2023: With PDP’s 76-Year-Old, APC Should Give Nigerians its 46-Year-Old
By Nafisat Bello
No country can afford to seek to be an Island on its own. Nigeria cannot exist in isolation. The whole world cannot decide to move right and Nigeria alone will choose to go left. Gerontocracy has proven to be a massive failure everywhere it has been practised. That is why youths all over the world have chosen to take their destinies in their hands and demand not just a seat at the table but the leadership spot so they can drive their country forward in this age of ICT. That is also why nation states are yielding to the legitimate demands of the youths and they are better for it.
That is also why France has Emmanuel Macron whose remarkable rise to power gave young leaders hope around the world. We also have Gabriel Boric, a former student leader who won Chile’s presidential election at the age of 35 and Finland’s Prime Minister, Sanna Marin, 36, a woman and a youth, two politically marginalised groups.
Back to Nigeria, the agitation for youthful leaders has been there for years. The country’s first set of leaders upon independence were very young, educated, patriotic, vibrant and very productive. But suddenly things changed and Nigeria youths became political thugs and violent agitators in support of gerontocrats who have lived their best and passed their prime.
By setting age limits for political aspirations, the Nigerian Constitution made matters worse. The Not Too Young to Run movement had to be born to prick the conscience of the country so that young, capable Nigerians can live their dreams.
Upon passage by the National Assembly, President Muhammadu Buhari in 2018 proved that he is a leader that listens, a father that hears the cry of his beloved children and yield to their demands, by signing the Not Too Young To Run Bill into law. He did that in an elaborate ceremony amidst pomp and pageantry.
The Law effectively reduced the age limit of aspiring to political offices. The presidential election age limit was reduced from 40 to 35 and there were other corresponding reductions from National Assembly to Governors and to State Houses of Assembly.
The above narration represents progress, just like Governor Yahaya Bello’s emergence on the political scene in early 2016 was a watershed in the country’s political history. He was not the youngest governor in the country’s history but he was the youngest at that time and he still is. By his performance, his advocacy, his gigantic, positive presence on the national scene, he has proven to be a quality addition to the polity.
But what doesn’t represent progress is the fact that the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has nominated former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, as its presidential candidate for the 2023 elections. While the man is eminently qualified for the position having garnered the requisite experience in politics, public service and private practice, the fact that he is 76 does not excite Nigerian youths at all.
The Nigerian youth represent the bulk of voters in the country. The feedback on the streets since the Atiku news hit the airwaves on Sunday morning has been that the Nigerian youths need someone to identify with in the presidential race.
APC came as a better alternative to the PDP in 2015. This time is another opportunity to prove to be the better alternative to the choice the PDP has made for the country.
Unlike Atiku who is 76, Bello is 46 and he has come with the full package of not being too young, not being old and having the physical strength, mental alertness, open mind, gut, audacity and courage to dare the odds and work round the clock for Nigeria. The best thing the APC can do for Nigerian youths to is to give them Bello. This is because with Atiku in the race, if another old politician takes the APC ticket, it will be a total symbolic shut out for the youths. If the ruling party wants to secure the votes of youth and women, Bello is the man.
We shouted and cried to the PDP to consider the youths in their ranks and throw any of them up as presidential candidate but they didn’t hear. It is now time for the APC to turn the table and prove to Nigerians that it is better option.
The peaceful agitation and demand for a youthful president in 2023 is overwhelming and vociferous. Nigerian youths and their representatives mean business when they say they no longer want to see the same old faces in the highest offices in the country.
The Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Rafsanjani, and the Executive Director of the Advocate for Peoples’ Rights, Victor Giwa, spoke the minds of the majority of Nigerians recently when in separate interviews urged old and weak aspirants to focus on improving their health and forget about seeking to lead the country.
Rafsanjani, who is also the head of Transparency International in Nigeria, said, “Nigeria has a serious dysfunctional system. Anybody that is coming to take over the country has to seriously do a lot of rethinking, working, and strategic planning to address the numerous challenges we have in governance in Nigeria. Some of the people that offer to seek election in Nigeria, to a large extent, do not have the political will to be able to do the right thing to address these challenges.”
“When someone is too old and is not able to function in a manner that they are expected to, then that would be a problem. I would rather beg the aspirants who know that they are old and weak and would not be able to provide the required time needed for the presidency to not block other Nigerians’ chances.
“They can always provide mentorship, leadership and advice from the outside,” he added.
The Alliance for Nigeria’s Future (ANF) called on the old generation of politicians to step aside and support the transfer of political power to the younger and vibrant generation in 2023.
The group in a statement recently warned that the 2023 presidential race must usher in an era of rapid social and physical development in the country, “and this can only be realised through the emergence of young, vibrant and highly educated president and other elected officials.
“The presidency is not a compensation plan for anyone. Nigerians do not owe anyone the presidency. Drag your debt elsewhere,” the group warned.
“Anyone above 65 is disqualified in our opinion! They should not even consider contesting. Please be a kingmaker and support younger politicians for the presidency,” the group added.
With few days to the presidential primary of the APC, this is a clarion call on President Buhari to hearken to the voices of the youths and encourage other party leaders to narrow the choices down to Bello. This is not because Bello is the only young aspirant. It is because Bello is the only one who ticks all the boxes for the Nigerian youths.