The emergence of the national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as the party’s presidential candidate, and former Vice President Abubakar Atiku as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential standard bearer appears to have put a stop to the aspiration of some youth to govern the country. TOPE SUNDAY takes a look at the scenario.
Before the parties’ presidential and other primaries, the Nigerian Youth Ambassador to the United States, Dr. Raymond Edoh, vowed said the Nigerian youth were ready for elective positions, and argued that many youths were ready to take up the mantle of leadership in the country and described them as “the most educated.”
Edoh, who is also the secretary-general, Nigerian Youth Congress (NYC), told Blueprint Weekend that youths are the backbone of the country, but admitted that finances may be the only factor preventing them from contesting elections.
He said: “The youth are the most educated, so if anyone is saying that the youth are not ready to occupy positions of authority, then he’s wrong. I think the only part I will agree with is the financial challenge in contesting political offices. We don’t have the money to spend on campaigns for different elective offices.
But in the country, the number of the youths who came for the presidential contests across party lines was fewer despite the call for the 30 per cent affirmative action for the youth in 2023 by the President of the Nigerian Youth Congress (NYC), Comrade Blessing A. Akinlosotu.
Akinlosotu had exclusively told this medium while leading the debate that youths should be given some considerations that will make their participation in politics easier, saying the youth should enjoy the equal treatment women politicians have.
“We want to enjoy the same leverage that women enjoy. If a woman can be given a free form in these major political parties, definitely the youth ought to be given the same leverage, and the same opportunity. So, I think we have not gotten there yet,” he said.
Though some youth participated in some of the presidential primaries of other political parties, the number of the youths who participated in both the APC and PDP’s presidential primaries was fewer considering the number of the older aspirants.
Among 25 aspirants that bought APC’s presidential tickets, only the 40-year-old US-based Pastor, Nicholas Felix, could be regarded as the youth although the governor of Kogi state, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, who is 46 years old, can also be categorised as a youth.
However, in the PDP camp, there were none of the aspirants that fell below 50 years, the development, which many observers said was a setback for the aspiration of the youth to contest the presidential election on the platform of the party.
The emergence of the Tinubu and Atiku as the presidential candidates of APC, and the PDP respectfully, and coupled with the emerging third force presidential flag- bearers, Mr. Peter Obi of Labour Party and Engr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) has narrowed the 2023 presidential election contest among the four of them.
However, a quick check at their ages revealed that they are not youths in all forms, but according to political observers, that does not deny them the right to the one seat of the country.
According to the internet material sourced on Wednesday, Tinubu is 70 years old having been said to have been born on March 29, 1952; Atiku was born on November 25, 1946; Obi is 60 years old having been born on July 17, 1961, while Kwankwaso was born on October 21, 1956 (65 years old).
But speaking in Abuja Thursday at the 2022 Democracy Lecture organised by the Nigerian Youth Congress (NYC), the special senior assistant to the president on youth and student affairs, Dr. Nasir Adhama, decried the youth’s non-participation in politics despite President Muhammadu Buhari’s creation of a level playing ground.
Represented by the technical assistant to the Presidential Youth Empowerment Scheme in the office of SSA on Youth and Student Affairs to the president, Dr. Aminu Abdullahi Isyaku, Adhama, said: “We all know that this country is blessed in abundance with the population and the youth almost make up the bulk of the entire country’s population. And as such, there cannot be any election in this country without the involvement of the youth. We have seen how this president (Muhammadu Buhari) has increased activity like a very transparent process, and has allowed open fields for everybody to contest.
“We can see candidates, but imagine that out of the many political parties that we have, we can only boast of having just a few that have fielded youths as their presidential candidates for election. And then the question is why? Despite the fact that we form the bulk of the population of this country, do we need to push the youth agenda? Nobody can push the youth agenda on our behalf. We have to do it ourselves.”
A don’s regrets
However, a lecturer at the Baze University Abuja, Dr. Suleiman Barnabas, said it is unfortunate that the major political parties could not produce younger candidates, adding that the next president of the country would emerge among the aforementioned parties.
Barnabas, of the faculty of Management and Social Sciences of the university, who spoke exclusively to Blueprint Weekend in Abuja, said: “Well, it’s unfortunate that we are unable to get younger candidates in the major political parties. My take is that most likely, the next president of Nigeria will come from either of those parties. But whether or not they are going to bring about the change that the youth yearn for is something we still stand to see. I’ve gone through some of their manifestos and there is nothing different from what we have, except all these regular promises of revamping the economy, securing the nation, but the blueprints towards getting there are what we don’t see.
“So, what you see now is that the existing political structure is still in place. It’s nothing more than the issue of the rotation of the elite. So, whether they are going to bring anything fresh from what we have had since 1999, because these politicians have all been involved from the beginning of the Fourth Republic, whether it’s Tinubu or Atiku Abubakar; so, the youth are concerned and that’s why there seems to be a revolution going on.
