With the President signing into law today the Not Too Young to Run bill, a lot of our youth are celebrating. But I am not so sure what victory has been won. Age alone is not a criterion for good political leadership. Many Nigerians support their argument by saying the new trend in the world is for young leaders in more developed democracies. This is true but the youth in Nigeria are missing the point. These young politicians that became their nations leaders may be young in age, but definitely not young in public service and political experience. Take a look at the following few facts about some of the famous young leaders whose names are banded around by our youth.
A). EMMANUEL MACRON
- On 15 May 2012, Macron became the Deputy Secretary General of the Élysée, a senior role in President François Hollande’s staff
- He was appointed as the Minister of Economy and Finance in the second Valls Cabinet on 26 August 2014,
- In 2017, at 39, he became the youngest President in French history and the youngest French head of state since Napoleon.
B). JUSTIN TRUDEAU
- Elected into the Parliament in 2008 as an apposition politician in Canada.
- In September 2010, he was appointed as party spokesperson for youth, citizenship, and immigration
- He was reelected into Parliament in 2011
- In 2013, he was elected the national leader of the Liberal Party.
- In 2015, He was elected Prime Minister of Canada at the age of 44.
C). LEO VARADKAR
- In 2004, he received the highest first-preference vote in the Ireland with 4,894 votes and was elected on the first count into the Fingal County Council.
- Elected in 2007 into the Lower House of Parliament of Ireland.
- In 2007, he was appointed him to the Front Bench as Spokesperson for Enterprise, Trade and Employment until a 2010 reshuffle, when he became Spokesperson on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.
- In 2011, He was re-elected into Parliament.
- Varadkar was appointed Federal Minister for Transport, Tourism, and Sport on 9 March 2011.
- In July 2014, Varadkar replaced James Reilly as federal Minister for Health in Ireland.
- He was re-elected into Parliament in 2016.
- On 6 May 2016, after government formation talks had concluded, Varadkar was appointed as the Federal Minister for Social Protection.
- In 2017, He was elected by the Parliamentary party as the Prime Minister of Ireland aged 38
As you can see from these facts; all these young leaders have had exposure to politics and public service for many years before being elected leaders. So, these young Nigerians coming from nowhere and aspiring to be President simply because “we don’t want old men” to lead us any more are making strategic errors. Instead of coming from running your own business and seeking to be President; why not start at lower levels.
Local Government Chairman, State Assembly, Governorship, National Assembly Member. Pack some experience behind you first in the public arena before running for the Presidency. Leo Varadkar was elected into the city council at the age of 25. He was elected into Parliament THREE times, Federal Minister TWICE before becoming Prime Minister at 38. So his qualification was not his age but his experience.
It will be a shame to replace Old and tired politicians, with Young but inexperienced ones. You don’t solve one extreme by going the other extreme. I will advise that anyone who go about saying his claim to the Presidency is due to his young age should be thrown out of the arena; if there are no public-sector experience to back it up. Nigeria is an incredibly complex country to govern. While I believe a young person can effectively be President; I believe such a young person should have had exposure in public service. But this is where the problem is.
The Youth should fervently lobby the politicians to appoint young people as Commissioners, SAs, and Ministers. How come we don’t have a 25yr old Commissioner in any state? How come the average age PMB’s Ministers is almost 60? These are the areas youth can shine and cut their teeth in the public arena before gunning for the top job. So the battle is not over for the Nigerian youth. Don’t fool yourselves into thinking a 35yr old without any experience of public service can win the Presidential election. It is very risky to place the huge burden of a complex nation like Nigeria on the shoulders of a 35yr old who has worked in his own private company all his life. Under-Experience of the young is not the solution to the Outdated-Experience of the old.
Let the words go out from today; that at all levels of government, the young must be appointed and given the opportunity to be elected to begin their climb of the political ladder and public-sector exposure. Anyone who has ever moved from the relative efficiency of the private sector to take a job in the public sector will tell you it is a major paradigm shift to adjust to the slow, inefficient and corruption-ridden public sector. You don’t get your first taste of this dangerous beast at the presidential level.
So, let us all go to work and help our youth invade the public domain at all levels so that we can create the needed pipeline of future presidents that will be in their 30s and 40s. In the end, experience will be the trump card not simply a young age. Therefore, it is now time to start early. Begin the work of infiltrating all levels of government, gather a few experiences and your young age will become an asset if backed by some public experience. God bless Nigeria.