The victory of centrist candidate, Emmanuel Macron, in the France election, has set off a wave of comparison in Nigeria.
Macron is just 39 years of age.
The comparisons were always going to come to the fore and for good reason as well.
President Muhammadu Buhari is 74 years old and ailing badly.
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was nearing his 70th birthday when he was elected Nigeria’s President and the quadruple of Ibrahim Babangida, Abdulsalam Abubakar, Bola Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar still have a say in who runs the affairs of this country; while in their ‘60s and ‘70s.
Whenever a young person is elected President in another part of the world, young Nigerians get into a fit from the comfort of their sleek gadgets.
In Nigeria, it appears, young people aren’t allowed a seat at the table in politics at the highest level.
In Nigeria, the young say they’ve been sidelined.
But that will amount to a fallacy.
Dimeji Bankole was just 37 years of age when he was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives. We all know how that panned out.
Before him was a Salisu Buhari who forged his school certificate before his 30th birthday.
Dino Melaye is only 43 years old—all dancing, mouthy, boastful, brash, 'Ajekun Iya' and inexplicable wealth of him.
Goodluck Jonathan was in his mid ‘50s when he became Nigeria’s President That isn’t exactly ‘old’ right?
The jury is still out on whether he was a decent leader.
Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State is pretty young at 41 years of age and his counterpart in Cross River, Prof Ben Ayade is still two years shy of his 50th birthday. Go ahead and say with a straight face, that these guys have been examples of stellar, purposeful leadership.
When we dream and call for young people in politics, let’s not forget that Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State is just 56 years old, meaning he was pretty young when he became the second executive Governor of Ekiti State on May 29, 2003.
A certain Hon Farouk Lawan was in his ‘40s when he solicited bribe from a businessman and hid the wad of cash in his cap.
Back in school, young people were often recruited to rig elections for politicians; they had no problems with becoming cultists and killers, they were Yahoo-Yahoo proponents and cheated during exams.
Nothing has changed today.
Spend some time on your favourite social media app and you’ll come face to face with bullying, shaming and vitriol from uncouth young Nigerians—the same young Nigerians who say they want to be Governors and Presidents the next day.
Go through the comment section of your favourite news site and behold the insults young Nigerians aim at the writer or the next commenter.
Of course there are many young Nigerians out there who can make good Presidents and Governors today, but ‘young’ doesn’t necessarily translate to good leadership.
There is a value deficit in Nigeria and this malaise cuts across all age groups. It's deep-seated.
I have worked with some very young Nigerians who exhibit the same character deficit often seen in the older generation at leadership levels; and who always pose the question: “what’s in it for me?”
Greed and avarice are pervasive within the older ranks of Nigerians as there are within the younger ranks.
We live in an era where ‘who you epp?’ is the dominant phrase.
When you bring an ideology to the table, the first question posed by young Nigerians is ‘who ideology epp?’
When we wax all lyrical about replicating the Emmanuel Macron phenomenon here, we’ve got to remember that the investment banker didn’t just happen on the French political scene.
Macron founded an organic movement called En Marche ("On The Move") 12 months ago.
He was economy minister in Socialist President Francois Hollande's cabinet. He resigned from that plum job to pursue his dream.
After first working as a civil servant in the finance ministry, he went into investment banking, where he earned millions at Rothschild; putting together mergers and acquisitions.
Macron has been working his socks off. He wasn’t waiting to be appointed Personal Assistant or aide to some lousy politician. His every move was deliberate and purposeful.
He kept his eyes on the ball. He had fire in his belly. He didn't wait to be invited to the table. He made his way to the table.
To stem the tide of populism coasting round the globe, Macron earned his epaulet through dint of hard work and perseverance.
We can argue that the political system in Nigeria makes it doubly difficult for young Nigerians to climb up the leadership ladder.
But when these politicians want to amend the laws to suit their nefarious agenda, they hire young people in the media to do the dirty and leg work for them.
When the older politicians want to rig elections, they do so by enlisting the support of very young people who they then bequeath guns and money.
Emmanuel Macron can happen here. But to get there, we’ve got to purge the Nigerian society of its many ills—across all age groups.
What we need is a value re-orientation, not a seismic age-shift.
Young people need to sit down and be humble , to paraphrase a line from Kendrick Lamar’s newest joint.