Anytime I’m asked about the chances of youths winning the 2019 elections, my immediate reaction is to come up with a sharp, unambiguous, ‘NO’. Most times though, I need to soften the blow of that brutal answer especially if my interrogator is an aspiring politician or somebody with some oblique or direct interest in the political fortunes of some young person.
In an ideal situation, that question is mute. In such an environment, we would be thinking of the best candidates for elective posts. Why that question is so pertinent is because of the obvious failure of the oldies to lead the country to prosperity. Like Woke Soyinka eloquently put it, we are being led by a ‘wasted generation.‘
Back to the matter of youths and the probability of winning the 2019 elections. Two incidences would serve to illustrate how I feel about youths and elective posts in Nigeria.
The first was in 2010. Election season was in full swing. All characters were emerging from their holes to test the waters. The front-runner was the incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan. However, certain interests in the North felt he had to step down for Northerner.
From his hideout in Minna, From Military President Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (IBB) threw a red herring to the public about his ambition to become president. Any right thinking youth would have taught that was a joke (or so I thought). It wasn’t so long ago that this man almost destroyed the country when he canceled one of the freest and fairest elections in Nigeria.
Surprisingly, at least to me, many youths came out to support him. I engaged one of them online and asked if he knew who IBB really was. The man was passionate about IBB’s candidature. He thought the man was the best candidate because of his past record in power!
This is just one of many youths scattered across the country willing and able to become foot soldiers for a man like IBB. It was really surreal.
The second incidence occurred a couple of years ago. I heard through the grapevine that a young uncle was running around looking for the job of an aide to elected public office holders. He confirmed it was true when I called him.
According to him, that was the way things are done in Nigeria. That to succeed as a young politician, you have to be ready to be an underling to an influential politician. The only exception, according to him, is if you are the son or relative of one of them.
He even reminded me how Rochas Okorocha started.
Solomon Lar, one-time governor of Plateau State and one of the founding fathers of the PDP pushed Rochas to where he was. As the minister of police Affairs in Obasanjo’s First term, Lar awarded Rochas a huge contract to supply police vehicles to all formations across the country.
Then later, his influence saw Rochas appointed the Chairman of The Nigerian Airspace Management Agency after a short stint as adviser to President Obasanjo. Not many people know this: Rochas was Lar’s political godson
This uncle intends to replicate the same template to the top. To be clear, many young men across the country are doing the same thing. The National Assembly is littered with brilliant young people just content to work as political aides to these old men.
A cultural and traditional phenomenon
Though democracy is a western concept, we have not been able to separate it from many aspects of our culture, including the bad ones. In all communities in Nigeria, respect for elders is considered a sign of good training. That extends to and plays a huge role in politics.
Youths are encouraged not to challenge the elders. They should simply wait for their turn. And to be honest, without the blessings of the elders, winning the 2109 elections is just a pipe dream.
Even if the old men decide to step aside, what are the chances they would anoint their sons and daughters to replace them? It is already happening in the country. On several occasions Nigeria News reported how political leaders are using their influence to place their kids in strategic positions across the country.
For instance, the son of the Emir of Kano recently graduated from the Police Academy. On the surface, the question would be, why would the son of such a powerful man become a mere policeman? That is strategic planning.
That young man is likely going to spend all his time as a policeman in some cushy office simply waiting for the day he would be made the Inspector General of Police. Or barring that, a top position of considerable influence in the police. In the future, this is a man primed to do the bidding of his old dad as an influential policeman.
The socioeconomic situation is so rigged to disenfranchise the political aspirations of Nigerian youths. The message is clear, if the youths want to win an election, they have to fall in line behind the older generation.
For now, and in the foreseeable future, that is the fate of the Nigerian youth. Even if a miracle were to happen and suddenly all the youths were to unite for a common cause, the 2019 election is too soon. Taking over should be a long-term plan.
So once again, except in a few inconsequential positions, the youths have no chance of winning the 2019 elections.