By OBINNA EZUGWU
It was another opportunity to assess the gains and losses in Nigeria’s journey to nationhood as the country turned 58 last week, when various stakeholders gathered at the Recovery House Church, Festac Town Lagos on Monday, October 1, to proffer solutions to the country’s leadership challenges.
The colloquium tagged “Politicking in Nigeria and the Challenges of Youth,” drew attendance of notable individuals in the religious and political arena, with various speakers emphasising the importance of having youths with requisite skills for modern day governance take up leadership positions.
Nigeria’s youth policy inadequate – Isiguzo
In his keynote address, the keynote speaker and publisher of The Oracle Newspaper, Mr. Ikeddy Isiguzo regretted that there hasn’t been sufficient attempt by the Nigerian state to create space for the country youth population to thrive and take their rightful place in the scheme of governance.
He emphasised that the Second National Youth Policy Document of 2009 doesn’t cater adequately to the aspirations of the youths, and wondered why it has not been reviewed since. Mr. Isiguzo opined that there were crisis of youth in the country, one of which he said, was defining who is a youth as the term seemed to be subject to different interpretations.
“According to the UN,” he said, “a youth is someone between 15 and 24 years of age, that’s the definition of youth in many countries. But in Nigeria, we refer to a youth to mean someone between 18 and 35 years. However, you find situations where a 65-year old is the youth leader of a political party in the country.”
He noted that the neglect of the youth has contributed to the challenges of Nigeria’s development, as according to him, they are “young people” with “potential” and have the “capacity” to deliver, but are not adequately reckoned with.
“The National Youth policy has never changed. And it has five priority areas which don’t say anything about improving the life of the youth. It’s like listing problems.”
Explaining the need for nation building, the former Chairman, Editorial Board of Vanguard Newspaper, argued that there was a need for Nigeria to find a soul and for the country to hold a discussion to define the kind of nation it wants to be and the terms of that nationhood. This, according to him were key steps towards nation building.
“We are talking about nation building, it’s important to understand what a nation is, because if we don’t have a nation, then there is hardly anything to build,” he said.
“A nation is not about religion or language. There are very few nations that speak the same language. It’s a soul, a spiritual entity. Those who are in that nation must have common will.”
Nigeria’s current leaders lack requisite skills to run 21st century economy – Pastor Edwin
In his opening remarks, the Area Pastor, Lagos and West Africa of the Recovery House Church, Pastor Edwin Okor George noted that the 21st century world has brought with it new ways of running economies, which according to him, requires that youths who are in tune with the new realities be given opportunities to govern as is the case in developed climes.
“A lot of our leaders today are people who are over 60, we have few who are below 50. And we have a president who is almost 80, it is something we need to change,” he said.
“On this age issue, it’s important for us to have a background. People at this level are unable to cope with the demands of today’s world in various areas. It is also the reason the country is struggling.
“Things have evolved. There are ways of doing things before that have changed drastically. It’s not that our leaders are bad, it’s not that age is not a good thing, but the fact remains that the competence to drive a country in the 21st Century, is lacking.
“For instance, in today’s economy, if you were running a country 30 years ago, your focus is going to be how to ensure that the country is productive in the areas of agriculture, industry and all of that. But today, we see that countries that are doing very well are no longer focusing on such things. They are focusing on soft items like ICT.
“If you go to the U.S. today, they are teaching children less about manufacturing and more about software development because that is where the economy of today’s world is going.
“The billionaires of today: those who are driving the developed economy and the biggest company today – bigger than half all of Africa economy – is Google. And the fact remains that they don’t produce anything tangible.”
Pastor Edwin, who is also the Founder, Association of Christians United for Israel (ACUFI) emphasised that the country will not make headway if those who understand these new realities are not allowed space to govern.
“If we don’t have this understanding, we will continue to push things that will lead us to nowhere. The dynamics of economies and nationhood have changed. We also need to understand that as a country of close to 200million people, the median age of this population is 17.5 years.
If you look at the demography, what it means is that you are likely to have those that fall into the category of youths to be between 60 or 70 percent of the population. The people at 60, 70, 80 years do not know how to cater to the needs of the people below the age of 17.5 and below.
“Recently, to begin to grapple with this challenge, the Not-Too-Young to Run Bill which reduced the age limit for presidency and other positions was introduced.
“The Prime Minister of Austria, Sebastian Kurz is 32 years. At 34, a number of our youths are still in their parents’ houses. We have Kim Jong Un, the president of North Korea at 34 years old. And in New Zealand you have Jacinda Ardern who is 37 years of age.
“It’s important for us to record this so that when we begin to talk about the place of youths, we are not asking for something that is difficult achieve.”
He noted that God himself had shown, through His choices of leaders, that youths are better equipped to face challenges of leadership.
“It has always been intention of God that youths take the pride of place in governance. The very first king that was crowned in the Bible, according to the heart of God, not Saul now, was David while he was in his 30s. We see Joseph rising to become the Prime Minister of Egypt while he was in his 30s. We have Esther, an orphan girl rising to become the queen of one of the ancient kingdoms in her 30s and of course, you have Daniel taken as a youth to be king adviser.
