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Letting the young grow into leadership

By Steve Orji
13 December 2016   |   4:01 am
Erstwhile British Prime Minister, David Cameron was in his 40s when he took the helm, a graduate of one of British most notable institutions, Oxford.


“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”- Albert Einstein

Nigeria needs fresh political thoughts, as against the uninspiring climate of leadership fatigue being experienced in the country in recent times.

Contemporary leadership thinking has shifted from the classical theme of experience, age, maturity to the post-modern dynamic of innovation.

Given the architecture of modern societies, governments around the world are voting significant resources for securing the future of their nations, by grooming young leadership talents, not just in political leadership, but in other streams of endeavour; business and other technocratic, vocational areas relevant to society.

China in the last 10 or so years has unveiled a new set of young leaders, who are stepping into the shoes of their fore-runners.

The major drawbacks in achieving sustainable political leadership succession in Africa, including Nigeria, may stem from two major reasons: first, the stereotypical perception of age, as synonymous with experience and wisdom.

Again, is the superstitious belief within African societies that older persons should enjoy the eminence and rights to all forms of leadership, including political leadership. Political parties within their own peculiar internal democracies seem to welcome the idea of choosing older persons to bear the flag of the parties during elections.

Mediocrity which is apparent not only in the political life of the nation but in all spheres of national life, is as a result of nothing other than the sit-tight mentality of older political leaders, without them making deliberate, systematic plans to cede the political, technocratic leadership of the nation to the youths.

Buhari, for instance, had led the nation in time past, even though as a military head of state. He had equally held other eminent positions of service to the country, and after nearly three decades since his national leadership, he reincarnated again, to administer a nation, strategically different, intensely more competitive, and sadly more divided than what it was at his first coming. Those who entrenched and promoted the same values and national ethic bedevilling the nation are the same people often called upon to manage its destiny.

At this point, given the global shifts and trends, the growing complexities of the international community, development imperatives that rely heavily on technology and innovative leadership, there is need for change in the leadership complex of Nigeria.

For instance, the average age of Nigeria’s serving ministers is 60 and most of them may have lost not only the zest, but the matching intellectual rigour and contemporary resources to manage a new-age economy.

Erstwhile British Prime Minister, David Cameron was in his 40s when he took the helm, a graduate of one of British most notable institutions, Oxford. Likewise, the present Foreign Affairs Minister Boris Johnson. Barack Obama was equally middle-aged when he took the reins of leadership in United States.

It’s a heartbreaking irony that Nigeria having the best human resources in Africa, many of whom are leading lights in important fields of learning, is right now crippled by dearth of constructive, visionary and progressive leadership.

The era of political superstition has run its course. Nigeria has been imperilled by conservative thinking which has made vigorous efforts to undermine the prospects of youths in the mainstream of Nigerian politics.

Now is the time for a change. The youths have the power and number to recalibrate the political tempo of the nation. The political elite found the youths in the past expendable political rockets, which they used and discarded after exploiting their brains or innate creativity to launch their political shuttle to the orbit of power.

The youths, who were only deemed fit as political hatchet men, thugs and trouble makers, can now retrace their steps. Nigeria’s young men and women can afford to wrestle the destiny of this nation from the hands of the current political predators, by refusing to be seen and treated as cheap foils.

Refuse to be bought with cheap perks, monies and political promises. We can channel our energies and creative resources, like the animal community did in Gorge Orwell’s epic novel, Animal Farm, to oust the greedy, puerile and ethnocentric leaders who still sell the nation on the cheap.

We must infiltrate the parties and recreate their charters and form the hub of their political visions. We need not be violent but with our sheer energy and thinking power, we can shift the axis of power and swing it unto the path of progressive vision and true greatness.

The current leadership can also start by establishing a creative synergy with the youths of the nation, bringing them under their wings, and facilitating the much needed transitional dream of handing the baton to the younger generation.

Nigeria needs its best hands, abroad or elsewhere, without allowing the obstructive considerations of tribe, religion and red tape to truncate its vision of greatness.

If Nigeria could for once muster the courage to put its best team forward, by giving the youths ample latitude to express their potentials, Nigeria would be taking a leap towards its stupendous promise.