LINUS ALEKE writes that while the Nigerian youths are branded ‘leaders of tomorrow,’ they currently remain effectively excluded from the key areas of political action and leadership.
The Nigerian youths have for a very long time been excluded in decision making processes and given the back seat in both elective and appointive positions in politics while being branded ‘the leaders of tomorrow.’ But the question always begging for an answer is when is this tomorrow going to come?
The emerging consensus today is that this patronizing theory of – ‘leaders of tomorrow’ – has consistently denied the country the immeasurable contributions of youthful population to the development effort in recent times. This is because the country has been starved of the revolutionary ideas and energy of the youthful population for too long.
Available records reveal that global figures like musical legend Michel Jackson, foremost freedom fighter of the century Martin Luther Junior, and Marcus Garvay, sports champions Mohammed Ali and Pele, global political gladiators Ghandi, Kwame Nkrumah and Obama, literary giants like Chinua Achebe, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Prof. Soyinka rose to fame and influence in their youths.
In Nigeria, the events that shaped the history of the country were orchestrated and spearheaded by politicians and soldiers in their 20s and 30s. Late Herbert Marculy, Bishop Crowder, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, S.N. Ikoli, Chief Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello, Tafawa Balewa, Anthony Enahoro, Mikel Okpara, Akintola, Aminu Kano and host of other youths waged a fierce battle of wit against the British colonialists of their time and rose to power in their youthful age.
The soldiers that took up arm against this youthful first generation politicians under the guise of corruption and misrule were themselves youths in their 20s and 30s. And those who eventually fought to secede or defend the unity of Nigeria were also youths. The Ojukwus of this world, Hasan Kastina, Chukwuma Nzeogwu, Ifeajuna, Aguiyi Ironsi, Gowon, Obasanjo, Babangida, Effiong, Maduebo, Adekunle, Murtala Muhammed, Buhari, etc. etc changed the landscape of Nigeria history in their youths.
Sadly, this same category of leaders who were given the opportunity to maximize their youthful energy and potentials in leadership and development of the nation had dusted the hypothesis of ‘youths as leaders of tomorrow’ and hid under its shadow to perpetuate themselves in power, not minding its negative consequences on the advancement of the nation. Little wonder why we are still developing at a snail speed more than five decades after flag independence.
These grandfathers, retired war lords and military experts-turned politicians had also advanced their scheme of permanently shoving the youths aside by codifying age barriers in the nation’s commandments, in addition to always nominating grandfathers to serve as youth leaders in party politics. What a shame? It was however, in a determined effort to reverse the above painted disorderliness and ensure that the youths are given the opportunity to contribute their quota to nation building as well as participate in the assembly that decide their future that a member representing Oshodi/Isolo Federal Constituency Hon. Tony Nwulu introduced a Bill to alter some section of the constitution that restricted youth participation in politics through.
The bill tagged ‘Not-Too-Young-To-Run- Bill’ seeks to alter Sections 65, 106, 131, and 177 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) to reduce the qualification age for the office of the President, Governor, and House of Representatives from 40 to 30, 35 to 30, and 30 to 25 respectively. The reduction which will take the age of candidacy for Senate from 35 to 30 and that of State Houses of Assembly from 30 to 25 was contained in a press statement issued by Youth Initiative for Advocacy Growth and Advancement (YIAGA).
“The Bill was sponsored by Hon. Tony Nwulu, member representing Oshodi/Isolo federal constituency in the National Assembly to reduce age for people seeking elective office and mainstream independent candidacy into Nigeria’s electoral process.
“We therefore, join voices with Hon. Tony Nwulu and United Nation’s envoy on youth to support participation of youthful population in politics.” The statement further said that “The United Nations Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, Mr. Ahmed Alhendawi, has joined other youth across the continent to endorse the Not-Too-Young-To-Run-Bill sponsored by Hon. Tony Nwulu.
“He expressed the support in Abuja at an interactive session with various segment of Nigerian youth at the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports where he emphasized the imperative of the bill, and explained that Interventions for youths without the input of youths are not good for the youths.”
On what the United Nations is doing to advance the inclusion of youths in decision making process and governance, the statement further noted that working with and for young people is one of the priority areas for the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, while enumerating areas of priority attention by the UN scribe office to include strengthening the position of young people across government, civil society, academia, media, and the agencies of the United Nations.
The youth envoy commended the several teams working on the bill and assured Nigerian youth of the support of his office and the United Nations in all their activities.
On his part, the head of the non-governmental organization Mr. Samson Itodo said that his organization welcomes the United Nation endorsement with gratitude and commends the global body Youth Envoy for his dedication and support for the advancement of youth issues across the globe.
He concluded that the UN endorsement will in no small measure boost the campaign on inclusion of energetic youths in politics and decision making process and mount pressure on the National and State Assemblies to pass the Not-Too-Young-To-Run -Bill which is currently under consideration by the Constitution Review Committee in the House of Representatives having passed first and second readings.