Nigerian Youths Are Not Too Ripe to Run

“But please, can I ask you to postpone your campaigns till after the 2019 elections!”-President Muhammadu Buhari (31/05/2018)

Since Fuad II that took power in Egypt at the age of 6 months up to Matteo Ciacci, the youngest current serving state leader as Captain Regent of San Marino whom took power at the age of 28, from year 2000 to date, out of all 194 countries recognized by the United Nations, less than 5% of their leaders were under the age of 30.  As at 2018, there is no head of state that is under the age of 25. In Africa, there is no current head of state that is under the age of 40. Even amongst the said ‘less than 5%’ were leaders tagged ‘dictators’ because they didn’t emerge through acceptable democratic processes. The dynamics keeps changing against the youth because even advanced democracies began to elect leaders that aged above 50; United States of America, United Kingdom and Germany are a good example.

Do not expect a ‘Pendulum’-kind of quality in this write-up. The reader may find this piece full of inconsistencies, ignore. I’m just a naïve student-writer trying to make a case, touching a ‘no go area’, as my education and background is completely non-political.  I knew making public contributions on some perspectives do come with repercussions and consequences, sometimes dare, I am willing to take any retaliatory stick that may come afterwards from the political ‘godfathers’ as long as the youth of my dear country get my points, believe and act upon them. On this summarized fragment I tried to raise key points that proves to Nigerian Youth that they are not ready for 2019. Arguably, they would have to mount a monumental challenge to be able to make reasonable impact come 2023 general elections in Nigeria.

In 1953, a young 23 old British trained Lawyer from Cross River State Matthew Tawo Mbu was appointed Federal Minister in Nigeria. He is still the youngest person to occupy ministerial position in Nigeria. History was made on Thursday 31st May 2018 when President Muhammadu Buhari signed ‘Not Too Young to Run’ bill into law, thus becoming an act of National Assembly, a law of the Federal Republic Nigeria. Sections 65, 106, 131, 177 of 1999 constitution were amended, reducing ages of those contesting for President, members of national and state assemblies to 35 and 25 respectively. 35 years age requirement for Governors and senators was retained. The feat is very encouraging because it puts Nigeria into global perspective, even though the bill does not guarantee automatic leadership by youth but it opens up a huge opportunity for youth to make an immediate impact into the political process.

The bill signed into law in Nigeria got wider support across Nigeria but due to the fact that more than half of anticipated 180 million population of Nigerians are projected to be under the age of 30. History will forever be kind to Hon. Udeh Okoye, a lawmaker from Enugu State, as initial sponsor of the bill at House of Representatives. The process started on 26thMay 2016 and apparently concluded on 31st May 2018.

According to UNESCO, the United Nations (UN), for statistical consistency across regions, defines ‘youth’, as those persons between the ages of 15 and 24 years, without prejudice to other definitions by Member States. All UN statistics on youth are based on this definition. It would be difficult not to acknowledge the fact that Nigerian youth exhaled in various fields of human and technological endeavor. Rufa’I Mukoshy of Gigalayer, Amina Yahaya, Dr Bilyaminu Romo, Igho Sanomi, Ladi Delano, Nasir Yammama, Wizkid, Davido, Olamide and Tiwa Savage, Audu Maikori, Uche Pedro. But significant number of youth in Nigeria a engaged in questionable characters, a bulk of them are uneducated, especially those from northern part of Nigeria. A zone that produces one of the most popular and aspiring-successful politicians. Interestingly, sponsor of the Bill, Nigeria Minister for Youth & Sports Development, Special Adviser to president on Youth are all above the United Nations age threshold for youth. For us to analyze youth impact we need to look at government policies on education and other useful data to buttress any useful point. There is no national political policy, there is no national strategy, and there is not social policy blueprint and indeed no any policy document developed by any political party in Nigeria that is consistent with government policies. It is indeed difficult to assume that passage of ‘Not Too Young To Run’ bill into law could on its own change transcends of Nigeria’s politics.

