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What Are Our Own Youths Doing?

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Can We Have 'No Victor, No Vanquished'?
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The Insight by Lateef Adewole

Let me use this opportunity to congratulate the newly elected president of Senegal, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, for winning the recent presidential election in Senegal. It is a new dawn in that country. He will be sworn-in and take over the mantle of leadership next week, on the 2nd of April, 2024. Congratulations to the people of Senegal too for the eventual success and peaceful conduct of that election, despite the rancour that heralded it and which has characterised the whole politics of that country for some years now.

Faye is a ‘youth’ or should I say ‘young man.’ He became 44 years in age just this week, having been born on 25th of March, 1980. I guess this month is his ‘lucky’ month. The presidential election also took place a day before his birthday, 24th of March. But, was it really that he was ‘lucky’? Can a luck win a whole presidential election for anyone in any country, no matter how small, or election to any office at that? I very much doubt it. Luck is interpreted to mean “learning under correct knowledge.” Note the first alphabet of each word: l-u-c-k. This means to get prepared for task ahead, by acquiring the necessary relevant knowledge, skills, attitude and so on.

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A peep into the life of the new president will reveal that he did not attain such feat by accident or luck, but by serious preparations, decades of handwork, perseverance, sacrifices, enduring pains, being focused, remaining dogged and unwavering, pushing forward and breaking boundaries, and on and on.

Ever since his announcement as the new president, Nigerians, being who we are, especially our own ‘Gen Z’ (youths), have set the internet on fire (literally), comparing the scenerio with Nigeria, and making caricature of our country with it. Ever since, the social media has been agog with posts about him, speeches he made or did not make, videos as he celebrated with mammoth crowd following his vehicle while he stood out from the open-roof car. At a point, he came out and stood on top of the car.

What many of the Nigerian youths and majority in opposition parties in Nigeria, who have taken over the propaganda business on behalf of the Senegalese, for their own ‘selfish’ reason to score political points, did not bargain for was that President-elect, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, was to be carrying ‘broom’. What! Broom of all things to be carried as his insignia? That was really ‘heartbreaking’. How could he have disappointed his ’emergency’ diaspora supporters in Nigeria by carrying the very object they detest most: a broom? (lol).

When I watched that video, I couldn’t stop laughing, as I read many comments on ‘X’ social media platform. The disappointment was because of what the broom represents in Nigeria; the symbol of the ruling party, All Progressive Congress (APC). Some sarcastic commentators even said that APC has won another presidential election in Senegal. Laughable. What have been the opinions of these critics of Nigeria because of Senegal election? It is that we were electing old people in Nigeria as our own presidents while other countries were doing the opposite.

Sincerely, this is a sentiment I also shared all these years. Every time I see a country elects a very young person as their president, I feel bad about the situation that we found ourselves in Nigeria where those who are supposed to have ‘retired’, and give chance to more vibrant youths and young persons to take over the leadership of the country, are the ones who keep rotating the power among themselves. Why has this been so? We shall get there later in the article.

Personally, I desire a president who is far less than 60. May be, 55 downwards. This was sentiment I expressed when Emmanuel Macron became president of France in 2017, at age 39, Trudeau became Prime Minister of Canada in 2015 at 43. Geoge Wear was 51 in 2018 when he won the presidency of Liberia and even Barrack Obama, who became the president of the “most powerful country on earth” (I put it in quote because this is becoming debatable with the emerging China), the United States of America (USA), in 2009, was 47. The most recent of the world power was the election of Rishi Sunak of United Kingdom. He became the Prime Minister at 42 in 2022.

So, our youths and young people, which include me, are not misguided to have felt that way or expect such in their own country too. But, do you make that happen on social media? No, ofcourse. Faye did not win on social media. He got his boot on ground, fought dirty, put his nose to the grindstone, endured, form networks, build bridges and won. That’s how leadership position, especially at the highest level as the presidency, is achieved anywhere. Not on social media. Not by noise making alone. Youths can’t even be legislated into power.

In the past, the age limit was given as excuse by the youths from contesting for certain offices in the country. This was addressed some years back with the “Not Too Young To Run” bill that was signed into law by the former President Muhammadu Buhari on May 31st, 2018. That made the minimum age for the president to be 35, governors and senators, 30, and member of house of representatives and state lawmakers to be 25. But how much improvement in participation have we witnessed since then? Marginal. Why? Because, power is not served ‘a la carte’.

