By Laide Raheem, Abeokuta
Former president Olusegun Obasanjo has challenged Nigerian youths to tackle the old generation politicians and wrest leadership from them.
He told the youths never to expect political power on a platter, noting that they must be ready to fight for it, if they desired it.
Obasanjo who stated this at the weekend in Abeokuta, explained that for the youths to occupy position of leadership, they must work hard and carve a niche for themselves.
“Leadership is never given on a platter of gold, you have to work for it,” the ex-president said at the programme organised by Youth Development Centre of the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, (OOPL), to mark the International Youth Day, 2017.
The former military head of state and two-term civilian president observed that moral values as obtained in the 1950s and 1960s had been eroded in the society, even as he insisted that those moral values were required for leadership position.
He said Nigeria was in dire need of leaders who are academically and spiritually sound and charged the youths to get prepared to occupy elective offices, as there were moves to lower the age into elective positions such as that of the president, governor and National Assembly.
The House of Representatives on May 26 passed for first reading a Bill seeking to lower the constitutional age requirement for contesting elections.
Tony Nwulu representing Oshodi/Isolo II Federal Constituency of Lagos State sponsored the bill otherwise known as the #NotTooYoungToRun bill, which seeks to alter the Section 65, 106, 131, 177 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) to reduce the age qualification for the office of the President from 40 years to 30 years; Governor 35 to 30, Senate 35 to 30, House of Representatives 30 to 25 and State House of Assembly 30 to 25.
In the United States, whose presidential system Nigeria practice, a person must be at least 35 to be president or vice president, 30 to be a senator, and 25 to be a Representative, as specified in the U.S. Constitution.
Most states in the U.S. also have age requirements for the offices of Governor, State Senator, and State Representative.
While exulting the youths not to sit idling waiting for political power to drop on their lap, Obasanjo said: “I joined politics from the top. The only position I contested for in Nigeria is the Presidency, but I had track record of achievements, which led to that.
“Nobody will choose you, you have to choose yourself. Why should you have to become president at the age of 40? Why can’t you become president at the age of 35? Why can’t you become president at the age of 30?
“General Gowon became Head of State at 33. I became Head of State at 39. And it is because of my track record, and thanks to Abacha (late Gen. Sani Abacha) for putting me in jail.
“Those were the reasons why I have opportunity to come back as elected president of Nigeria. The point is this -how are you prepared? Are you really prepared?”
Delivering his paper titled: “The roles of youth in peace and stability of a nation,” former Attorney-General of the federation, Kanu Agabi (SAN), urged Nigerian youths not to allow artificial boundaries to split them, but work more on things that would unite them as a people.
While urging the youths to emulate Obasanjo, who he described as “embodiment of perseverance,” Agabi equally tasked them on their need to persevere and pursue unity and peace of Nigeria.
“If Obasanjo can make it, you can also make it. He joined the army and survived. When he was sent to prison, he survived. He was sentenced to death but here he is,” Agabi submitted.