by Jude Feranmi
When the purpose of a thing is not known, abuse is inevitable – Anonymous
The above quote appears to be too inclusive to fit salva veritate into today’s piece but I have decided to adopt it so it can appeal to those who do not favour a one fit all approach to solving problems and looking for answers.
The last episode of this article series addressed one of the many questions that fall under the category currently being discussed, WHY? Why should we experiment again with young people in the leadership of our nation?
One of the many shades of this argument is TRUST, and I have chosen to raise the arguments and see if there are any counter arguments superior to the ones usually put forward.
Can Nigerians afford to trust Young People with POWER Again?
The paradoxical nature of the arguments which quote the young leaders who brought us independence and ruled in the first republic is usually the counter argument that it is under the leadership of these young Nigerians then that the nation experienced what we can very well call our own Dark Ages as far as oppression, dictatorship and suffering is concerned.
A perfect example will be that of General Sani Abacha who participated in almost all of the preceding coups before his and was only 23 years old when he played a role in the January 1966 coup. It was under his regime that Nigeria witnessed the grandest forms of corruption, impunity and military oppression.
Chief amongst the proponents of this school of thought will be former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar who was once quoted as saying “Nigeria can no longer afford a trial and error leadership in its young population.
At the core of this argument and doubt about trusting young Nigerians with Leadership is the claim manifesting in a doubt that young people do not have what it takes to lead.
This issue about the capacity of young people to lead will be taken up on its own in another article in this series, however, there will be need to address the doubt that feeds from the historical past of the country and the young people who led it into doom and mystery from the first republic to the last military head of state.
“Young People are more corrupt and if put in this current system will even devise smarter ways of stealing and looting the treasury that the old ones cannot and have not thought of.”
The above quote is another major opinion of those who think we cannot trust young people with leadership and as is obvious, this takes root from the historical past of our country’s leadership.
As far as history is concerned, there are various ways by which we can explain the actions of the leaders who led us during those ‘dark ages’ but one of the few explanations that might help kick-start a conversation was the notion that there was a continental movement around the ideas that helped shape how African states were supposed to be governed after the colonial masters left and every leader who emerged to lead any African country at that time shared a fraction of the spirit of that movement.
The primary aim and objective of the leaders of the time in Nigeria was to secure independence in what they continued to press for year after year irrespective of what was handed over in terms of structure, administration or concept as the independent entity.
Couple this with pro-independence nature of governance around other countries and the grasp rule of acclaimed independent fighters all over the continent. Couple this with the ability and the strength of civil society and the labour movement in demanding for good governance and accountability.
As a matter of fact, the words accountability did not even mean what it now means politically globally in those days. Good Governance and Democratic rules was simply not the norm in any part of the continent except Botswana remembering that South Africa was still battling with Apartheid.
The young leaders of the military simply had no role models to emulate and the tilt towards the socialist ideological side in the cold war amidst global giants made matters worse. An example is Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere who left Tanzania an estimated 280 times poorer just 12 years after independence in what was an economic model based on ujamaa and fuelled by sincere intentions.
Today, it is a different scenario, a different world and there are tonnes of tested models of nation building, economic prosperity and poverty alleviation from different parts of the world, assuming that our young leaders cannot even develop our own model (which I disagree with totally).
Civil society today is a lot stronger than what it used to be and even though the labor movement continues to lay hold to habits and attitudes as old as the same ones practised in the days of Imoudu when the labor movement was founded and was wrought with as many factions as possible, workers still have an efficient way of communicating their grievances and channelling such in the appropriate manner to serve as check and balance to the government.
Above all, the media space has been entirely disrupted to give space for the average citizen to voice his/her opinion and be heard all over the country. Media houses no longer have the monopoly to control what is being said and what is being heard. The average young Nigerian is also more educated than the average young Nigerian in the first and second republic.
All over the continent, there is also a constant redefinition of the role of government and how much impunity an acclaimed democratically governed country can tolerate. Zimbabwe for instance is such a country that is continually pushing against the still tyrannical autocracy called government.
As for the idea that young people are more corrupt and would do worse than the current sexagenarians and septuagenarians are doing, proponents of such an argument would do well to step up to higher realm where we do not define our society and our people by the weakest of our strengths but by the strongest of our qualities.
It is not enough to appeal to the worst part of us in shaping policy and making public decisions. It is not who we are as a people and it is not what defines us. The young Nigerian is also aware of the many ways to prevent corruption and put in place transparency measures that put public funds in the full glare of where it should be – the public.
All over the world, economies and nations are being governed by the best the country has to offer in young citizens, from Singapore even after the death of Lee Kuan Yew to the Arabian Emirates where democracy is even an alien concept to fellow Uganda where a 19 year old female can already represent her people at the parliament and there are results to show for it and facts to back it up.
In this century, a nation loses more by relegating its youth than by elevating its youth to the table of decision making and the question of trust is not just losing its grip on the limitation of the contribution that young people can bring but also getting answered by the tonnes of ideas and partnerships that is being put in place across the globe in ensuring that whoever is entrusted with power is made accountable to those who entrusts such power in them, whether they are old or young.
Our country should not be left behind.
Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija
Jude ‘Feranmi is the National Youth Caucus Leader of KOWA PARTY