#NotTooYoungToRun: A Personal Experience

Sun, 12 Nov 2017 Source: Jude Feranmi

Every time I am caught in introspecting about Nigeria and meditating about the solutions to the many problems that we face as a nation, from corruption to lack of infrastructure to a huge housing deficit to the rotten educational system to insecurity in all the corners of the geopolitical zones to internet fraud and codeine addiction amongst the youth, I am forced to think about the future of Nigeria.

What will this future look like? Most of the times when I get the opportunity to speak to an audience, I have formed a habit of asking the audience to add 20 years to their current age and try to project what life in Nigeria will be in that time. From all indicators, figures and charts, the picture of this future is such that no one will be interested in being a part of that future.

This future starts from as early as next year when Nigeria will overtake India as the country with the highest number of people living in extreme poverty to 25 years’ time when Nigeria will be competing with China, India and US for top 3 most populated country to 15 years’ time when there would have already been at least 7 metres rise in the sea level covering most of Bayelsa State and the luxury highlands of the coast of Lagos that are just 5 ???metres above sea level.

The old-age prayer that the lives of the young ones will be better than what the old ones experienced no longer obtains. There is now a seemingly, even proud assertion by members of the old generation that what they experienced was far better than what we have today with the slogan-ization of the “good old days”. When this gloomy future finally arrives, who will be the victims and the casualties?

It is at this point that the #NotTooYoungToRun movement comes in. An advocacy that started before the days of President Goodluck Jonathan has now metamorphosed into a global movement with the United Nations Youth Envoy latching on the narrative to drive home that demand – that young people be allowed to run for office. Here in Nigeria, the demands are to reduce the age for contesting to as low as 25 for the House of Representatives and 35 for President.

The #NotTooYoungToRun Bill having thankfully passed both houses has now been sent to the state houses of assembly for the next hurdle as we hope for its eventual passage in at least 24 states. As a strong proponent of this bill, having canvassed for its passage, I think there is a more serious need to now at least start to ask the hard questions that critics have posited as their reasons for its objections.

How many of Nigeria’s young, passionate competent people who are advocates of this bill are known and popular in their wards of residence/origin? How many of us are impactful enough on a local scale? How many of us are recognized as the leaders of this generation the same way we are recognized on social media? How much followership do we have in our wards? To what level can we influence the politics of our community vis a vis security, economic activity, local organizing for solving little problems and overall emotional impact?

There is no gainsaying in asserting that we need to ease our way into the leadership of our nation right now so that we can make the policies that positively impact on the future that we will be a part of, as opposed to our current leaders whose vision is about how proposals and projects and legislation benefits them and their pockets today, not even tomorrow.

But to change this leadership into future-centric leaders amongst us who are passionate about better living for us all, we cannot but start at the lowest level where it matters.

As a young Nigerian, I have seen my parents go through the painful experience of building a factory and shutting it down after 5 years, a lot of sweat and high blood pressure. I have seen the effect of poor education as my friends who we played football on the same streets go from dropping out of school to becoming broke to turning into survival criminals. I have seen my country fail the best students in a class in accidents on a road trip only to fly their corpses back home to their parents and lecturers destroy female students’ careers because they refuse to sleep with them.

Most of those who have led the #NotTooYoungToRun movement are leaders of the 83 civil society organizations who came together to start this about 9 years ago. As we continue to engage the state representatives on the passage of the #NotTooYoungToRun bill, we must sit back and ask ourselves what roles we are going to play in the gloomy future that besets us. Are you going to be laying the foundation for another generational mistake like we witnessed in 1966 and 1999 by staying in the background while those who are versed in the ‘usual way to do politics’ take over this advantage? Are you going to be simply content with opening up the space for the children of those who have gone before us to destroy our future and care nothing for the next day talk less of the next year?

I am strongly convinced that unless we ALL go back to our wards and make the case for a better Nigeria in our lifetime and the case for a change in leadership to make that happen, our efforts will not only have been in vain, we would have actively contributed to the continued oppression of this incompetent and selfish political class.

I have decided to take that ‘backward’ step. I hope all the young and passionate Nigerians with a high level of competence, the capacity to deliver results and the character to lead the aspirations of a new Nigeria, will do the same.

Columnist: Jude Feranmi