Youths Inclusion In Politics: The Gajiyayyu’s Won’t Die By Raymond Inkabi
On Thursday, May 29, 2014 at 5:29pm I had come across a bold headline on Linda Ikeji that read “There is nothing wrong in making a 30 year old a Minister but…” – GEJ, befuddled, sluggishly I set my cursor at the link and clicked. And this is what I saw. “You talk about mentors. I’m not saying youths cannot do certain jobs. Anybody from the age of 25 and above can do any job. I remember when Rivers state was created; I was a Rivers man before Bayelsa state was created. The first Rivers state Military Governor Diete Spiff was about 28years old when he was appointed the military Governor of Rivers state. Gowon when he became Head of State was about 33years old so my Governor and the Head of State were youths but they worked with elders because I remember the cabinet members of Rivers state then were very matured people working with Diete Spiff and that is why I remember one of our elders, Maitama Sule when he was speaking at the University of Port Harcourt, made the statement that young breed without the old breed will breed greed so you must mix. The best person to take care of a child may not be a child so you need somebody with some level of experience to mentor the youths.
You cannot leave the teenagers there to get into the youth age before you mentor them. Start from them and the first person to mentor a young person is someone that has made some mistakes. Let us say a young lady, while in secondary school have affairs with a man and gets pregnant and had complications and couldn’t graduate when her colleagues graduated. Along the line, she finds her path and goes back to the secondary school, completes her University. She can tell another young girl look this is my experience. Please don’t go that way, see this is my experience. So a Minister of Youth development can be a very young person, anybody of 25years and above can manage that but the key thing is that in the cabinet we have only one youth. There is nothing wrong in making a 30-33 years a Minister of Petroleum or Finance if you are competent.” But I guess Mr. President was carried away with the hype of May, 29th. Because after 54 years of independence, much hasn’t changed – not too many youths in polity. Not many youths at the FEC meetings. The youths are out in streets – in the dark corners of reality.
My critique here is, people lament young people’s disdain for politics and, by extension, inclusion. Through varying fora: seminars, workshops, Congresses, markets, Churches, cyberspace and villages. However, we must note that different people desire different things from politics and hence participation. A quite a handful of today’s young people indulge in politics but will never be reckoned, probably because doddering old wine won’t give way to the new. In ten to fifteen years about half of the Nigerian population—the generation born before independence, when peace, nationalism, patriotism and well-being was strengthened – will reach their melting point – a very old age. How then will the new generation now entering the labor market and political scene not fall prey to predatory tendencies of political bats and bush babies, chimpanzees and porcupines? When it is clear that they the youths do not possess the memory of our past; culture, ambition, and fabric as a nation. Legendary reggae singer, Bob Marley, once sang “If you know your history, Then you would know where you coming from, Then you wouldn’t have to ask me, who the ‘eck do I think I am.” I think that’s what our youths need to do. Know our history to avoid ambiguity. Our fore bearers knew our history, then sat down, and moved the motion for a sovereign nation.
We have refashioned society and rebranded politics leaving young men and women politically disenchanted and intellectually confused. In order to revert the failed philosophy of decades of excluding youthful participation, the age limit of indication of interest in public office should be lowered. In doing so, those who do not acknowledge the great necessities of competition and growth will be cut out. And in refusing to do so, those who choose to play the game will have to accept any punishment, and any suffering demanded by the great necessity – of trying to eat with elders. But who said that we, the youths must absolutely be part of this? In the moment a growing emphasis on the media, originality, and commercialism is producing a constantly increasing diversity of youth. Fashionistas, bloggers, hooligans, rappers, activists, brand ambassadors, danfo drivers, scammers, and cyber-voltrons are just some of the distinct apolitical spaces to which today’s young people feel they belong. The youths must not mention politics. We are not allowed to speak of it, dream of it, much more of joining it. And like the Maasai or Igbo tribe, youths today, as a rule, pass through a whole lot of rite de passage to make their mark and have a name in society. He, the youth believes that projecting labor as a fundamentally creative activity will generate a new society – from social regeneration comes new social relations, and from new relations comes a new economic and political reality. This Nigerian tragedy of distancing the youth in power plays has been founded on a false representation of social reality, based on some assumptions that contradict daily experience, but are nevertheless delivered as absolute truth, and as unquestionable dogma.
Yet no Nigerian politician dares to question these platitudes. And those who protest against this devastating policy are accused of being unable to comprehend the “national task” at hand: to advance the interests of the “gajiyayyu”, meaning “spent and tired old men”, in Hausa dictum. Nigeria belongs of course, to their families, cronies and their bellies. No need to cry youth, you’re the presumed leader of tomorrow.
The writer, Raymond Inkabi holds a B.Tech (Hons) in Geography from the Federal University of Technology, Yola. He tweets on @alykka on twitter. He can be reached on 07085196243, 08187325242 or via email on email@example.com
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