Youthful president? Whitewashing 2019 for 2023 mirage

YPP Presidential candidate Kingsley Moghalu

Fela Durotoye for president
With the obvious dominance of the two major political parties and the imminent abortion of a third force, the dream of a youthful president this year is gradually receding.

But those who have surrounded this year with the halo of an epochal period for an inevitable break with the nation’s trajectory of geriatric presidents have obviously given up too early.

After all, the next president would only be declared after the election of February 16.
So, it is still a possibility that some future political circumstances could throw up a youthful president this year.

But having jettisoned the dream of a youthful president this year, some citizens are compellingly seduced by the possibility of the emergence of this kind of leader in 2023 after the presidential election of that year. They are enamoured of a situation where whoever wins between Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) would be a bridge between an era of old politicians and that of young ones. They hope that 2023 would mark the beginning of the era when the likes of the Kingsley Moghalus, Fela Durotoyes and Omoyele Sowores who are in their forties, fifties and others who are in their thirties would dominate the political space.

Of course, we are not oblivious to the fact which our recent political history has insistently lent credence – that youthfulness is not all the magic to good governance.

There have been many instances of youths in leadership positions who have failed to live up to the expectations of the citizens. There have been cases of those who were disgraced out of public office when their age falsifications were unearthed while others used their positions to loot the treasury.

In fact, the Fourth Republic witnessed a high number of young people like Lucky Igbinedion, James Ibori and Orji Uzor Kalu in their thirties and forties occupying political positions.

But since the end of their tenures, what is being remembered is not how much they developed their communities, states and the nation but their perfidy and heist that resulted in underdevelopment.
On the other hand, there are old people who have used their positions of leadership to transform their nations.

Just last year, former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia who quit politics in 2003 returned to office at the age of 92.

So, it is possible for old people to still be sources of good governance if in the first place they sought public office for the collective good of the citizens.

In this regard, most of them fail because they seek power in order to amass wealth or to settle real or perceived scores.

But why we must not allow the failings of our past youthful leaders to discourage us, the fact is that the expectation of the emergence of a youthful president in 2023 could only elicit skepticism.

For what we could consider as the reality is that whether there would be a youthful president in 2023 is dependent on how well the political issues of this year are resolved.

In over five decades since the nation gained political independence, the same issues that have made political maturation of the citizens elusive have not been resolved.

In that case, how could these issues be resolved in just four years for the emergence of a youthful president that is a counterpoise to the clan of our contemporary vampiric politicians?
Successive elections have thrown up leaders who do not altruistically represent the interest of the citizens primarily because the majority of the citizens have been plagued by a lack of political enlightenment.

This is a disease rooted in a lack of education. The citizens who are not educated are easily swayed by ethno-religious sentiments to vote for those who do not have their interest at heart.

Would there be a magic that would transform these people into educated citizens within four years? Would there be a massive vote for adult education? Would this be done by a government that has disdained education as demonstrated by the incessant university teachers’ strikes? It is only when such a magic of massive educational development occurs that the citizens can be in a situation where they can think for themselves and make the right political choices.

Besides, the majority of the citizens are racked by abject poverty. The citizens are driven by their poverty to vote for those who do not have the credentials to represent them.

During elections, a poor citizen may sell her vote for N5,000, even a sachet of salt that probably costs N100.

She feels she has got her own share of the national cake and she does not care if the buyer of her vote goes ahead to steal the billions meant for her welfare and her children.

But since poverty is not likely to end in the next four years, what magic would be used to make the citizens to understand the imperative of their not selling their votes? Worse still, since the citizens are both poor and uneducated, they do not have access to opportunities that would enable them assess the suitability of the politicians asking for their votes.
Even citizens who would be interested in the debates of politicians are prevented from listening to them either by poor electricity or the burden of eking out a hard living.

Again, even those who are neither uneducated nor poor would continue to make the wrong political choices as long as there is the notion that politics is a site for self-validation.

It is these people who would support a candidate when it is clear that there is no reason that person should be supported.

Let the candidate be afflicted with dementia, let the wife even warn that her husband is no longer fit to occupy a public office and let a cabal appoint itself and rule on behalf of the besotted president, they would still support him.

Perhaps, we expect the youthful president to be thrown up from outside the mainstream political class like Barack Obama and Emmanuel Macron.

But the current political class that has access to the treasury poses a danger here in that it might sponsor a malleable proxy through whom they would continue to have control over the levers of power.

This is possible especially when there is no effective anti-corruption strategy that would sanction both foes and friends who are found guilty of corruption.

Thus, the elections of this year offer an opportunity to measure how ready we are to produce a youthful president. It is not a matter of just waiting for 2023 to come and then the youthful president would automatically emerge.

No, those who expect a youthful president in 2023 should put in place measures for purging the citizens of those things that have made youths who occupied public offices in the past to fail. They should also wean the youths off their uncritical adulation of the old political class that has been the cause of their ruination and the retrogression of the country.

This year, they should begin a process of voting for the right leaders. They can build on this in 2023 by voting for a youthful president with the right mix of acumen and energy for transformational leadership.

But since it is more likely that we would gloss over these issues and whitewash the desecrators of the political space as the indispensable saviours of the nation, 2023 would come and we would still be saddled with doddery men as our leaders.

Or, are some people planning to surprise us with an Ibrahim Babangida-like banning of the old political breed to pave the way for a youthful president who is untainted by the all-pervasive sleaze of his or her milieu?
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