I have come across some young people on social media aspiring to contest for the office of the President of Nigeria, and I am happy about it. However, it would only take luck for any one of them to emerge winner in 2019 elections. As a youth advocate, I want to see my country producing young leaders, but we cannot achieve that without collective strategic planning. Let us assume there will be four young contestants for the president’s position in 2019, and each one of them running under a different party, what will happen is that the votes of the youths will be further divided, and there will still be some youths who will vote for older aspirants. This means the chance of having complete votes of the youths for the youths as suggested by Mal. Muhammadu Sunusi II will be minimal. I am afraid youth will keep trying and loosing, unless we strategise. Despite our desire to have a young president, we cannot achieve that without a better strategy. Instead of risking credible presidential hopefuls for election failure unnecessarily, I have a better strategy that Nigerian youths can use to surely produce a president among ourselves.
With the “not too young run” bill that is now been considered at state assemblies, more youths will aspire to contest for higher positions when the bill eventually becomes a law. This opportunity can only make a difference if we follow the strategy that I suggest below.
2019 elections should be a turning pointing for us, the youths, in political participation. In 2019, let us have more youths contesting for various legislative positions both at national and state levels, so that we can take over the majority of the National and State assemblies. If we can overcrowd the national assembly with young legislatures, then we can shape the governance and politics the way we want it. At that time, we will change policies and laws for our own interest. We will then control whoever will be the president. It would not matter whether the president is old or young, through the national assembly we can control governance. We will then have more experience in governance, and we can easily pave way for one among us to emerge as president. The vibrancy and creativity of every democracy depends on the kind of people in the national assembly, if we have more young people as legislators, we can then have a vibrant and creative democracy.
Even Barack Obama, before he became president, he was a junior United State Senator; he also served in the Illinois State Senate. That was what gave him the edge to contest and win his election as president of America. Emmanuel Macron was also Minister for Economy in France before he contest for the position of the president of France. Let us apply this strategy, if we cannot take over the national and state assemblies, we cannot take over the country. Even if other promising young people are likely to emerge as presidential candidates, let them consider using their resources to contest for the senate or as members of house of representatives or state assemblies. I think a young president can only be realistic if we have young national and state assemblies. We have to be truthful to ourselves, no matter how much we want it, it cannot happen automatically, it cannot happen naturally, it has to be planned.
However, this strategy cannot work if we elect incompetent youths. The youths to be elected into the national and states assemblies must be competent, and we should elect them irrespective of their parties. As long as a candidate is competent and young, we should elect them without considering which party they stand. We also have to have unity among ourselves. For instance, if you are contesting for a position, and you see another young person who is more qualified than you, then you should step down and support that young person. We should not envy or hate each other, if we do that, we cannot go anywhere. We should get rid of insecurity and egoism among ourselves; it must not be us all the time. We should learn to see other people’s success as our success too. Your success should not be based on how you could push down everybody around you, your success should be based on how you can push everybody up, and if we keep doing that, one day you too will be pushed up.
We also have to change our ideology, we should not just go into politics because we want authority or we want money, leadership is not about authority or money, it is about responsibility, service and sacrifice. You must have what it takes first before you contest. You have to have the inspiration and the vision. Our participation should not be restricted to only contesting or voting, it should go beyond that, so that we can control who emerges, help in raising political awareness among uninformed population, and follow up to ensure better governance and representation after the election. Those that are politically informed among us should take responsibility and inform others, otherwise, those that are not informed will undo whatever we do, and their voices still matter. So, we need everybody on board.
Finally, we as young people, we should not let anyone deceive us with money. It is a deception and contempt for anyone to offer us money for votes. Our votes are priceless; every candidate must earn our votes based on his competency and vision only. I would like to call on competent youths to participate in politics, so that we can have majority and competent young legislatures, and then we can easily produce a young president. Let 2019 elections be the starting point for this strategy, let us support our fellow youths and send them to national assembly, and soon we will have a young president.