Apart from age requirement, there are two other requirements that are key for anyone aspiring for political office; educational qualification and indegeneship. Of course one could not be an indigene of any ward, local government or state without being a Nigerian. One of the major problems with Nigeria is absence of dynamic baseline data that allows accurate analysis. As at 2018, apart from Bank Verification Number (BVN) infrastructure which Nigeria Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS) PLC reported to have recorded 30.6 Million people in 2017, there is no single database that stores accurate biometric details of more that 20% of Nigerian population. Even National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), which was established over a decade ago, enrolled only 18.5 Million as at 2017, their DG said. The danger is Nigeria is heading to serious ‘e’ challenges in the near future because NIBSS is a company established after NIMC but they had more reliable data than a Government agency of the same country. It is fair to say that some individuals behave smarter than our nation because NIBSS was established 14 years before our country wakes up and established NIMC. That shows how difficult it is to conduct accurate projection in Nigeria without having to rely on outsourced data. No wonder why since 1820 when Nigeria Police Force was established, 774 Local Governments currently-legally recognized in Nigeria not a single police station is virtually connected to another in ‘real-time’ for sharing intelligence with police-police and citizens-police and vice versa, but we surely have @PoliceNG_PCRRU twitter handle.

Nevertheless, let’s do some facts check to serve as basis of some of my arguments. According to 2017 National Universities Commission Statistics, (although Executive Secretary NUC admitted that they did not have an accurate data), which was released recently, there were 1.9 million students studying in Nigerian Universities. The consequences is that even if we assume that those at age of 30 and below are considered youth in Nigeria, and assuming 1.9 million students were all Nigerians, the number constitutes less than 2.5% of total youth of Nigeria. Considering the size of Nigeria, the number is way too low. Even if the total number were to engage into full time politics only magic could enable it make an impact. This is because Nigeria has 68 registered political parties. Lets assume the 774 local governments in Nigeria were going to filed a candidate for councillorship, chairmanship all through top level offices, the number would be way too low. But, that would never be realistic because some of the graduates are ‘professional graduates’ with medical, law, accounting and other ‘sought after’ degrees that hardly go into politics after graduation.

Additionally, quality of education matters a lot in the output made by politicians across the world. But, strangely in Nigeria there is course to worry about. Sutton trust report shows that 9 in 10 MPs in UK attained University Degree, which is the highest proportion in the world. In Nigeria, Centre for Public policy alternatives report shows that over 50% of Nigerian senators have a University Degree and about 30% have either masters of a PhD degrees. Not a bad comparison but the challenge is the impact made by lawmakers of the two countries in question. The output is also very alarming compared to the income they generate, in 2012/2013 for example US senate passed 297 bills compared to 62 passed by Nigerian senate despite each of them earning salary 1000% more than that a US senator. That shows why the country’s youth must be worried because financial stipends really matters when it comes to identifying wether or not the ‘old guards’ are willing to surrender to new breed. Again, would the youth have the financial power to challenge them in Nigeria? It doesn’t cost exorbitantly to contest in most of the developed countries compared to Nigeria. UK Conservatives report shows that it costs around N17m equivalent to contest an MP election including campaign processes in UK. In comparison, about same period in Nigeria, one of the political party’s nominations for senate alone costs N4.5m.

The point I am trying to make here is that you need much more than age reduction for Nigerian youth to exhale as a politician. Although one may find few exceptions due to luck (like former President Jonathan) and mentors and parental platforms (such as Bukola Saraki and his protégé Abdulfatah Ahmed) Money, qualification, contacts ‘at the top’, experience, loyalty to old guards, perseverance, consistency, fearlessness, exposure to political mentors’ frailties are amongst the attributes required to succeed as a politician in Nigeria. The above facts and several other issues makes one to ask the following questions; is the bill signed to ensure youth participate more in politics or just to address what the used asked their National Assembley to do? How do we measure impacts made by politicians for us to be able to know if the impacts them make could be basis for challenging them in future? Also, the impacts upon what? then, what are the youth coming to do at age of 25? Any youth that could not answer those questions would have to think twice before even approaching any political party let alone think of aspiring for political office. Alternatively, one has to go solo as an independent candidate since it is currently being considered by Nigerian Senate and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), so that candidate could chase independent voters in Nigeria. The voters themselves, whom constitute good proportion of youth weren’t making it easy for upcoming politicians, simply because they were the ones the ‘old guards’ use to achieve their political goals either ‘by hook or by crook’

