Omoniyi Salaudeen; Onyedika Agbedo; Olakunle Olafioye
As critical stakeholders continue to express support for a paradigm shift in the leadership of the country through the Not-Too-Young-To-Rule bill recently signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari, the Nigerian youths have turned down the plea of the president who had jocularly asked them to wait till the end of his second term in 2023.
In a quick response to the president’s teaser, the Nation- al Leader of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF), Ahmed Yerima, declared the readiness of the youths to take over the reign of power in 2019, saying that “strategies are already being put in place to bring up somebody who would look at Nigeria as his own constituent, where all of us will begin to see ourselves as Nigerians.
“It is commendable that President Muhammadu Buhari signed the bill, but it is long overdue. It is also not enough to sign the bill, it must
also be implemented. The youths must also rise to the occasion and work harder to take over the governance of this country.
“With or without the bill, nobody can stop any Nigerian from contesting any position in this country. The youths have to rise to the occasion. That the president said the youths should wait till after 2023 is a matter of opinion. There is nowhere it is stated in the constitution that Nigerian youths should not contest or should wait till after 2023. Nigerians will decide that.”
Speaking against the back- drop of the moneybags, who currently dominate the political space, he said: “If he (Buhari) can make it, youths can also make it. So, it is not all about money. The awareness is increasing. Nigerians are now wiser, knowing that politics is not all about money; it is about capacity to deliver and take the country to the next level. Moneybag politics has not taken this country anywhere; rather, we are retrogressing every day. It is high time we began to look at
people based on merit, based on their capacity. So, it is better to encourage the younger ones to take over the leader- ship of this country. Money or no money, we must ensure that credible leaders are elected.
“I don’t think Nigerians want to go back to the same thing over and over again. I strongly believe Nigerian youths can do it better.”
Similarly, President General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council Worldwide, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, also lauded Buhari for assenting to the bill into law, adding that “it’s going to open the channel for a new, fresh, vibrant, innovative and young Nigerian of Igbo extraction to become the president of Nigeria if possible in 2019.”
He stressed that Nigerian youths are hungry for power and might run against him if he fails to appease them.
“Indeed, in my personal view, the Nigerian democracy will be strengthened if the youth tastes their popularity against Mr President in 2019.
“I salute the president for assenting to the Not-Too- Young-To-Run bill. It is a wel- come development in our polity and it’s going to strengthen our democracy. But from the point of view of how it pertains to the young generation of Ndigbo, the Not-Too-Young- To-Run Act will favour them greatly, because it means that in the nearest future, the younger generation of Ndig- bo will take over all the government houses in Igbo land, having understood that those who have been occupying the government houses in the past have betrayed them.
“The Act has also opened a new chapter in our national politics and will address a lot of abnormalities in the sys- tem, which includes an Igbo man becoming the president of Nigeria, and by this I mean a young Nigerian who never saw the war. Those who saw the war, and are alive today, are afraid of handing over power to somebody from this part of the country who wit- nessed the war. So, the Act will break the jinx and has, therefore, given hope to vibrant Igbo youths to run for the presidency in 2019,” Isiguzoro said.
Reminded that the president has appealed to the youths not to run against him in 2019, Isiguzoro said that Buhari has a democratic right to woo Nigerian youths, noting, however, that it was left for younger Nigerians to decide whether to run against him or not.
His words: “If the president is appealing that youths should not run against him in 2019, then there must be a concrete agreement where he would pledge to hand over to an Igbo man in 2023. But if such agreement does not come up, then a young, vibrant, Igbo man will run against him in 2019.”
Isiguzoro, however, said that the youths might consider heeding Buhari’s appeal for the singular reason that he assented to the bill, which has encouraged them to venture into politics early in their lives.
“But does it mean that Mr President is afraid of running against a young, vibrant youth possibly from any part of the country? If Mr President is afraid of the youth running against him, he must appease them before the 2019 election because Nigerian youths that I know, who are hungry for power, may run against him,” he said.
Also speaking, Secretary, Eastern Consultative Assembly, Evangelist Elliot Ugo- chukwu-Uko, though com-
mending the bill, he expressed reservation for its workability in view of the inherent imped- iments against the youths in the present electoral system.
“It’s a good thing. It has opened the door for young people, but we are not excit- ed about it because we under- stand the corruption within the electoral system. We un- derstand the impediments to participatory democracy in Nigeria; we understand the mindset of the current leadership so nobody is excited about it,” he said.
Ugochukwu-Uko, who is former President of Igbo Youth Movement (IYM), further said that Buhari’s appeal to the youth not to run against him was not important.
“The reality is that he is likely to be defeated and he is likely not to accept it. That is the problem facing Nigeria at the moment. His own people from his own region have been holding meetings every- day for the past two or three months to select a consensus alternative. It’s clear he is not going to survive the 2019 election. But the problem is that he controls everything today. Will he accept the verdict of the people? The youth should face the reality that we are all in trouble if we don’t recon- struct Nigeria back to true fiscal federalism. It’s only true federalism that will save Nigeria,” he said.
Also the National Secretary, Arewa United Consultative Forum, Comrade Ibrahim Abubakar Jagaban, commended Buhari for assenting to the bill, but urged Nigerian youths to support the president’s re-election bid in 2019 instead of contesting against him.
“The passage of the bill is a step in the right direction because governance is supposed to involve all and sun- dry. There should be balance between the aged, the not- too-old and the youth. Youths are expected to sustain leadership, but if they don’t get exposure to the nitty-gritty of leadership from the old guards, there will be no way they will be able to take over from them,” he said.
When reminded that the president who was appealing to the youths not to run against him had earlier dubbed them as lazy, Jagaban retorted: “I think that is the personal view of the president looking at it from the angle that he thinks he started a project to revamp the economy and he needs more time to consolidate. If the youth should come out now, that may take the shine off his popularity that could help him clinch the second term mandate. I think that is the angle he is coming from.
“My view about this government is that we have a government that is keen to taking the masses along. And if a project has started in the direction, I think the government should be allowed to consummate it. I am a youth; I don’t have any- thing against the youth, but I just think we should allow this government to complete what it has started so that we don’t fritter away the gains the government has made so far,” he said.