By this time in 2019, all things being equal, Nigeria may be saddled with another septuagenarian president. It will be either the All Progressives Congress (APC) or the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), with President Muhammadu Buhari or Atiku Abubakar in power.
The discerning should know that the difference between the two parties is no more than that between six and half a dozen and the generality of voters have no choice. Well they may, but it is a Hobson’s choice. The other parties, if we are talking about national elections, are still nowhere.
I do not want to dwell on the current trend the world over in relation to the average age of those leading their countries; I just want to talk about Nigeria and responsive leadership.
In passing though, unarguably, Nigeria’s developmental strides were always firmer and more evident under a head below 70 years of age, whether military or civilian.
The beauty of having a young leader is that he would have the benefit of guidance from a crop of educated and experienced statesmen.
When Shehu Shagari became president at the age of 54, there were many older northerners who could have muscled their way to one of them becoming president himself. They didn’t, but that meant he had elder statesmen to guide and give him the necessary advice, both formally and informally.
The national chairman of Shagari’s party, the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), Chief Augustus Meredith Adisa Akinloye, was 63 years old and being a lawyer and an experienced politician, Shehu Shagari had great respect for him. They did wonderfully well, considering that presidential democracy was being practiced in Nigeria for the first time.
Whether Nigeria would have been better off by now if the Second Republic had not been truncated by the marching in of those who wear jackboots is an academic discussion for another day.
While it is an indictment on Nigerian youths that none has mustered the courage to challenge the septuagenarians that were leaders as young people, it is also an indictment on those threatening to move heaven and earth to be president for failing to groom successors.
Nigeria has had a leader who was in his 30s and leaders in their 40s, 50s and 60s, but it appears that those older trot about with a ‘messianic mentality’ that tells them they are the only ones who can make Nigeria great again. They don the toga of a Moses sent to lead his people to the ‘Promised Land’, but events have shown they are not.
All those vying for Nigeria’s presidency above 70 should attempt to put their confidence in those younger, scout around for credible hands and give them the necessary guidance, considering their rich experience in life.
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They should not be patronising; it is not enough to shout themselves hoarse about how they will take care of the youths. What the youths need and deserve is mentoring.
Is it true or fair to assume that nobody else in a country of 180,000,000 people can fight corruption, bring the economy out of the woods and make Nigeria work again?
Are we saying that if God takes back any of these people Nigeria would be stopped in its tracks? For God’s sake what has come over us as a nation?
Every good father wants his child to do better than him, meaning that all good fathers train their children to take their place and outperform them. Many good fathers, therefore, at some stage in their children’s lives take a back seat and guide their children so that there can be a seamless change of baton when they return to their Creator.
Our past leaders should thank God for the opportunity He gave them to serve, out of many who were capable. Patriotism demands that from them.
But perhaps they are holding the fort until their wards come of age, because in another ten years or so after they might have bowed out, their children would be the new tormentors in town.
Educated in the world’s best, Ivy League schools, speaking through their noses, having elite international connections and with bank balances spilling out of bank windows, these chaps, involved in all known vices, will be the ones these sit-tight, Nigerian Mugabes might just be willing to unleash on the country. Nigeria has become their private firm or farm and all the rest of us their workers.
But even Mugabe did very well for Zimbabwe before he turned 70. After then he veered off course. More proof that the best years for any temporal leader are before the age of three scores and ten.
Dynamism belongs to the youth and when tempered with the wisdom that comes with age, society thrives.
The elders who really have Nigeria at heart should be sad, really sad, that there is a “dearth of leadership material” among those coming after them and the concern should be to groom leaders for the country while they are alive, so that they can face their Lord knowing they are leaving the country in safe hands.
It is a shame that they consider themselves the only ‘anointed saviours’ in a country that gave them so much, under patriotic leaders who bent over backwards for them, overlooked their deficiencies and thrust them up at an early age.
We saw how Shehu Shagari deferred to Akinloye, because of his age, education and experience. The Sultan then and indeed almost all the nation’s paramount rulers were senior in age and some of them also in worldly affairs. There were elders who had been in politics, the military, public service and the private sector to who Shagari could listen.
Take Nigeria today. Which paramount ruler can ‘advise’ Buhari or Atiku? They have seen it all and are people who can dash out favours. How many of those who have been in the public service, private sector or politics are still around and in good mental and economic condition and capable of advising leaders who are above 70 years of age, who have buried their seniors and are now pushing their contemporaries into the grave?
Which party chairman can walk up to any of them and tell him the truth? Those who should be able to advise them were wearing shorts when they were running state affairs. Do you honestly think they would listen to these ‘saucy kids’?
Now sounds a clarion call. Let our leaders in the different parties sit together and identify good material for leadership, be they in their parties or outside their parties and give them such responsibilities, finance their campaigns and give them the necessary guidance. The guidance should be for the nation’s benefit, not their watching them deny citizens their rights, social welfare and salaries, or erecting statues and creating unnecessary projects and ministries, just to siphon funds.