Nigerian Youths and their Golden Aspiration to Leadership


This article opens up with a rejoinder to Yahaya Balogun’s feature article titled – “The Audacity of Envisioned Nigerian Youths to Rewrite History” in the Nigerians in America forum.

That article on Youths’ aspiration to leadership is very interesting… “I agree with most of your concerns and your list of the outstanding, indefatigable and articulate youths, it is fair enough. Your list includes Omoyele Sowore, Fela Durotoye, Fabiyi Malcolm, Leke Otunuga, Chris Emejuru, Ahmed Buhari, and Toyosi Akerele-Ogunsiji. If I may add to your list, the following youths also fall in the long list of our capable/aspiring Presidential candidates – Babajide Ogunsanwo, Aisha Yusuf, Osai Ojigbo, Yul Edochie, Adamu Garba II, Omike Chikeluba Lewis, Tope Fasua, Chris Nwokobia, Onyeka Nwelue, Bukunyi Olateru-Olagbegi and many others yet to be discovered, as the list goes on and on…”

The issue is becoming interesting.  How I wish there could be a forum to showcase as many of these youths as we can get in an open debate, not only to be able to see how articulate or how well composed they are on stage, BUT to test how familiar they are with the true Nigerian terrain and their understanding of how terrible things have gone in almost all facets of life! This will enable them to know how much work there is to be done to get any reasonable results in Nigeria, in addition to the endemic corruption. It is going to be a litmus test for the youths. It will be a golden opportunity for them, which should not be denied by the Nigerian older generation.

There is no doubt that the older generation has failed our youths when we compare the present old generation with that of the youths of the 40s, 50s and 60s who fought and won independence for Nigeria. These also fought and ended a civil war without allowing our nation to disintegrate. Kudos to those youths of that time (now Elder Statesmen) and shame on anyone who thinks that our youths of today cannot lead Nigeria, even better than that. Nigeria has had civilian and military leaders as youths even before the new breed of youthful world leaders like Justine Trudeau (44), Prime Minister of Canada; Emmanuel Macron (39), President of France; and Sebastian Kurz (31), President of Austria. Nigeria’s early Premiers, Prime Ministers, Presidents and Heads of State were all youthful and vibrant. They were all in their twenties, thirties and early forties. Whoever nurses the thought that our youths cannot lead Nigeria in this digital era, should reflect on Nigeria’s past.

I do not classify as a youth BUT I am one of the few Nigerians genuinely interested in having our vibrant youths take over. At least to experience if there will be any difference! The older generation should allow them to make their own mistakes, as may be expected. Remember we all learn from cradle to the grave. Besides, costly mistakes have also been made by the older generation and the accumulation of these has got us to where we are as a nation today. Our nation is indeed in a bad shape and we need the digital touch in an era of globalization. It is certainly difficult to teach an old dog new tricks. If we need good results, we have to jettison the obsolete analogue approach.

I am sure that individuals like Pat Utomi, Oby Ezekwesili, my humble self and many other well-meaning Nigerians in the same group (frame of mind) will be interested in encouraging Nigerian youths to take over and set the pace for the rest of Africa.  Many of these promising young men and women are capable, able and willing to effect real and sustainable change in Nigeria.  We should believe in these youths and give them the needed support.  We should be able to organize a forum to put them on stage, like the US Presidential Debate style, to tell Nigerians:

Who they are…?
What they stand for…?
What they know about Nigeria and Nigerians…?
How they hope to cope with the unparalleled level of indiscipline in the society…?
Their vision for Nigeria, among other African Nations and the world at large…?

Such a ‘Face the Nation’ exercise can be done in collaboration with Channels Television or other private or public television outfit. It will be delightful to give Nigerians the opportunity to get to meet the potential Nigerian leaders whose expertise and other talents are waiting to be tapped.

It is my hope that through this forum, we can start the necessary support and exposures.  Whichever of them is willing to put his/her leadership acumen to test must be encouraged.  Only one of them can become President.  Other potential leaders and goal-getters must be challenged to hold responsible Gubernatorial, Ministerial, Commissioner, and other Political/Executive positions in our bid to transform Nigeria.
The multi-facetted problems of Nigeria cannot be over-emphasized in view of their complexity. The leadership is rotten, the followership is atrocious and ugly as our culture has been distorted and the society is a mess. I have heard people say that “only a revolution” can correct the ongoing ills of the Nigerian society. However, the “peoples’ (youth) revolution” is preferred to the “unpopular Military Take Over” which we are all familiar with. Those who do not agree with this Youth take over are in for ‘more of the same’ shenanigan in governance – ‘E go better, e go better’ tomorrow and tomorrow defeatist cry, as we all continue to suffer and laugh it off as we wallow in our problems!

