claims by our youths compatible with each other? Prima facie, the complaints by the youths may be right. This is because invariably, the elders dominate the political terrain of this country.

However, when looked at it objectively, this is not so. In the days of nationalism, youths and elders were drawn into the whirling vortices. The youths volunteered their resources as contribution to liberation. They were not compelled to do so, neither were they paid to do so. Their motivation was in the expectation that history would reward them. And truly, their names and activities are imprinted in the minds of generations of Nigerians. It would be invidious to mention names. Some of the nationalists suffered jail terms and other forms of incarcerations. One of the jail birds was asked: “Do you think or believe that you will be a Prime Minister in this country after independence?” There have been generational changes since then.

The present generation of youths believe that they are deliberately schemed out of politics. They often complain: “The elders do not give us the chance”. This is not so. Academic brilliance is not the same as inborn native intelligence. Recently, former President Olusegun Obasanjo reminded Nigerians during his 80th birthday interview with The Guardian, March 5, 2017: “What more opportunity do you want? In my own cabinet, I had four ministers aged 30. Fortunately, they performed well, but what do you mean by that they were not given opportunity? Leadership is not a matter of age, rather it is a matter of the quality of the individual.” In my considered opinion, keeping youths out of politics is more apparent than real. The wisdom of the elders must blend with youths’ academic intelligence.

Many reasons combine to make this so. Politics is very demanding. Unless one has the constitution of an elephant, one cannot be in politics. Consider the reason which the late Baroness Margaret Thatcher offered for limiting her children to only two, Mark and Carol who are twins. She revealed: “Politics decided limiting my children to two -the twins”. One has to deploy all resources as sacrifices for politics. How many of our young men and women can do this? An instance of this is the recent President Muhammadu Buhari’s medical vacation in Britain, having over-stretched his stamina working both nights and days. Of course, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo once alluded to this attitude in one of his campaigns: “When we in the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) are toiling up at nights holding meetings on how to move the country forward, others are carousing in the hotels”.

Moreover, our youths are not prepared to learn from the local level. Everybody is eager to become a governor or even the president. There is nothing wrong in nursing ambition. But any vaulting ambition to be a high-ranking holder of office as a political meteor must be banished from the minds. Many politicians in this generation cannot control their immediate family members – wives and children – let alone have direct influence over a large group of people of diverse characters and upbringing. The glamour of politics is much hankered after. In order to be a master, one must learn the nuts and bolts of a particular calling, including politics. This is why I often advocate that local government autonomy must be restored to serve as the training ground of sorts for aspiring and budding politicians.

It is simplistic to suddenly decide to be a governor or president without passing through the mills of politics by learning the ropes. The description “Honourable” must be worked for and earned. This reasoning is supportive of the advocacy for a return to the British parliamentary system in which the country was colonised and nurtured, instead of the new-found United States presidential system that encourages misfits reaping where they do not sow, and doing so with impunity.

Starting from the ward level registers party loyalty, instead of frequently transferring allegiance to every governing party. If the youths can control their propensity for the glamour of offices, so much the better.

Further, an attribute that hinders youths’ entry into politics is their impetuosity. The patience that elders exercise in decision-making or actions naturally eludes the young ones. They are usually rash. Academic brilliance coupled with oratory delivery may not be enough, unless there is an admixture of calmness, which quality develops from ward level when a politician is serving his party. Invariably, the electorate is presented with a number of candidates having varying qualities of manners.

However, the question must be asked: “What efforts are made by the young ones to ensure participation in Nigerian politics?” This is an essential question, because in some leading western countries, for the young, party membership begins from the university as undergraduates. There, they see politics in terms of voluntary part-time activity at ward level. In the light of the foregoing, there are questions yet unanswered in the claim by most young people that they are deliberately excluded from politics.

• Oshisada, a veteran journalist, writes from Ikorodu, Lagos.

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