By; Jerome-Mario Utomi
Recently, Youths in the South-West region of the country endorsed the Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello as the next President of Nigeria, stating that it is time for a youth to lead Nigeria starting from 2023. Speaking at a conference held in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, the convener of the group known as Afenifere for Collective Transformation, said the Kogi Governor represents the expression of the youths who are ready to take over leadership from the older generation.
In its communiqué, the youths unanimously declared and presented Bello as their presidential candidate for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2023, promising to engage more youths in the grassroots for the project. “In Kogi, Yahaya Bello has transformed the State to one of the best states in Nigeria. He is the only Governor who practiced inclusion in his administration as 40 per cent of his core leaders are women.”
Except for peripheral reasons, there is no way that such an occurrence cannot be described as an interesting development as the need for a shift in the nation’s leadership structure has become inevitable and eminently desirable to accommodate young technocrats who can take responsibility for their actions and results, be accountable where previous administrations were not, and tell the truth about their failures without blame games.
There are other accompanying reasons and barefaced truth about the above assertion.
First, youths from Nigeria occupy some top diplomatic positions in global bodies, while also calling the shots in development of affairs on the world stage Yet, while these talented Nigerian youths are being celebrated abroad, their compatriot at home are helplessly and haplessly relegated to the background in the scheme of political and socioeconomic affairs of their own nation. It is disheartening!
For no fault of theirs, Nigerian youths are often made to watch the political and leadership affairs of our nation from the political gallery. This lopsided architecture of our political theatre and onslaught against the youths was never by accident. But was perfectly drawn by our past and current crops of leaders this nation has been blessed with right from independence. Youths on their parts have visible but ignorantly endorsed these underground plots through their actions and inactions.
Again, save for those that got to position of authority through undemocratic means in the time past, it is only the incumbent governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello, who is just in his 40s and the immediate past Governor of Lagos State who is now the Federal Minister in charge of Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) who governed Lagos State at a relatively youthful age and a handle of others yet to be identified , no Nigerian youth have had the opportunity to emerge as president of country in the last 21years of the nation’s democratic experiment.
This protracted deprivation happened in the face of the maxim; the youths are the leaders of tomorrow” frequently mouthed by political leaders in Nigeria, but hardly work to make it a reality.
However, while this development calls for celebration because alarming apathy has been the sad commentary about political participation of young people in Nigeria, a state of affairs that have given some Methuselah politicians the leeway to continue to prance the political space unchallenged,, the latest endorsement coming from the youths, however, enjoys more burden than goodwill.
The reasons are barefaced.
Aside from the fact that its timing was wrong as it is coming too early and capped with the capacity to destabilize the Governor while heating up the polity, the current efforts by the South-West Youths qualifies more as praise singing or what is referred to as ”Otinkpu” in Igbo local palace, in fact, there exist in some quarters this believe that Yahaya Bello has performed below average to be endorsed for a higher public office in the country. To this group, his lackluster performance has more than anything else mirrored the opinion of these youths as asymmetric in outlook.
The queried; How come the youths endorsed a governor who at a time could not pay civil servants in the state their monthly salaries for over nine months? Could such action exhibited by the Governor in any ways be characterized as impressive or exemplary?
Indeed, Nigerians with critical minds going by commentaries are particularly worried that the youths, the future hope and leaders of tomorrow could describe such abysmal performance by Yahaya as exemplary. Again, while shedding their deep-seated fears about handing power over to these youths as it could translate into a political mistake with a heavy price; these concerned Nigerians argued that the youths gross inabilities to ask the governor of his planned programmes and pragmatic strategies to making a positive impact if made the president knocks off such endorsement.
Whatever the true situation may be, the Governor in my views has become a contentious factor that is in the interim working against the youths. His lackluster performance has become a negative emblem to the image of the Nigerian youths; prompting critical minds to believe that afterward there may not be any appreciable difference between the youths and the adults they accuse.
Electoral exercise as practised the world over is both programme and strategy based and a keen contest where the candidates with the best programme and realistic strategies for achieving that programme is given priority/favoured by the electorates. Again, from investigations, seeking an elective position with the aim of effecting political and socioeconomic change is synonymous with fighting for emancipation from captivity which is never voluntarily given without personal sacrifice/ self-denials; but Nigerians are yet to see such sacrifice, be it ideological or material from Governor Bello.
Certainly, the need to inject youths into positions of authority to ameliorate the present blow of inflation and recession, subsidize education, health, and create employment as well as guarantee security of lives and property has become unavoidable. Nigeria truly needs the likes of Emmanuel Macron of France, Saleh Ali al-Sammad of Yemen, Emil Dimitriew of Macedonia, Vanessa D’ Ambrosio, Kim Jong Un of North Korea and Charles Michael of Belgium among others.
But it will, however, be antithetical to support a movement based on sentiment or allow sentiment to determine my actions. What the youths currently project in my views is well-intentioned but pragmatically vague, variable and ungraspable to be taken seriously as their actions and strategies are masked in ambiguity with unclear vision and blurred goals.
For the youths to be taken seriously, therefore, what Nigerians expect is a development of potentials that are politically new, something that is not yet known and not in existence, which will establish new political configurations and not thoughtless endorsements.
Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via;firstname.lastname@example.org/08032725374