Youths should bear in mind the problems of ethnicity and tribalism, nepotism, over-stretched security apparatus (Soldiers and Police), unethical mentoring, God-fatherism, people with vested Interests, the endemic poverty at the grassroots level and the stomach-infrastructure, the inbuilt problem of the Executive/Legislative/Judicial corruption, corruption in the public and public workplaces, market women and their arbitrary price inflations, the Okada riders, the Marwa Drivers, the Micra Drivers, etc, etc, etc. What about the problems of unemployment, kidnappings, ritualists, Boko Haram, Herdsmen/farmers, armed robberies, and Yahoo Yahoo? The list is certainly inexhaustible. Be ready to establish firm institutions to contain these myriad problems.

It is my humble belief that our youths will have their plates full even before they surmount the electoral ordeals and win. Let no one be deceived, they can win, on the number strength. They outnumber the older generation by far! By now we hope and expect that the usual youthful exuberance peculiar to youths of all ages would have been shed and they have now put on the toga of maturity, seriousness and focus. It should be remembered that the institutions for probity and transparency in governance are not there in Nigeria. Where they exist, they have not been strictly enforced to date. For example, the hue and cry over the celebrated issue of PADDING of the budget has subsided. Does this mean that padding has become an inseparable part of our budgeting system in Nigeria?

The recurrent issue of excessive legislative salaries and allowances which make politics so lucrative and juicy will continue to haunt Nigerian politicians if the status quo remains. Can the youths agree to slash their salaries in view of the economic realities and state of the nation? Are the youths going to shed the excesses of the Politicians like Peter Obi did in Anambra State – reduced use of sirens, cut down in entourages, refusal to build bogus Villas for States, Governors and President? Will our youths be able to end the culture of wastes and ostentatious living in Nigeria? It is going to be a lot of work and sacrifices on the part of youths. You will all need to brace up. It will be an uphill task rather than a picnic!

My honest advice is for our youths to coalesce and strategize to reach a consensus and bring out the BEST candidate, out of all the capable aspirants. Notable Nigerians like The Emir of Kano, Sanusi, the former Governor of Oyo State, Dr Omololu Olunloyo, and many other Snr Citizens have advised youths on this. If the struggle for leadership is allowed to becloud the appropriate selection of Best Presidential Candidate, the whole clamor for leadership by the youths will be defeated and the golden opportunity will be lost. I pray that you (youths), will win the general and State elections so that you have the opportunity to transform Nigeria. After winning, your selection of Ministers, Commissioners and other Public Office holders must be based on absolute merits. The struggle must be, to fix square pegs in square holes (merits) in your appointments rather than on party affiliations and other considerations which promote mediocrity in governance. Your goal afterwards, is to serve Nigeria rather than satisfy your party! A winning government will select people of quality, with excellent track records to fill positions. A star-studded team is a winning team any day!

Another important advice is for all youths to develop the new culture of ‘Politics for Service’ as opposed to the agelong misconception of seeing Politics as an easy avenue to make money – ‘Get-rich-quick’, ‘Business-As-Usual’. This may in fact, be the very first important issue that should be unveiled by the new breed of youthful politicians, as evidence of their readiness to serve the people of this nation. I have a very strong feeling that the battle for Aso Rock and the various Government Houses is perhaps going to between the Youths and the Old. Our youths MUST SYNERGISE to win the battle to unseat the older generation. The battle is not going to be easy but it is not impossible. You may also need to get candidates cleared after some background checks for prospective candidates and political office holders for mental balance, good health, greed and kleptomaniac tendencies! All hands must be on the deck. You should leave no stone unturned. It is well.

Governance is not showbiz and the next phase of governance is going to be tough. It is not going to allow the shenanigan of the past. Let us remain optimistic that our youths will be up to the task by the special grace of God. The ‘business as usual’ posture of the past, will be jettisoned forever and ever in Nigeria. Nigeria must be made the cynosure of all eyes. Nigeria is destined to be great and it is not over until it is over. Long live Nigeria.

Written by
Adekunle Akinyemi
Join the discussion