Youths must work assiduously to get power, fight for it, or even “snatch and run with it”, as President Tinubu advised them during the campaigns in 2022. The mischief makers deliberately twisted what he said, misrepresented it and were using it to campaign against him to mean that he advised that the youths should go and snatch ballot boxes. How do you expect such category of people who could not comprehend or decipher simple analogy to have headway in attaining power in a dangerous political terrain like we have in Nigeria? Yet, they complain they are excluded. It is self-inflicted, in my opinion.

So, when a 44 year old man became the president-elect of Senegal, I could not but wondered where our own youths are? What are they doing? What are their daily engagements? What are their vision, mission, focus, ideas, ideological leanings, political views, political involvement, engagements and participation? What exactly do they stand for? These, and many more questions, need serious answers. And only the youths themselves can answer them genuinely.

To start with, it is easy to simply make comparison of any other country with Nigeria, when the intention is usually to deride us, which often comes from ill-informed position, half-baked knowledge or complete ignorance by many of such commentators. “Nigeria no be mate of most of these countries they compare with her, especially in Africa.” Most times, as a ‘proud’ Nigerian, I feel insulted by such absurd comparison.

Senegal is a country of about 18.2m people, the size of Lagos (16.5m), a state in Nigeria. That is about 8.3% of Nigeria population (220m). The total economy of Senegal, as measured by their GDP, is $30.7 billion. That’s about the size of Lagos economy ($29 billion) and 6.2%% of Nigeria’s own ($487.3 billion). The country has a sizable landmass at 196,722 square kilometre. That is less than the size of four states in North East of Nigeria (in square kilometre); Adamawa (36,917), Borno (70,898), Taraba (54,483) and Yobe (45,502) and 21.3% of Nigeria’s landmass (923,768). So, when an ‘ant’ is compared to the ‘elephant’, the elephant should feel insulted.

However, like the Yorubas would say: “omode gbon, agba gbon, la fi da ilè Ifè” (Ife land was established with the wisdom of both the youths and the elders). Even in a small country like Senegal, there are lessons that Nigerians can still learn, especially our youths. Like the questions I raised earlier, what are our own youths doing? Isn’t it ironic that the same youths, who desire a paradigm shift and a transfer of baton of power and leadership, from the older generation to the younger one, are the foot soldiers of the same old people, who they help keep in power?

The demography favours the youths in Nigeria but they could not take advantage of it and put it to use for their benefits. With about 70% youthful population, any old person who ignores them, does so at their own peril. However, the ‘old foxes’ have mastered how to manipulate this demography, use it to their personal, most times, selfish advantage, to attain, retain, maintain and sustain themselves in political power, through politics. They deploy many strategies, which the youths are yet to grasp with, despite their ‘gragra’ behaviours.

If not so, former President Buhari won in 2015 at the age 72. The youths brought him in. He won his reelection in 2019 at 76, the youths made that possible. The top contenders in 2023 were Tinubu (71), Atiku (76). Even the third candidate who many youths felt represented them and projected their visions, Peter Obi, he was 61 years in 2023. Where on earth does a 61 year old represent the youths’ aspirations if not by delusional youths like we have in Nigeria?

In 2015, 2019 and 2023 presidential elections, there are many very young presidential candidates far below 60 years. Some were in their 40s at the time, just like Bassirou Diomaye Faye. Yet, our youths abandoned them and followed ‘old papas’, campaigned vigorously for them, mobilised for them, voted for them, and put them comfortably in office, and then turn around to complain of marginalisation. Isn’t that ludicrous?

When the Youth Progressive Party (YPP) was formed in 2017, I said: “this is it!” I thought that “our youths don dey get sense. I thought their eyes don dey open.” And were ready to battle the traditional politicians and their behemoth parties; APC and PDP in particular. But I thought wrong! In 2019, the highest political office that a member of YPP attained throughout the country was a senate seat. Senator Ifeayin Uba won his senate seat on that platform.

I believe it was his personal efforts that gave him that seat, not simply because he was a member of that party. He brought more to the party than what the party offered him in support. He won his reelection in 2023 as well on the same platform. But where is he now? He has joined the “big boys party”. He decamped to the ruling party, APC, shortly after their inauguration in the senate in 2023. YPP managed to have won some seats in the House of Representatives (2) and State Assemblies (22) throughout the country. That is who our youths are. Do they really know what they want?

Anyone who has followed Faye in Senegal politics or read about him, would see his trajectory. His journey was rough but he remained consistent. His senior colleague, Ousmane Sonko, is also a young man who is just 49! He contested the presidential election on the political platform (PASTEF) they both belong, in 2019. He came third. He was the choice candidate of their platform for this year’s election too, but the “powers-that-be” must have become jittery of the possibility of him winning, hence, all obstacles were put on his path. He was sentenced for 2 years in 2023. He was disqualified and their party dissolved by the government of the day in July 2023, some months to the election.

