Wednesday, August 9, 2017 1:16 pm
By Abdulrazaq O Hamzat
There comes a time in the life of every nation, when its young and competent people must stand up and say to themselves, “Let’s take charge of our destinies, away from the grip of the old brigades.” That time for Nigeria is now and young people from all across the country are yearning for change in the manner the country is being managed. No doubt, we have seen different people indicate their interest, whether directly or indirectly in running for the number one office come 2019, but out of all those that have shown interest in running the affairs of this nation, the one that has caught my attention is Eng. Mathias Baba Tsado, the convener of Hope Platform and an excellent personality.
You can’t but feel the passion in his words, observe the commitment in his drive and competence in his ideas. To him, integrity is success, which is what Hope Platform stands for. Besides his youthfulness and unrivalled patriotism, it will be of greater benefit to the nation, if we have such a visionary young person as our leader. Although, some people might feel that this dream is too tall and not achievable at this time, Nigeria’s history tells us otherwise. If you believe it would be done; if you work to achieve it, it will eventually come to reality. Just believe.
A brief glance at our history tells us that the young people of Nigeria played a very significant role in facilitating the Independence of this country. People like Obafemi Awolowo, Tafawa Balewa and Nnamdi Azikwe were all young people during the struggle for Independence. However, as at 1960 when they took over the mantle of leadership from the colonial administrators, many of them had loss their strength and energy. They had become old, crossing the line of 50 years. This was the same time the new generations were yearning for space.
At the Independence in 1960, Obafemi Awolowo was 51, Nnamdi Azikwe was 56, Ahmadu Bello was 50, Samuel Akintola was 50 and Tafawa Balewa was 48 years old. These illustrious founding fathers of Nigeria gave their best to the country in their youthful moments. After leading the country for few more years after independence, the next generation of young people that are burning with passion, strength and energy stepped in to push the older ones aside. Unfortunately, the violent path to change they took led to a bloody Civil War that still casts a dark shadow over our country.
Nonetheless, Nigeria has had several stints of young leaders. Aguiyi-Ironsi took over office at 42, Yakubu Gowon 32, Murtala Muhammed 38, Olusegun Obasanjo 39, Muhammadu Buhari and Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida were 41 and 44 respectively. By any standard, these men were at the prime of their lives.
More importantly, the current global trend of young people taking over leadership in their respective countries reaffirms the achievability of the dream in Nigeria and if this will be realized, it has to be capable young people like Mathias Baba Tsado that should be in the driving seat.
Every generation has a strength span. When a generation’s strength and energy is drained, its life span ends and another generation is expected to send it to retirement. However, after the exhaustion of the most productive years of the next generation of leaders after our founding fathers, the generation that followed could not assert their influence to take their rightful place, they went to the back seat, leaving the old brigades to continue. This lack of decisiveness marked a major setback for the country’s growth and development.
From the time of Sani Abacha in 1993, our return to democracy in 1999 and till today, only tired men of above 50 years of age, who have exhausted their strength and energy have continued to lead the country, giving an impression that only the old people are capable of steering the wheel of the nation. But this is a dangerous perception that must be erased from the minds of the people.
Asides Tafawa Balewa who in 1960 became Prime Minister at 48, all democratically elected Presidents in Nigeria have been above 50 years as at the time of their elections. From Nnamdi Azikwe to Shehu Shagari, to MKO Abiola, Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Yardua, Goodluck Jonathan and now, Muhammdu Buhari. We have not been taking our rightful space in the democratic process, leading to our being pushed aside by the older generation. This must change now, and with Mathias Baba Tsado, it is possible.
As succinctly captured by an analyst, the age of ‘youth’ has for too long been seen as an age of much strength and vigour channelled into non-productive activities. Times have changed and knowledge increased though. The world has experienced innovations and exploits in various facets of life, championed by young people. Following the trend of this age in which young people are doing greater things than their fathers and generations before them, many nations have thought it wise to place trust in the capabilities of their young people to actualise the transformation agenda. It is in this light that countries around the world have continued to elect young leaders to manage the affairs of their nation.
These global best practices should no longer exclude Nigeria. Nigeria needs its own Barrack Obama, who became US President at 47 and brought in so much freshness and innovation. We need a David Cameron and a Justin Trudeau who both became UK and Canadian Prime Ministers at age 44 and an Emmanuel Macron who emerged as the President of France at 39. With Mathias Baba Tsado, we can have one of ours too.
To achieve this laudable dream, we must transform the youth population into a major force to ensure the emergence of a Young President for Nigeria. This is the task ahead of 2019. Recall that more than 60% of Nigerian populations are below the age of 35 years and more than 80% are below 50 years. The President of Nigeria come 2019 should definitely be below 50 years of age.
Many African politicians have utilized the youths’ voting clout for their own political agendas. They have effectively exploited their young through the skewed political process. In Nigeria, it is time for the youth to exploit their own voting clout to advance their political productivity.
The most dominant voices now maintain that Nigeria is in dire need for younger and eloquent leaders who are also futuristic thinkers, not those who are in the typewriter generation mentally, thinking of manufacturing jobs and agricultural exports when the world is in the milieu of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Thabo Mbeki, a former South African president, said, “I asked myself how an ordinary African, particularly the youths, could make the 21st century an ‘’African century’’?’’ He noted that, As African youths, it is not easy to influence your community, country or continent because of the economic, environmental, cultural and political barriers. However, he advised that, Young people should stop talking and acting for the future, they should start talking and acting about now.
It is on this basis that the Nigerian young population must decide to work for the emergence of a young president for Nigeria come 2019. A Young President for Nigeria is our dream, and with our collective efforts, we shall make it a reality.
Like a social media commentator I G Wala had said, “If you want to follow thieves, go with PDP. If you want to follow crowd without knowing where you are going, follow APC.” To this, I add that, if you want a new Nigeria, support a young President for Nigeria in 2019.
• Abdulrazaq O Hamzat, former president, Congress of National Open University Students, writes from Abuja. He can be reached on 08076976917 and [email protected]