Even though Nigerian politics is not built around national strategy, political parties’ manifesto, or national party’s blue print, Nigerian youth have not shown to us they have identified any gap within the political system to make a case for themselves. Majority of the youth that are currently occupying elected positions are either ‘anointed’ or by certain necessities. Therefore, only if the youth address the points made would find a breathing space within Nigerian political sphere: First pointer is the maturity level of 21st century ‘modern Nigerians’; one may say well the likes of ‘IBB’ Buhari, Gowon, Ogbeh etc came into national limelight at early age, well I doubt very much is the kind of ingredients used as recipe to their meals is equivalent to ones enjoyed by current youth. We are no more in Military dictatorship, this is democracy. One may argue that Nigeria had young breeds that got to the top recently like Rt Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, Dr Nurudeen Muhammed, Dimeji Dankole, Nasir Adhama but the fact is that out of all the above, only Dr. Nurudeen hasn’t been in mainstream politics before he became Minister of Federal Republic of Nigeria.

It is therefore vital for Nigerian youth to start engaging themselves in political activities from both grassroots levels and at educational institutions. Another problem is the level of maturity of Nigerian youth at 25. Due to high number of people working in the public service, a degree qualification or its equivalent has been a benchmark for Nigerian youth before getting any ‘white collar’ job in Nigeria, in other words, a ranking job that provide monthly income that could manageably sustain one. Such jobs are normally available at financial institutions, oil companies, FIRS, military and paramilitary organizations. Consequently, youth that graduates at under the ages of 25 to 29 normally target such jobs rather than engage in mainstream politics. Additionally, politicians doesn’t normally nominate ‘amateurs’ into key political positions, thus depriving them the opportunities to start learning politics as their first fulltime job. Furthermore, an ordinary fresh graduate is normally only waiting for National Youth Service before deciding his fate, hence couldn’t bother much about politics. May be lack of adequate guidance and counseling in the education sector from bottom-top affects their choices? If the youth start challenging from councillorship upwards it would make sense, but bunch of the youth we see on social media are feeling too big to contest for councilors at their wards, they think bigger than their level. That is why I see an indirect trick being played on them.  To me, it makes more sense clearing age and other barriers at local levels (councilor or chairman) so that the youth could use such platforms as the first steps to launch themselves before jumping to state and national politics. This current bill is in some way only rubbing sweet and scent smell to noses of youth, taking their thought away from them than allowing them start from grassroots. Another suggestion is to set age and experience benchmark that allows politicians to progress from local all through national politics, a sort of promotion into higher political position based of political office they hold in proceeding years. In nutshell, if the youth did not come together and address this issue in an honest and objective way politicians could use the bill as a barrier that separates the youth and the ‘old guards’.

A lot of youth within the mainstream group calling for implementation of ‘Not Too Young to Run’ have not been in active politics and research on those invited by President Buhari during signing of the bill shows that only about 3 of them are under 25. That is indeed a worry, because clear signs from May 2016 shows that the bill may likely scale through but the group did not make any strategic plan to prepare the youth of Nigeria against 2019. There is virtually nothing on ground to prove that Nigerian youth are ready to challenge the old guards in 2019. Elections are contested with aim of nothing but winning, participating may be a good platform to announce oneself, but 2019 is far too close for Nigerian youth. As 05/06/2018, INEC countdown timer on their portal shows we have 255 days to general elections.

