By Sani Danaudi Mohammed
Since the signing into law of the ‘Not Too Young to Run’ Bill by President Muhammadu Buhari, there has been a serious debate on whether or not the youth segment of the country are ready to wrest the mantle of leadership from the current crop of leaders in the forthcoming political dispensation.
Meanwhile it is crystal clear that the Nigerian youth do not appear ready to produce the Nigerian brand of Emmanuel Macron who became France president at the age of 39. This submission is informed by the development whereby the only youth-based political party, the Young Progressives Party, lost gallantly at the 2019 general elections.
The unexpected development whereby oldies like President Buhari and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar dominated the political space in the elections has set most Nigerian political analysts wondering as to whether or not the Not Too Young to Run Act has any desirable effect on the youth. To these perspicacious analysts, the Nigerian youths are generally not determined to take their destiny in their hands.
To Onyedika Agbedo, editor with the Guardian Newspapers, the dismal performance of the Nigerian youth at the 2019 presidential elections poses a serious challenge for having a youthful president in the nearest future. Although one of the presidential candidates in the 2019 general elections, Dr Nicolas Felix of Peoples Coalition Party (PCP), is a youth, the 110,196 votes cast for him to make him the third place winner in the elections were theorised in some quarters to be accidental.
These votes were believed to have been cast by voters who could not tell the difference between his PCP and the opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). While the first runner up, Atiku Abubakar of the PDP, got 11, 262, 978 votes (representing 41.22 per cent of the total votes cast). President Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who won the election, polled 15, 191, 847 (representing 55.60 per cent of the total votes cast).
The extant 2010 Electoral Act (now amended) which regulates the conduct of the keenly contested 2019 general elections placed campaign spending limits on all candidates who contested for key elective positions across both executive and legislative arms of government.
The presidential candidate and the governorship candidate must not spend above N1 billion and N200 million, respectively, the senatorial candidate, the House of Representatives candidate and the State Assembly candidate must not spend beyond N40 million, N20 million and N10 million, respectively. However, according to insider reports on the Amendment Bill, the lawmakers are seeking to substantially raise the campaign spending under Section 88. Therefore, if eventually passed, a presidential candidate would be free to spend up to N15 billion, a governorship candidate, N5 billion; a senatorial candidate, N1.5 billion; a House of Representatives candidate, N500 million and a state Assembly candidate, N50 million.
The above analysis indicates that if the youth want to take over the leadership mantle from the ageing leaders, they must start investing today, both through utilising all resources at their disposal and encouraging team work under one umbrella to plan their future.
This implies that they should be ready to contribute and raise funds to sponsor one of their own, not considering the tribal background, religious affiliations and geopolitical extraction of such a representative. Truth is that, the journey of the youth towards leadership in Nigeria can be made successful, not only by their possession of humongous amount of money to flaunt, but also by their unwavering decision to maintain a united front in determining their destiny, adopting a radical but non-violent approach.
However, the cruel irony is that, most of those currently strategising towards the 2023 presidential elections are still within the bracket of the oldies or the recycled ageing leaders.
Only a minute fraction of these presidential hopeful, who are youth, have so far expressed interest in running for presidency. The list of those currently jostling for the number one seat in the country is worth scrutinisng. This will guide the electorate, most especially the youth, towards taking a decisive step ahead of the forthcoming general elections. Since the inauguration of the fourth Republic in 1999, Nigeria has yet to produce a youth as a president. And by the reckoning of the 2019 National Youth Policy, a youth is someone between 18-29 years.
If anything, it is clear that the Nigerian youth do not wish to be mere bystanders in the corridors of governance. Most of them are now yearning for being actively involved in how their country is run, particularly within the context of the sustained failing of the oldies generation or power elite aptly described by Professor Wole Soyinka as a wasted generation on account of their failure to take Nigeria to the next level despite the vast resources available to them.
No longer do the youth want to be ‘the leaders of tomorrow’, as the aphorism goes. Rather, they want to take the bull by the horns to become the leaders of today. But the question which tugs at the heartstrings of most people is: Are the Nigerian youth ready for 2023 ? The answer is obviously not so, as many acclaimed comrades and activists, regarded as capable of wresting power from the oldies, have not yet gone beyond being social media handlers for the current crop of ageing leaders.
The youth who should lead the struggles for self- inclusion and active participation in government are today defenders of the failing ageing leaders who seem helpless with the current happenings in the country.
Currently, the awareness which is being visibly created from the North to the South in preparation for the most anticipated 2023 presidential elections is that of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former governor of Lagos State and chieftain of the ruling APC. But these are the same old faces Nigerians have always seen.
The likes of Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, Alhaji Shehu Musa Gabam, National Secretary of Social Democratic Party (SDP); Shina Abiola Peller, Honourable Member representating lseyin/ltesiwaju/ Kajola/lwajowa Federal Constituency; Dr Nastura Ashir Shariff, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) and others are, no doubt, the new and youthful faces that the Nigerian youth can rally round towards the actualization of the much anticipated paradigm shift in favour of a youth as Nigeria president come 2023.
The youth population in Nigeria has achieved sustained growth in the past decades despite increased high fertility rates, poor family planning choices, and lowering death rates.
The country has one of the highest average birth rates in the world, ranking tenth in this regard between 2010 and 2015.Nigeria is the seventh most populous country on earth. And with an estimated population of over 200 million people that is still growing at a rate close to 3 per cent per annum, the country’s population is primed to double and reach over 400 million by 2050, which is barely 30 years away.
The Nigerian youth must urgently understand that government and good governance lead us back to the central notion that ‘politics is fate’. This explains the nature of politics as such which determines the trajectory of human development, that is, how society is governed and how public resources are allocated in efficient manners that guarantee progress, meet the needs of demographics such as youths as well as promote inclusion in access – of the female, alongside different social groups like the elderly, the disabled, and others. They must take active roles and responsibilities in running the affairs of Nigeria to achieve sustainable peace and unity where justice, fairness and equity will be requisite elements of leadership in Nigeria.
Despite the voting bloc and the percentage of the Nigerian youth, the marginalisation and limited political participation of the Nigerian youth is evident in the fact that, since the return of democracy to the country in 1999, the cabinets at the federal level have not been really ‘youth-friendly’.
Most of the members of the Federal Executive Councils have been older politicians who have served in government at different points since the 1970s. The average age in the cabinets has been 50, with other members being in their 60s, and some in their 70s. Also, it has been noted that from 1999 to 2016, no youth was appointed Minister for Sports and Youth Affairs.
One thing the Nigerian youth need to understand is that we have many Atikus just we have many Tinubus within the youth circle to contest and win the 2023 presidential elections . We should burrow into our national archives to realize that we once had General Yakubu Gowon Rtd,, the late Major General Murtala Mohammed, General Olusegun Obasanjo Rtd., the current President Muhammadu Buhari and a host of others as military heads of state while they were young.
This is a guide or road map for the 2023 presidential elections, as Nigerians must make electing a youthful president a dream come true. And this is achievable through non-violent approach as the youth have the energy and the required numerical strength. (To be continued)
Danaudi, National President of Arewa Youths Advocate for Peace and Unity Initiative, writes from Bauchi via firstname.lastname@example.org