Macron And The Case For The Nigerian Youth!
For many of us watching from the African lens, the emergence of 39 years old Emmanuel Macron as president of France (a first world country) was the stuff of dreams. In a continent where grey hair is a pre-requisite to climb the defied political ladder, the hysteria was to be expected.
In the wake of Macron’s victory, the Nigerian youth has been brought forward for immense backlash. The critics argue that while a vast majority of our youths’ frolic around political godfathers for mere crumbs, Macron provides an example of how it should be done. The point sounds plausible upon arrival but a deeper reflection shows it is tantamount to turning logic on its head; it is a single story. Macron was an outlier, similar to Trump. It is a testament to the democracies of the United States and France that outliers can emerge into mainstream politics without having to float their own parties or run as individual candidates. The case is not same in Nigeria and the constitutional premise put the youths at a disadvantage. It is stipulated in Section 131 of the 1999 constitution that a key pre-requisite to holding the office of the presidency is that the individual must have ‘attained the age of forty years.’ This very clause lampoons the Nigerian state. Many of the third world countries are still very deluded on the concept of age, while the rest of the world have moved on. In Nigeria, age is grossly overrated. It is worth mentioning that a Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook’s founder/CEO), even though he is only 33, might have better wealth of experience than the 65-year-old Nigerian university professor who has only taught management and entrepreneurship in the classroom for 40 years. It is not the years in a man’s life, but the ‘life’ in the years that counts. In addition, our political set-up is very nascent and hostile to accommodate for genuine participation. The system is like a vicious circle that resists anyone not in its original chain. Political parties are not founded on ideologies and money is a key currency in making your case. Party nomination forms to run for top political positions run into millions, in a country where the minimum wage is still a paltry 18,000 naira. Make no mistakes about it, the odds are stacked against the Nigerian youths.
Having said all that, apathy cannot be the answer. The Nigerian youth clearly has to do more. History is laced with tales of how power is never relinquished on a platter of gold. The reality is that majority of our youths are too gullible and ready ‘puns’ in the hands of the political godfathers and so called kingmakers. Too many are contented with receiving handouts; a malady we must partly blame on a stifling economy. Then, there are the internet activists and warlords. Men and women who remain behind the keypads, conjuring and articulating their cases. From crass vitriolic of political alignments to crude ethnic sentiments, these ones are unrelenting. They can make the case of why the politician they support is the best thing since slice bread, but they are never concerned with participation. It speaks volumes of the vast majority of Nigerian youths that there are merely a handful of them involved even in strategic private sector leadership. There are just a few leading the way in the cream de la cream of entrepreneurship. The youth might argue that he is powerless in the face of the current environmental challenges but that reason pales in solidity when one considers that there are a few other Nigerian youths who have managed to defy the odds. Young people in this country must take advantage of their numbers and must do more in changing not just their individual plights, but that of the nation at large.