From National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) to National Youth Council of Nigeria NYCN there is hardly a time when their leadership were not in fracas, sometimes even leading to having parallel factions. The two are one of the most important pillars for Nigerian youth, a platform for them to set the stage running in preparation for mainstream politics. More often than not, you find the ‘old guards’ mediating between them, which, most of the time not being done to favor the right faction. That alone tells one that Nigerian politicians are very much aware of status of Nigerian youth since before they join conventional politics. Nigerian youth are divided; it is their responsibility to find what divide them but you cant takeaway regional politics, personal ambitions, political lineage or even possibly religion. If you cant put your houses in order do not expect anyone out there to take you serious. Not much has been done to update both NANS and NYCN constitutions, politics is not a football game or a form of entrepreneurial venture where you dictate the pace of the game, you got to play smart, this is now the right time for youth to capitalize on ‘Not Too Young to Run’ act and make necessary adjustments to their respective constitutions to align with new trend. Getting things done is not the only problem with Nigeria but doing it in the right way and indeed at the right time. Hey youth, being young, good looking, educated with ambitions and youthful exuberances are not the only attributes that guarantee success in Nigeria’s political landscape. If I have extra worry is the fact that the movement that started ‘Not too Young to Run’ has not been replicated by Women to ensure any credible change is made in 1999 constitution to make them more relevant in Nigerian politics. Movements like ‘Not Too Poor to Run’, ‘Women should Run for Free’, ‘Too Old To Run’, ‘Fifty Percent Portion for Women’ etc should be considered in the very near future. We need to see peaceful and legitimate movements that address issues beyond politics. They say ‘politicians never quit’, which, if the saying is true there is no chance that any of them to could willingly surrender or retire for youth to take over. Even if they step aside for natural deformity such as old age or any serious physical disability, they may likely continue to play the game using other means due to their long-term relevance to the system. It is clear notion that lots of the old politicians are very important, useful and assets, at the same time liabilities. There is no clear proof to link the so called ‘political illuminati’ syndrome, but we have really seen several instances where politicians keeps recycling themselves, sometimes changing slogans, political party affiliations or chasing a different political position, but retain the same ideology; being politically relevant; having permanent interests, always.  No wonder some of them came back after three decades or more to take similar positions they held before. We need a very thoughtful, smart and timely process to deactivate them or at least put them on ‘slow motion’ mode in the interest not just the youth but for Nigeria as a whole.

Nigeria’s political class took time to conquer the mindsets of Nigerians, a lot of them are well educated, well connected, rich and very well prepared in politics, they didn’t just get it on a platter of gold, they labored and sacrificed a lot to get to where they are, some are in their 70s now but they got into politics at teen ages. It takes a lot of underground and physical work to dislodge them. I wouldn’t say it is impossible but I didn’t see it coming in soon. Did they commit any crime against the youth to warrant dislodgement? The youth should decide. It is in that regard that I hereby support my President’s indirect call to Nigerian youth that 2019 is not for them, but 2023. Nevertheless, going forward, my suggestions to Nigerian youth are to do the following:

  1. Create Achievable National Strategy that supersedes existing one (if at all there is one) in quality.

2.Get a party that adopts it as blueprint.

3. Build a manifesto to reflect on it.

4. Source for ‘legitimate’ funding, although they say ‘legitimate’ the word doesn’t exist during political fundraising. But I firmly believe in ‘never hustle through the back (illegitimate door’ as said by one of the youth, Iceprince Zamani.

5. Get credible ‪youth to represent them and all the interests they encompass.

6. Build more and more contacts not only within your locality but all across the globe, as we have seen several instances where financially dormant candidates were sponsored by non-political third parties and ended up victorious. President Buhari is an example of such generosity.

7. Start contesting for high political offices by 2023.

Do the needful, timely and wisely or, despite the fact that we have not too young to run act in existence, just assume that you are not too ripe to run and win any of the high political offices in Nigeria come 2019.

Nasir is a Nigerian, a Consultant from Stratford, London United Kingdom.

He could be reached on:

Twitter: @nasirdaniya


+2348138051973 (SMS & WhatsApp only)

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