Suddenly a new political fever is gripping the nation. If I ask you to guess, you are likely to point to the two major political parties, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) and also tell me how useless they have become to our quest for a new Nigeria. I am not sure I will agree to that position if my attention was drawn to the issue but that is not what I have in mind. My focus is on the talk that old leaders should retire or take the back sit and allow the young ones not only to lead but dictate the pace in major facets of national life.
The National Assembly set the tune on this issue with the decision to amend the portion of the Constitution, which places advanced age limit for contesting into various political offices. From what we know the National Assembly has concluded work but the President is withholding assent on account of controversy surrounding attempt by the same assembly to make a new law to effect changes in the sequence of elections away from what it has been.
The move by the legislature to amend the provisions on age limit to public offices is a good one. When you look at what the military promulgated in the constitution they handed over to the civilians in 1999, one can see the harm the military leaders and some of their civilian collaborators did to our nation. For instance the prescription says except you are 35 and 40 years you are not eligible to run for either the office of the governor or the president. A critical review of the anomaly would show the promoters either did not believe in the law of natural progression, which allows a brilliant and exceptional young man to break the ranks and climb the ladder or they felt the system they created is devoid of capacity to groom competent young successors.
For if they believed in the dictum that the young shall grow and that yesterday’s child would become the father of today, we won’t still have on the political stage and in fact as front drivers the Obasanjos, Babangidas and the Buharis. They would have been in the system but their number would have been few and of a far less significance. The scene definitely would have looked different and I want to believe far better given the level of human capital development our nation has attained. Progress has been stalled and national vision terribly distorted if not vanquished and consigned to the dustbin by a group who carved our country in such a manner that it has become so difficult for the young to move into strategic national leadership positions. The existing law’s age limit is retrogressive and very bad one. It is difficult to calculate the damage it has done to our nation and to the young ones themselves. The move by the legislature is now a victim of political controversy and if the truth must be said, the blame for this must be put at the doorstep of the legislature and this would be because it has become the style of our legislators to run with good ideas when the time is no longer auspicious.
The bills on “Not Too Young To Run” and the sequence of elections are good but because they left them until the eve of a major general election, the motives are rightly being misconstrued. I will still want to see the age prescription further reduced, for instance a well-trained young man at 30 can be president of this country and a 25-year-old can be a governor and excel in good governance. What we require to do is to create a national vision, back it up with a national development plan for the next 50 years with timelines or benchmarks; this is what other nations do. Northern leaders who served in the Ministry of Education killed the impartation of radical and critical thinking in the universities when they began the campaign that university lecturers “who teach what they are not supposed to teach” should be dismissed.
Lecturers should be encouraged to impart critical thinking and ability to analyze and decode objective social conditions. It should be for all students whether you are in the sciences, social sciences or the arts. General studies should be a four-year compulsory course in all our tertiary institutions. These days when you talk to tertiary institutions graduates, many of them can hardly comprehend issues around them not to talk of ability to intellectually analyze the same. No nation can grow with this kind of graduates and I want to believe that this is part of the dilemma we face with the quest that young people should take over.
There is something that is not right in the mentality of the young generation and that is the thinking that they should be spoon-fed. I have had many of them say the old ones should just vacate scene and retire. It is important they are told that life is not like that. There is no society where you evacuate the experienced in totality and replace them with the young ones; if per chance it happens, failure and anarchy are inevitable. I am not talking out of foresight, this projection is based on reality, those who know history, would know that our case is not the first time such a campaign has come up in the world. In fact Germany had “Junges Deutschland”, Italy had “Young Italy” and America had by 1845 “Young Americans”.
The American venture offers our youths a good example especially in the sense that the proponents who were mainly young people knew that the adventure is not a short term exercise but a long time vision. They also knew that you are not carried into power, you take power and for that reason they formed a political party and committed themselves to a new vision of what America should look like under their watch. They spoke for instance about what they called “New Flight”, they talked of “rapid move into a new, expanded era of consolidation.” In their position paper is found fundamental issues like “new era of commercial development, technological advancement, massive improvement in communication, massive rail network to link the nation as if the separate settlements were limbs and organs of a single body.” They had expansionist ambition and industrial dominance of the world. They knew the importance of culture as a transformational tool and they told Americans they would rework existing literatures to reflect the kind of society they want America to be.
In the first election the Young American Party won about 25 legislative seats and four years after, their presidential candidate, James K. Polk, won the election. He didn’t last long because the party discountenanced the importance of age, competence and experience. We need to learn something from there. The Agbakobas, Dukes and the Tafawa Balewas believe they want the young to rule, the old is forming their party and possibly writing their vision. They are still planning few months to the commencement of a general election and they want to win the biggest trophy within 6 months.