THEME: YOUTHS AND THE LEADERSHIP CHALLENGE
Politics ought to be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage.
Distinguished, what an opportunity so golden to be called upon to join the growing discuss on an issue so important to occupy our contemporary pre-occupation --------- youths and the leadership challenge in Nigeria.
I consider this gathering today as one of the numerous cognate platforms across the Niger with a common objective as to properly position the youth at the centre stage of political development in Nigeria.
Though, one may wish to tactically evade the temptation to belabour the concept of politics and concentrate more on the evident roles of youths in our political development, it is however, necessary to succinctly shed light on the issue from a more practical angle that vividly captures the subject’s nature in our local polity.
From this context, politics can be viewed as government, or better still, the art of government.
The simplicity of this conceptualization however, exposes an inherent intricacy that politics ought to be the part-time profession of every citizen of any country.
The definition of youths attracts eclectic views. While some see it as the formative stage of a man/woman, others see it as the most boisterous stage in man’s growth process, etc.
In any case, and looking at it more realistically, youth is not merely a time of life, it is a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is a freshness of the deep springs of life.
History is full with great lessons on how the youths of any generation have been instrumental to the political success of their state, the world over.
Practical examples also abound in our clime as evident testimony of the exploits of our youths in politics, for instance, the revolutionary escapade of our nationalists during the battle to tear down the dark curtain of colonialism.
Record has it that the late octogenarian and frontline nationalist, Pa Anthony Enahoro was only 24years old when he moved the motion for Nigeria’s independence, and was 21years old when he became the editor of West African Pilot, making him the youngest editor in Nigeria till date.
Though, we do not encourage it, but for the purpose of this discuss, he is worth mentioning; General Yakubu Gowon was only 29 years old when he ruled this country.
The likes of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Pa Obafemi Awolowo, and others too numerous to mention, were all in their 30’s when they fought for, decided, and won back our flag independence in this country.
Painfully, it appears there is a paradigm shift from the old guard, to a more disturbing situation where the youths of this country have, at best been relegated to the background, at worst displaced from their significant position in the politics of this country.
But as far as the discernible mind is concern, the blame can be placed on no other demographic group than the youths themselves, who have either wittingly or inadvertently out played themselves in the scheme of things.
Nobody willingly gives power: It must be obtained via a consistent and conscious effort to establish one’s relevance especially, in a democracy like ours.
But first we must begin with re-orientation, going by the long time of absence of youths in mainstream politics. As a philosopher once put it, “tell me what are the prevailing sentiments that occupy the minds of young men, and I will tell you what is to be the character of the next generation.”
We must begin to change our perception about politics and governance.
Our thinking today should portray us as change agents.
The befitting lexicon for our generation should be ‘active participation in politics and governance for the general good of our society and people.’
Without a doubt, the relevance of youths in political development goes beyond being political thugs, hooligans, and gangsters.
Much as we also appreciate the spiritual angle to every struggle in life, to have a say and way in politics amounts to taking bold steps beyond faith, because of course faith without work is dead.
As a matter of exigency, the youths of this country must individually and collectively engage themselves constructively in the singular business of deciding what, where, when and how of Nigeria. This is the basis of politics.
And then we can also begin to look at the limitations posed by faulty legislation.
In Nigeria today, the law stipulates that at 18 years old one has the right to vote, but the same law pegs the right to be voted for at 30 years and above.
Something definitely is fundamentally wrong with this kind of law.
The obvious implication of this is that, those between the ages of 18 and 30, termed the most vibrant class of our demography, will be made redundant against their will.
What kind of law will tolerate such calculated evil against our youths?
This vexed inconsistency has prompted the call by not a few of us to insist on a review of these laws.
If an 18 – year old can vote, then he/she can also stand to be voted for in an election. This we consider as equity and fairness.
In spite of this, it is important to recognize the efforts of some political structures and personalities that have, over time, considered and practically acknowledged the youths as foundation of political developments in Nigeria, by throwing open the political space for youths to explore.
Worthy of mention is the most visible progressive political party in West Africa, the Action congress of Nigeria (ACN) and its indefatigable leader, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu.
The recent political revolution in Southwest Nigeria, which saw the emergence of youths assuming key elected offices, is a pointer to the fact that there could be a new dawn, only if the youths are ready to work it through the dusk.
Inferentially, it is germane to reiterate the fact that it is a grave error, punishable by posterity, for any generation to undermine the peculiar significance of its youths.
The youths must commence a genuine re-orientation to instigate a renaissance of our lost social values where we recognize dignity in hard work, to bring about the maximum benefit for the general good.
Distinguished, let us begin to walk the talk; and the time is now. Permit me to end my speech with the statement of another philosopher, Richard Nixon; “nothing matters more to the future of this nation than ensuring that our young men and women learn to believe in themselves and believe in their dreams, and that they develop this capacity, so that they keep it all of their lives”
Thank you and God bless.
Eko oni baaje o!
Comrade Ayodele Adewale
Executive Chairman Amuwo Odofin L.G.A.