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2019 Elections: Nigerian Youths and the Doubting Thomases – Sanusi Olaniyan

Professor Itse Sagay; Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption (PACAC) granted an interview on why a youth cannot be President in Nigeria. Professor Sagay stated reasons why the average Nigerian youth is unfit to hold the highest political office in the country, labeling youth clamoring for such as being shallow minded.

Part of reasons given by Professor Sagay is that, the average Nigerian youth is consumed by a get rich quick mentality and does not recognize the importance of climbing up the success ladder gradually. As much as this piece is not aimed at joining issues with the erudite Professor, it is imperative to reject the notion that majority of Nigerian youth possess a get rich quick mentality. This generalization is where my concern lies.

A lot has been said about the leadership capability of the Nigerian youth. A large section of the society holds the belief that the average Nigerian youth is unfit to occupy leadership position, most especially a political office. Young people have been tagged to be irrational, impulsive and lacking in wisdom the requisite ability expected of a leader, this is untrue.

Nigeria has an abundance of youth who have proven to be astute leaders in their selected fields. Not peculiar to this generation only; history has repeatedly shown that if provided the space, Nigerian youths have what it takes to take over the mantle of leadership and effect change. Take the case of a young Yakubu Gowon or a young Anthony Enahoro who both in their early days effected change in the country having found themselves in positions to do so.

Perhaps, a much valid argument should be centered on the willingness of the Nigerian youth to vie for political office or even participate in the political process of the country. Disenchanted, the average Nigerian youth views the political process of the country as a reservation for the elderly and elite, not wanting to be a part of the process whatsoever. Not to be blamed though, the ruling class has turned the political space into a closed circuit, putting in place constraints that make it hard for youths to get involved, thereby, limiting active participation to members of their class only. This has led to calmour for youth inclusion through various platforms.

YIAGA Africa, a youth led organization at the forefront of the Age reduction campaign popularly referred to as the #NotTooYoungToRun Bill, has done well to champion the cause for participation of Nigerian youths in the electoral process. The Bill which seeks to reduce age requirements in vying for elective offices will pave the way for youths to participate in the electoral process not as campaign merchants this time around, but as candidates in elections themselves. Now the onus is on the youth to maximize this opportunity and make sure come 2019, our voices are heard in the political arena.

With the Age reduction Bill poised to become law soon as it awaits Presidential assent, there will certainly be an influx of youths running for political office in the forthcoming 2019 general elections no doubt. Be that as it may, it is more important for Nigerian youth to understand that active political participation entails more than just trying to run for elective office. It involves active participation in the process of choosing candidates itself, which of course is only possible by becoming an active member of a political party.

The mentality surrounding joining a political party among Nigerian youth must change if we are to maximize the opportunity the Age reduction Bill has presented in the forthcoming 2019 general elections. Our social contract with the government can only be upheld if we become a part of the political process and not leave it to a section of the society. A state thrives on inclusivity of all segments of the society.

As Professor Sagay rightly mentioned in his interview, no one is stopping the youth from taking power, they need to join the fray he said. Joining the fray in this case is participation at all levels of the political process, from party primaries through election proper.

Developed countries of the world, most notably Austria are leading the charge in placing the affairs of the country in the hands of the youth, with a 31-year old Prime Minister whose political history only commenced few years ago at the helm of affairs in the country. This are tendencies that should be emulated in this part of the world too.

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