Faye, who has been his long term ally, stood firmly with him. This earned him also, an incarceration since April 2023. They both were only released some days before the presidential election on 14th of March, 2024. Since it was clear that government plotted to disqualify Sonko using his conviction as basis, PASTEF presented Faye, who was not convicted but was just a political prisoner. After being disqualified, Sonko endorsed Faye as the candidate despite that he was still in prison. Since their party had also been dissolved, he had to run as independent candidate.

A day after both were released, Faye had his first public appearance as a contender in the presidential election and galvanised the support of some other political big wigs in the opposition parties like Cheikh Tidiane Dieye, another candidate in the presidential election, who withdrew in his favour and other country’s leaders like former president Abdoulaye Wade and his Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS), who endorsed him on the same day. The rest, as they say, is history. This is how politics is played and political positions attained. Our ‘social media’ youths should learn and embrace this.

Before now, both Sonko and Faye have occupied other political positions won through democratic elections, which had prepared them for the big stage. This is another mistake that some of our youths and young candidates make. Most of them have never held a councillorship position before but want to jump to be president of the country with the largest black population on earth. How is that possible? This is against the trend. We can see that all past and present presidents had previously occupied one office or another, at lower levels before becoming president. Our youths need to learn patience and perseverance. They need to learn to climb the ladder from the lowest rung, than from the top.

While youths have their shortcomings, the older politicians should be calming down too. “Abi dem wan chop their children’s life with their own ni?” Most of the present people, who get to the top hierarchy of political power in Nigeria, started to enjoy the luxury in their youths. Most of them have been around and within the corridor of power for over 50 years. Why are names like Gowon, Obasanjo, Buhari, Babangida, Danjuma, Abdulsalam, and so on, still carry weight in politics of Nigeria today, after being the first set of military leaders who emerged immediately the military truncated the first Republic in 1966? That was 58 years ago.

In over three decades, Tinubu, Atiku, Kingibe, Kwakwanso, and many leaders in APC and PDP today, have been household names in politics during the collapsed 3rd Republic and the 4th Republic we are in since 1999. These are men in their late 60s, 70s and 80s. Tinubu will contest for reelection in 2027 at 75. Atiku is planning to square it up with him too at 80 then. The younger ones among them will be or nearing 70. When will their children in their 50s and their grandchildren in their 30s and 40s, have a chance to take a shot at the top political positions? Will Nigeria ever have a “Faye at 44” as president?

The old foxes made the recruitment process difficult for young people to scale. The whole garmouth has been heavily monitised, while they simultaneously weaponised poverty. Isn’t that a double edge sword? In the major political parties, nomination forms were sold as high as N100m for presidential in APC in 2022 and N40m in PDP. Labour Party, which is expected to be a socialist party, was not exempted. Their governorship was N25m. Where did they expect youths to get such money? Mostly ‘stolen money’ could easily be gambled on such uncertainties as political primaries. This is followed by a chain of money gulping process of campaigns, mobilisation, elections, and other logistics. It’s crazy out there.

Must the youths, if they are very serious to “snatch power”, do so in these parties of moneybags? No. Had they not lacking in effective organisational capacity themselves, they could have formed their own party or adopt an existing unknown one, push it to the top with their population and tech skills. They control the social media, but not to stop there. Mobilise and galvanise themselves to become a formidable force, present candidates, and vote for them massively. Let us see who will then rig them out in the elections. Afterall, the old politicians use them for such heinous activities.

Sonko formed his own political platform, on which Faye rose to prominence, outside the traditional ones by the traditional politicians in that country. The result was what we saw on 25th of March. Nigerian youths and young people must wake up and smell the coffee. Politics is not for the lilly-livered, chicken-hearted ones.

Once again, congratulations to President-elect Bassirou Diomaye Faye, his party and the people of Senegal. We can only wish him success as he takes up the mantle in some days. All the lofty and beautiful ideas he enunciated during the campaigns and in his manifesto, which attracted the people, especially the youths, to him, have become covenants and contracts with the people. They are sacrosanct. They must be fulfilled. His performance will also show if African youths are ready and matured enough to lead Africa out of the doldrums. God help him.

May God continue to protect us and guide us aright.

God Bless Nigeria.

You can follow me on:
Twitter: @lateef_adewole
Facebook: Lateef Adewole
Email: [email protected]
Whatsapp: +2348036034685

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March 30, 2024.

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