When I returned to Ovim, my town, in 1967, nothing showed that the war was on. At the Civil Defence parade ground the next day, only a few people were there. Our ex-service men were in-charge, issuing command in their Burma style and faded voice to the troops, whose response was poor. I could not bear it. They protested, when I wanted to take-over the command, since I was a youth, until their oga obliged me. ‘Attentua! Ajuwa! About tua! Forward march. Hanlele, two paces mark tima,’ my voice resounding in youthful rigour.

News went to town. The next day, the parade ground was filled up. The ex-service men were experiencing unease. They gave me the command, believing that I would fail, as they never heard that I joined the Army. One day, they issued me a query. My saving grace was the recognition by the District Officer and consequent issuing of ID cards to the members, a fit they failed to achieve. Though I made a great mistake by ‘seizing’ power, they needed a youth, like me, for effectiveness. 

     Few years ago, I was surprised when my last born and her husband were talking about the ‘New generation’. My second son agreed with them, detailing the pains of the new generation. “New generation!” I mused, “So my children, who used to refer to my wife and me as, ‘Old school’, are no longer in the bracket of ‘New school.” I remembered Dr. Azikiwe’s write-up, in which he reprimanded Dr. Ukpaby Asika, the then Administrator of the Eastern States. “Nothing is permanent,” Zik reminded him. And nothing is permanent really. Youths need old men and old men also need them.

Some parents, when they notice that they are getting old, hand over their businesses to their children. Some men involve their wives in their businesses from cradle. Some men do not hand over to any person. They work until they die. Their belief is that the youths still need to mature. Is maturity determined by age, size, academics or what? Was General Yakubu Gowan not the Head of State of this great country at the age of 33? Nigeria, as we know, is a complex nation with divergent tribes and culture, religious and political divides, et cetera. I do not know any business outfit or organisation that is as complex as our great country. If he could lead us at that age, there is therefore, no position a youth cannot occupy.

Some people also do not relinquish power because of their selfish fear that the youths are incapable of doing things the way they do. This is affirmed by the confession: ‘As it was in the beginning, it is now, and so shall it be forever, world without end’. Why should the youths do things the way we do, when we live in a dynamic society? Is it not pride that makes someone to over-exaggerate himself, thinking that he is a standard to be copied? This matter was settled in the United States in 1969, when Richard Nixon was elected the President. Someone advised him to follow strictly the footsteps of his predecessor. “If I will do things exactly as my predecessor,” he replied, “there would have been no need for the election. My predecessor would have continued in office”. Beni!

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There is also the wrong assumption that we are more knowledgeable than the youths. Who says so? I recall with pathos, how I took my family for retreat one weekend. Each of us had an equal opportunity to minister. My wife and I learnt much from them, though they were still young by then. Moses handed over leadership to Joshua and Joshua did better than him. Moses, in error, allowed the spies to give their evil report to the masses and it brought discontentment. Joshua, during his time, made the spies to report only to him. Wisdom! Elijah was great. Elisha served him, but he performed twice the miracles Elijah did. Our children should excel us. I wrote my first book at 51 but KC, my second son, as a young man. He said that I preach from one church to the other, but that his would be in the stadium. He is doing so. At 51, I ministered for the first time in New York, US. At the age of 31, he was invited to minister in Maryland, US.      

Imagine a church where leadership was handed over to the youths amidst pessimism, for no reason, except that they were youths. Some members even decided to leave. Though the people, who handed over to them, were giants in church and in industry, the youths were not scared. They knew their onions, and took off with zest. Members, who were at home during programmes or were attending other churches’ own, have returned to their seats. Businessmen who had good reasons for not closing their shops to attend programmes, have ranked among the early attendees. “I don’t fear Azikiwe, Okpara or Sir Abubakar, but a newborn-baby, for I don’t know what he will be,” said Chief Obafemi Awolowo. The wisdom in this is that there was nothing more these great men could be. Nobody knows what a newborn baby will be.

What tipped the balance? Pride was put inside the trashcan. A proud man is difficult to deal with. If he is led, his preoccupation is to criticise the leadership, even when they should be praised. If he leads, he may be a disaster, delegating responsibilities without the commensurate authority and then retains the authority. He appreciates only what he does or is involved in doing. If you paint any wall blue in his absence, he is sure to condemn it, preferring it red. Had you painted it red, he would have preferred it blue.

Self ambition was silenced, and certain toes were stepped upon. People, who recognised the weakness in proud men, but still applauded them in their presence, were ignored. As one could not do better than the youths, confidence was reposed on them, and leadership handed absolutely to them.      

For further comment, Please contact: Osondu Anyalechi:  0909 041 9057; [email protected]