“But we are not talking only about the age, no, there are much more deeper things than that. We are looking at youths who will look at the challenges of our country and like David, rise above those challenges and fight it down. We are looking at raising youths who will fight the enemies of this country, in whatever guise, whether it is corruption or whatever. We are looking at youths in the mould of Joseph, who would unravel the challenges of our nation.”
God-fatherism bane of youth participation – Bishop Ore
In his own contribution, Bishop Olusola Ore, the Presiding Bishop of Love Aglow Ministries International and Chairman of the Lagos State Christian Pilgrims Welfare Board, said that the youths held the key to the country’s salvation, but regretted that many youths are derailing.
“Can this nation be better? Yes, it can. It can meet the yearnings of our people, but it has to be the youths that will do it,” he said.
“The unfortunate thing is that the youths of today are derailing. Among the youths, there are yahoo boys. But if you look at the positive side of yahoo boys, it means that they are creative, although it’s a misplaced creativity. So, if we groom the youths well we can have a better country.
He lamented, however, that the politics of godfather is shutting out youths who according to him, do not have the huge sums of money required to succeed in Nigerian politics, while insisting that politics must be made less lucrative so that only people who wish to serve will go into it.
“I think this issue of godfatherism is a problem. How will they get there if they don’t have money?
“One of the issues we have is that many people have taken politics to be a profession. It shouldn’t be a profession. There are so many impediments on the way of the youths. But with proper mentoring of the youths, I believe that we can get there.
“One of the things we must do is to make politics less lucrative so that people will not be killing one another over positions. If we make politics less lucrative, then those who are going to contest will know that they are only going to serve, so they are not going to kill because they want to serve the nation.
“But it’s because they know that there is something that will accrue from the position; because they know that there is a lot of money to be made, they will want to terminate anyone who stands on their way.
Bishop Ore called on the youths to rise up and take their place in the scheme of things. “If you are a youth, this is your time, get ready to take over. But I believe that the atmosphere must be conducive first, so that they can get to where they want to get to without the influence of godfathers.”
We are facing challenges because we left politics for touts – Hon. Olorunrinu
Speaking, Hon. Oladipupo Olorunrinu, member representing Amuwo-Odofin in the Lagos State House of Assembly, regretted that youths who are intellectuals have left politics to those he called ‘agberos’ in ‘agbada’ which, for him, is one of the challenges the country is facing.
“I must say this, one of the major reasons the country is the way it is today is that we, the educated youths have left politics for touts,” he said.
“At a point, I had to tell myself that it was high time I went into politics because we cannot keep allowing people that don’t have the kind of qualifications you and I have to keep making decisions for us.
“You and I are the ones who should be in the law making arm of government and not packaged ‘agberos’ that are wearing Agbada.”
Youths have led the country more than elders – Hon. Oghene Emmanuel
Taking a different perspective however, member representing Amuwo-Odofin Federal Constituency in the House of Reps. Hon. Oghene Egoh Emmanuel, argued that youths have led Nigeria more than elders since Nigeria got independence in 1960, and therefore, the belief that youths have been neglected in politics is incorrect.
“A time was when the elders were jealous of the youths. After the great Herbert Macaulay who was our elder in politics, this country was thrown into the hands of the youths,” he said.
“Apart from Chief Nnamdi Azikiwe who was close to 50 years, others were youths. Chief Obafemi Awolowo, when he ruled the entire South West, he was just in his thirties.
“Even Ahmadu Bello, he was a youth. How old was Tafawa Balewa? He was a youth when he became Prime Minister. These were great men who served us well. It was these youths that fought for the independence of Nigeria, not the old men.
“When the army struck, (Yakubu) Gowon was barely 32 years when he became head of state. Some of the governors were in their twenties. Diette Spiff was 23 when he was governor of Rivers State.
“So, sometimes, while we the elders want to make sure that youths are given a chance, because we know that the nation belongs to them, we are disappointed when the same youths complain about elders. The youths have always had their time in this country. Youths have led this country more than elders.
“Youths under 40 were presidents, governors and premiers. Mathew Mbu at the age of 22 was Nigeria’s ambassador to Germany. He was one of the greatest men to ever head foreign affairs.
“When the army came, it was all youths. Obasanjo was a youth when he became head of state. In 1999 when we started civilian rule, James Ibori was about 35 years when he became governor of Delta. Uzo Orji Kalu was about 36 years when he became governor of Abia. Donald Duke in Cross River was not up to 35.
“So, the youths have had their time. But the youths need to try more and more. At the age of 25, Aliko Dangote was already a millionaire.”
He noted that he was part of those who initiated the Not-Too-Young to Run Movement, because he felt that there was a need to give more room for youths to participate, but regretted that it is the same youths who chose old people to rule them.
“What are the youths complaining about? It is only lately that you see that the elders are beginning to take positions. And who gave them? It is the youths. How can you see an over 70-year old man, going to 80 years, you vote him as president. The population of this country is made up of about 80 percent youths. It was the youths that voted such an elderly person and today the country is in ruins.
“The opportunity is coming up again, let’s see what the youths are going to do again.”
Speaking on the Not-Too-Young To Run Bill, he said: “The bill was our bill, we produced it. Our aim was to give opportunities to the young ones to aspire to higher office. I call on youths to take advantage of it.”