by Usman Alabi
Even after the passage of the Not Too Young to Run Bill in the National Assembly, we might have to wait a while before producing a President who is in his early or late thirties. By now the Not Too Young to Run movement would be taking lessons from reality – that abstract teacher that awaits us all after the battle must have been won.
Congratulations to the Not too Young to Run Movement for a job well done, but by now they would begin to realise that it will take more effort to awaken the politicians in young people than that they put into realising the bill, because it is only a politician that can win elections.
Who then is a politician? A politician is a politically active person who is interested in the affairs of the state, who is not docile, who has taken time to build his social capital from where he is, and is able to draw support when the need arises. He has a name that resonates across political boundaries as well as a currency to secure votes. Also, being a politician does not necessarily demand that you are book smart more than the fact that you have to be street smart.
These realities young people would be faced with after the passage of the bill are more of a problem than the age restriction, even though the latter is the usual common excuse.
However with age limit gone and Independent Candidacy introduced, young people will no longer have the usual excuses. They will now be faced with real issues, real problems, systemic issues that makes it difficult for us to produce the best irrespective of age and tribe, institutional problems that sees political office as belonging to a few.
Party politics that only give party tickets at outrageous prices to plutocrats; entrenched and vested political interest; lack of social capital, as well as a dearth of resources.
It would be easier for western countries to produce young leaders because there are forward and backward linkages that makes that possible, from the educational system down to the party framework and structure. You don’t have to be a money bag before you can run for elections; all you need is the correct policy appeal that is saleable. Here in Nigeria, the youth would begin to realise that the same centrifugal force that has affected political relationship between the classes that wield political power is very much with us.
The group that gave the Ibos quit notice in the North were entirely made up of young people who have not risen beyond these centrifugal factors that tears us apart as a nation.
How would a young intending President gather the necessary social capital even from his own constituents even though it is not impossible? Nigerians are not going to vote for a politician because he is young.
It is also important to state that even the electorate would become the challenge to the young politician. Ours is a system that ascribe wisdom to men with grey hair and that still feels experience is the key to leading a nation. Yet countries are not run based on this anymore in the 21st century, all you need is a mind that knows how to identify the best combined with a system that has experience imbued into its workings.
However it is not impossible to surmount these challenges, it is hence important that we understand these issues, decide to rise above the common pitfalls of a nationhood, maybe we can then hope to have a young President in the nearest future.