Obasanjo’s imperfect record shouldn’t stop us from listening to his pro-youth message

Olusegun Obasanjo

Former Nigerian President Chief Olusegun Obasanjo has advised African youths to unify and use their electoral power to knock out older generation from all leadership positions. Speaking at an interactive session held virtually to mark the International Youth Day on Wednesday, the former president said unless old people are forced out of the political stage, they will continue to occupy the leadership positions which is damage to the youths in Africa.

Speaking, Obasanjo said: “Unless you squeeze out those who are in office and those who want to remain in office perpetually, some after the age of 80, unless you squeeze them out, they will not want to be out. The type of change I am talking about, that I believe we can all embark upon is to subscribe to the constitution of political parties in favour of youths or if you like it you call it affirmative action in favour of youths…”

For many politically inclined Nigerians, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the one-time military head of state and former democratically elected President from 1999 to 2007 has been one of the most blatantly vocal presidents Nigeria has ever had. Known to speak out against what he feels are bad policies or bad actions of governments, especially with his apt criticism of President Goodluck Jonathan and the current President Muhammadu Buhari administrations, Obasanjo, is speaking to the youths and charging them to become more than just politically conscious.

On this occasion, Obasanjo is not only charging youths to be interested in politics, he is adequately saying that power positions should be for the youths. However, his advice to the youths goes without questioning his involvement with young people while he was in power and after he had left the place of power. In 2014, of the same occasion, Obasanjo charged various tiers of governments in the country to empower youths in the country for national development, but how well has Obasanjo, himself, invested in the development of youths in Nigeria, especially empowering them for political positions.

However, following the report, Nigerians are reacting to Obasanjo’s statement as many have called him out for hypocrisy. For many, Obasanjo is nothing short of the regular Nigerian politician who would be in power and still have only old people like himself in power. Many have questioned his authority in always supposedly fighting for the youths, for many, his impact haven’t been seen to the point where he should be the one taking the baton for youth empowerment.

 

In 1998 Obasanjo established a Presidential Library Youth Centre in Abeokuta, Ogun. This establishment is supposed to serve as a focal point for young people locally and globally to incubate ideas, develop or upgrade their skills, enhance their leadership capacity, build up their value-system, and link them up with various opportunities. This establishment also supposedly provides mentorship and after-school programs for young people from all walks of life.

There’s also the story of Aminat Sule, who is currently the personal assistant to Obasanjo. Young and passionate, Aminat saw the former president at an event in the UK and, after it was over, confidently asked to be his PA.

Obasanjo administration barely had any young person in power or holding a powerful ministerial position though. While it appears that Obasanjo’s charge on the relevance and importance of having youths in power may have developed after his time in power, his advice should not be readily dismissed. He has however repeatedly expressed that the youths constitute Nigeria’s only hope for a real future, a realization he must have reached after his tenure.

 

 

 

 

 

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