Friday, 16 October 2015

Old Breed Without New Breed, Breeds Break

By Dr. Ahmed Adamu

The definition of a young person in the Nigerian Youth Policy and African Youth Charter is someone between the age of 18 and 35.

In the history of this country, we have had many young people within this age bracket that performed well in Nigeria’s leadership. These include people like Yakubu Gowon who became Head of state at the age of 32 and Shehu Musa Yar’adua who became what is equivalent to Vice President at the age of 33.  Mathew Tawo Mbu became minister of labour at the age of 23, Nurudeen Mohammed became minister of state Foreign affairs at the age of 33 to mentioned but a few. In other Commonwealth nations, young people still play active role in the leadership of their countries.

Nigeria is an important Commonwealth country and it needs to take a cue from other Commonwealth nations in line with the Commonwealth charter and commitment to young people that emphasized on the importance of youth participation. The history of Nigeria showed that young people have participated actively at the highest decision making level, and this record has been kept until the last administration in the country. With the apparent and unprecedented sacrifice made by the Nigerian youth in the March/April, 2015 national elections as well as their undeniable competence and integrity, the youth must be included in the federal cabinet. We, the youth, are disappointed that none of the nominated ministers in the country is a young person within this age bracket. All of the nominated ministers are above 41, the age at which President Muhammadu Buhari became head of state in 1983, some 30years ago.

And if President Buhari could lead well as young person as he was, then the current young generation may even do better. The current young generation on average is more qualified, wiser, and more experienced than the then youth generation. This was made possible by the amazing improvement in technological advancement and education since then till now.

All over the world, young people participate in high level decision making processes, young people are beyond being subordinates, and we are active players and partners in sustainable development. If they say we are inexperienced, then how could one become experienced if s/he is not given the job? If you want to teach someone how to drive a car, you have to bring him inside the car, on the front seat, unfortunately, the youth in Nigeria are out of the car for now. The change agenda in the country must include actualisation of the larger proportion of young leaders, the change must not be the reverse of the past but improvement.

It is erroneous to assume young people do not have what it takes to lead. We have among young people in Nigeria, professionals and technocrats in all sectors of the economy. According to the Nigerian constitution,  a young person cannot be a senator, a young person cannot be a governor, and over 70% of the young people in the country cannot aspire to be members of House of Representatives. That is enough discrimination already for young people. Despite this discrimination, the young people are still left out of the federal cabinet. The country’s constitution should be reviewed to allow more participation of the youth to meet up with the drop of life expectancy rate in the country. If the youth are not prepared now, how can we in the future have a young president in the country? The country’s president himself has once acknowledged that his old age sometimes limit his performance to some extent, and this should have informed him of the needed vigour that young people will bring in his administration that they fought hard to make a reality.

The youth did not make the change possible because they want positions, but it's doesn't require rocket science to understand the importance of young people in leadership.  The elderly people who could not withstand the stress to protect the ballot boxes are now enjoying the change victory. Loyalty and friendship should not be the only yardstick in choosing the cabinet. If the ministerial selections were to be made through rigorous competency interview (like in corporate organisations), many Nigerian youth will beat some of the nominees.

The youth are not happy for being excluded in the ministerial nominations, and we always ask them (the youth) to be respectful and loyal, and if they become more agitated, no amount of persuasion will stop them. Of course, we need the old hands, but it has to be mixed with energy and innovation, and the youth can bring that in the country. So, old breed without new breed, breeds break. If youth are not mixed, there is going to be disconnect and interruption in sustainability of whatever legacy the All Progressive Congress (APC) administration might leave behind. The youth are the ones that may live to uphold the APC legacies and tell the stories to the country’s future generation, just like the way the current leaders tell stories of their ancestors who gave them the opportunities to became what they are now. So this chain must not be broken. It has to be sustained.

Therefore, we the youth are not happy for being excluded in the ministerial nomination, and we call on the Nigerian president and his party to appoint young people in the cabinet, and ensure that 30% of all political appointments in the country are given to the youth. For the ruling party in the country to enjoy further support from the youth, it has to show commitment toward youth participation in its administration, otherwise 2019 is around the corner. It may just be a game changer.

Ahmed Adamu

President, Commonwealth Youth Council

London, UK

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