“That is why they are looking for somebody who is a bit different though, he has been part of the political system as the one who comes with fresh ideas, something that the youth want to hear in person of Peter Obi. However, whether that drive is going to deliver votes is what we cannot actually say for now.”
The lecturer, while decrying the poor performance of the youth in the primaries of the both APC and PDP presidential primaries, said: “The problem is that we have a political structure that is in the hands of these old politicians and it requires a lot of finance for you to rescue it from them. Unfortunately, the youth are in a criminal alliance with these people who have the powers in our nation. What we have are youths who are dependent on the old structure.
“What happened during the primaries of the major political parties was a reflection of the political culture that Nigeria has found itself. We have a situation where the young people have been undermined by the independent thinking of their own minds, but because of money. They have been co-opted into the system that marginalises them.”
Barnabas, however, said with the current political arrangement, the possibility of a youth to become the president is not visible and realisable for now.
He said: “If I have to be realistic, I do not see it for now (to have a youth as the president). In 2027, you mean? That’s difficult to achieve. Who is the vice-president that you have? Are they the governorship candidates? And history has shown that the governors have a say in who becomes the president of this country. So, if you have old men becoming governors, old men becoming ministers, old men becoming commissioners, that tells you that it will be difficult for people to just come to dethrone them, unless there is a revolution. It is not a violent revolution.
“Even those who are related to the powers that be, and you thought would have been independent, you will find them forming alliances with these politicians and once they are given money, they will tell you leadership is for tomorrow.
“Why is it that the Not Too Young To Run Bill has not been translated into youth leadership? It is because the youth that we have at the moment who are politically involved are youths that have been mentored by these criminal sets of old leaders, people that have occupied positions of power, and they will continue to perpetuate themselves in power, especially that they have the resources that make that possible.”
YPP youth leader’s lamentations
Speaking in a telephone interview with our reporter, the deputy national youth leader, Young Progressive Party (YPP), Comrade Gbenga Owoyombo, said the there is no hope for the youth to take the mantle of leadership anything soon, adding that the older generation has hijacked the process and reportedly determined to recycle themselves in power.
He said: “There is no hope for Nigeria, and it is good that all that played out has shown us clearly why the these parties, PDP and APC, don’t want to give us power without fighting for it. It is clear now that they did not want us but preferred to recycle themselves. Imagine, a man who has the issue of age declaration is coming to rule us even at 79. So, for us, we don’t need to fold our hands. If we want to have an effective country and government, but with the government of the old mind, the country will never move forward.
“It is high time for us, the youth, to come together and partner with the party that belongs to us, to join the party that stands in the gap, and that is the Young Progressives Party. Now it is time for Nigerians to put efforts together and see how this party will grow, and become the party of the day.
“We like it or not, this is the only party where our rights as youths can be protected, it is the party where our interest will be protected.
“We have seen money play in some other parties, and some of our friends who believe in the development of our economy have lost out; and it is unfortunate that they will not be on the ballot. Now, Nigerians are confused on who they should elect as the president, and other elective positions, that will make a good nation that we have always dreamt of. It is high time to put our feet on the ground and make sure that we do the right thing in our lives, and elect a leader that is worthwhile.”
30% youth affirmative action
Despite the emergence of the presidential candidates of the major political parties, the President of the Nigerian Youth Congress (NYC), Comrade Blessing Akinlosotu, said the next government would consider the youth in its appointment, arguing that the president alone is not the government.
Akinlosotu, who spoke exclusively to Blueprint Weekend in Abuja, said: “There a lot of opportunities. I think, what we discussed was majorly 30 percent affirmative action. Government is not only run by the president and possibly there is a vice president, and that it is a cabinet. When you are talking about the cabinet, we are talking about ministers, heads of agencies and parastatal.
“We hope that when they constitute the cabinet, our agitation will be affirmed. What we are talking about across board in the Federal Executive Council is that with the ministers of ten, three of them should be young persons. Also, in the agencies and parastatal, we are also expecting 30 percent of the youth.
“And not only that, we are already aware that the SAs, PAs, and others, are majorly appointing the young people because they believe in their intellectual capacity and we hope that the agitation must continue. Meanwhile, it is not just for the federal government, we hope that it should also be for the state down to the local government.
“So, our hope is that the government that we that we are going to work with, and, we are going to work for, must be able to sign a pact with us; because that is the only way we can give them to you with our mandate, which is our votes. And, if they agree to that, they will definitely make it as one of their policy statements.”
He, however, said the youth have hope of governing the country, but with an admonition that they should participate in the party’s politics.
The NYC boss said: “Youth have a very strong hope. The honest truth is that the political parties in Nigeria have made it very difficult for the younger generation to emerge flag bearers. If you follow the trend of what happened during the primary elections, you will understand, and will also agree with me that it is a money-bag that had the day.
“We don’t have the monetary muscle, but we have the numerical strength and we can deliver effectively. The only thing is that we need to be strategic in collaborating with them for now, and subsequently, we can be able to achieve a greater result to have the younger generation in the position of authority. I still have the belief and hope that one day, a young man will become governor and president of this country.”