WHEN A SEXAGENARIAN IS A NATIONAL YOUTH LEADER…

On March 24, 2012, at its national convention, Nigeria’s governing People’s Democratic Party descended to a new low on youth empowerment when it chose a sexagenarian, Umar Chiza, as its National Youth Leader for the next four years. By the way, the United Nations considers a youth as someone between 15 and 24!

It is not surprising that the PDP can afford such a categorical unorthodoxy to squarely undervalue the youth. For its 12+ years at the helm of affairs in Nigeria, the PDP has almost nothing tangible to show regarding youth empowerment.

While many high-ranking PDP members have carped against criticism of the Chiza choice as National Youth Leader, it remains a fact that the PDP uses its national offices to provide ‘jobs for its boys,’ as it has often done with most government appointments.

My core beef with having a 60-year old man as a ruling party’s national youth leader is premised on the fact that such a person lacks the agility and natural disposition to resonate with the young people he is supposed to lead and when there is such a disconnect, leadership can never be effective. The PDP’s Constitution states that “the National Youth Leader shall [mobilise] the [party’s] youth” and “[initiate and implement] strategic programmes and policies aimed at endearing the party to the Nigerian youth.” Having Chiza, a sexagenarian, as National Youth Leader just does not reflect the letter and spirit of that extant constitutional prescription as the youth leader’s advanced age would ordinarily scare away rather than endear Nigerian youths to the party.

My friend, Offiong Eyo, decried the scenario occasioned by Chiza’s emergence when he said, “Please Nigerians, can someone help tell me what age range qualifies as youth? I just watched PDP national youth vanguard and after seeing the participants, I’m not sure anymore of who is a youth. Seriously I’m confused.”

It is ironical that Nigeria, a country which has recently produced two student union presidents for prominent British universities, Oxford and Cambridge, has a ruling party whose youth leader is 60! That Nigerians, Lewis Iwu and Tom Chigbo, became the first black president of the Oxford University Students’ Union in 2008, and the first black president of the Cambridge University Students’ Union in 2009, respectively, are feats that depict the ingenuity that the Nigerian youth possesses, and which must be given the policy and political enablement to thrive.

Admittedly, all is not well with many segments of Nigeria’s youth. Time and again, we hear of fake youth corpers and youth who will go to any extent to be tools for political violence and thuggery. Educational standards are also not helping matters for the youth. Without jobs and sufficient electric power to drive the growth of small businesses, the average Nigerian youth faces the temptation to indulge in many unhealthy practices. This in itself is one reason why important platforms that can significantly influence pro-youth empowerment policies should not be entrusted into the hands of someone who, in the first place, is not a youth!

Also, there’s a high chance a sexagenarian would lose out on platforms that border on youth interests. The ideal modern youth leader should, for example, be active on social media to take the pulse of youth concerns from some of our country’s most informed and conscious young men and women. I may disagree with him many at times, but Ohimai Ahaize, 27, the special assistant on advocacy to the Minister of Youth Development, is attempting to do just that. There are many like him within the PDP who would have qualified as National Youth Leader.

A party that is futuristic and genuinely cares to empower the youth in its ranks will use the portfolio of its National Youth Leader to groom potential future leaders. My friend, Chinedu Ekeke, recently wrote that “There must be a certain level of grooming, earlier-on in life, for whoever wants to be a public servant. The mindset of leadership is cultivated over time.” In Norway, for example, Eskil Pedersen, 28, is the leader of the ruling Labour Party’s Youth League. In South Africa, the ruling ANC’s Youth League states in its constitution that, “Membership of the ANCYL shall be open to all South African youth between the ages of 14 and 35…” This unequivocally means that the ANCYL’s leaders are always in their youth peak of late 20s and early 30s and can brace up for national duties thereafter.

When youth are given the chance in politics, there is a tendency that national leaders would emerge in their prime. It is precisely this reality that made Tony Blair and David Cameron British Prime Ministers at 44 and 43, respectively. On his part, Ed Miliband was elected Leader of the opposition Labour Party at the age of 41 and may well be on his way to soon succeeding Cameron!

That the PDP has a sexagenarian as its National Youth Leader is sufficient reason to awaken all conscious Nigerian youth to resolutely and pragmatically engage in recovering our country from the plutocratic oligarchy and semi-gerontocracy that it presently is. Adeeko Gbaja has already declared that “To the youths, [GOD] has given the power to change this nation.” We have what it takes to chart a new course for our beloved country, Nigeria.

Talking strategy for example, my good friend, Opemipo Adebanjo, urges that, “The marvellous new militancy which has engulfed the youth community on Twitter and other platforms will be our weapon of change.”

If Nigerian youth would become more politically-conscious and involved, a disdainful situation where any party would have a sexagenarian as youth leader would certainly be forestalled!

GOD bless Nigeria!

Follow me on Twitter @Raymond_Eyo

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Posted April 10, 2012 by Raymond Eyo in Politics

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