Youth and Politics: What do you really have to offer?

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Youth on one hand (generally accepted to be the collection of people between the ages of 18 and 40) and politics on the other hand have been two parallel lines we thought would remain parallel forever.

Recent events over the course of this present decade is however pointing otherwise, the emergence of a 38 years old Emil Dimitriev as an Acting Prime Minister of the Republic of Macedonia,a 34 years old Kim Jong Un as the Supreme Leader of North Korea, a 25 years old Sebastian Kurz as Chancellor of Austria and more proclaimed is the recent election of a 39 years old Emmanuel Macron as the president of France.

It is therefore obvious that youth involvement is a wind of change sweeping across the world weather anyone likes it or not.

Now coming to this part of the world, in our clamor as youth for increased involvement in politics it is expedient that we understand the how these proclaimed heroes of youth involvement in politics got there, what they tabled before the electorate that no other candidate offered which proved pivotal in winning for them the heart of the masses.

The youths have failed to understand why Emmanuel Macron and Sebastian Kurz both won their elections. They have chosen to ignore the reason to have a purpose for service.  The People’s Party in Austria kept the issue of immigration at the front and centre throughout the election and they won. While Macron was pro-EU, his opponent was not and both sides argued for the benefits their stands will bring to the people. But what do the Nigerian youths have for the people – apart from the fact that they are youths?

Shehu Shagari became a Federal Legislator at the age of 30 and a Minister at the age of 35. M.T. Mbu became a Minister at the age of 25 and Nigeria’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom at the age of 26. Richard Akinjide became Minister of Education at the age of 32. Maitama Sule became Oil Minister at the age of 29. Audu Ogbeh was a Minister at the age of 35. He is still serving today as the minister of Agriculture.

In contrast, today’s reality is a polity where Nigerian youths are used as election consultants, social media battalions, and political thugs.

Many have blamed the new trend on a conspiracy of the elite class who just cannot stand the idea of vacating the scene for the younger generation creating a system that makes it impossible for young people to emerge and succeed in politics and governance. While this perspective is not entirely incorrect, there are more than enough premises to validate the argument that Nigerian youths are their biggest problem.

Greed, selfish ambition, lack of capacity and “over-competition” have conspired to weaken the ability of Nigerian youths to collaborate effectively as a united front that advances the well-being of young Nigerians.

Being a youth, we need not be fooled into think running a country is like playing a video game – say, SimCity for instance. Ask any youth today – what do you find wrong with the current administration and you get nothing. It is appalling that the youths who are supposed to strategize a way forward, advise the government and volunteer to help make the nation great are joining the oldies in fault-finding and name-calling.

The advocacy for more youths in politics and governance does not automatically guarantee good governance, there are young people who are incompetent, dishonest and corrupt. I have been a passionate advocate of youth in politics and governance but I’m always quick to add that they must be young people with character, integrity, a pedigree, and a track-record, what they have done and where they are coming from.
Packaging and social media followership is the language of today’s generation, but it does not qualify you for leadership. Young people must start asking aspiring leaders, especially fellow youths: what have you done? Show us your resume.

We must also encourage young Nigerians to build capacity first before parading themselves as superstars. There are no short cuts. A good number of our elders may have stumbled on leadership at a very youthful age, but increasingly, today’s reality requires competence and hard work.

Develop Your capacity, Build an antecedence then present yourself for service, only them will you have a credible claim to any electoral position of office.

 

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