Like other countries that gained independence from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, among other countries that scrambled for African nations and partitioned them into different protectorates, Nigeria has been led and still be led by a mix of baby boomer generation and generation X.
In the Nigerian context, the modern Nigerian state, according to a number of sources, was laid by the baby boomer generation [born between WWII and country’s independence in 1960]. Those born between 1960 and early 1980s, popularly known as Generation X, [including those in the baby boomer generation] have been constituting the bulk of people at the helms of affairs in the last two decades.
According to a number of youths, including Abideen Olasupo, who speaks with our analyst, believe that Generation X is finding it difficult to change the existing governance structure. This is largely due to the fact that the baby boomer generation still holds on to power. Generation Y, those born between 1981 and 1999 do not pay much attention to politics until recently when unemployment rate and socioeconomic issues started staring at their faces. Some weeks ago, they held protests across strategic cities in the country, calling for generational shift. Instead of the shift, Abideen Olasupo, a youth advocate is of the view that the youths only need to call for realignment of the generational balance of power not generational shift.
Tekedia: With the youth leadership ecosystem in the last two decades, how you would describe the youth’s readiness for sustained contribution to development?
Abideen: More than ever, the Nigerian youthful population assumed that if they work together, regardless of ethnic, religious or political belief that they can achieve a just cause. So, as soon as am concerned, the youth’s readiness for sustainable consideration is on the increase on a daily basis. We have seen it with different campaigns that has been started by youths and are achieving the results.
We have the “Enough is Enough campaign”,
We have the “Not too Young to Run campaign”,
We the “Vote Your Future campaign”,
We have the “Make Naija Stronger campaign”
We have the “OpenNass campaign”
All these campaigns have been talking about has yielded results and it really shows that among the youths who are looter and who are corrupt. We still have inter-generational youths who are intelligent and brilliant and ready to chant a way forward for the betterment of Nigeria, Africa and the whole world at large.
Tekedia: Now that youths have led one of the significant protests in the country’s history, can they be considered by the older generation for inclusive political participation henceforth?
Abideen: That’s why I’m proud as a person and as a member of the campaigner and a state coordinator for the “Not Too Young to Run campaign”. The time is now for us to encourage youth full political participation. It’s beyond just giving youth, senior Legislative Assistant or a Personal Assistant.
Give them the opportunity to be a member of the Parliament, give them the opportunity to govern a State, give them the opportunity to hold a local government, but there is a caveat in giving them platforms, give youths the track record and opportunity to rule.
Don’t just because youths have been clamouring for youth political participation and then use a methodology of reward for loyalty to give youth who don’t have capacity, so that there will be an opportunity for the older generation to tongue lash us. There is politics in everything. Given them the opportunity without giving the right youth who will really change the trend of things. They will only give the youth whom they know does not really have that capacity, so that, they will have opportunity to tongue lash the young person tomorrow. The older generation will come, oh you asked us to give you the opportunity.
Tekedia: Do we need to totally send older generation out of the leadership positions? What are the likely gains and losses?
Abideen: I think this is democracy, I don’t subscribe to the advice of chasing the whole generation and people out of the space, this is democracy, we are just trying to say, if young person contributes more than 60% to the Nigerian population, they should be given an opportunity to contribute to their own quota in a meaningful way. Look at the age bracket, the median age of Nigerian governor, it is more than 30 and at the national youth policies is saying the youths age stops as 29.
So, it shows as a country, we are not really serious with the definition of our youth or involvement of people. If democracy is all about participation, if democracy is all about engagement, if democracy is all about involvement, then the youths who contribute to the largest majority of population should not be edged out. I’ve always told people, if you are not called to the table as a young person, we need to strategize on how we are going to force our way to that table, break that table and ensure that we are on that table as well in an ethical way.
Personally, I don’t subscribe to the idea of sending older generation away. We also need them. We need their guidance. We need them to exchange and cross fertilize ideas together as well. So, gains of chasing them, out of course, we have the opportunity to say, oh we now have young people, but the loss of chasing them out is also there.
There is always an adage in the part that I came from in Nigeria, “Eniyan le laso bi Agba, kole ni Ekisa bi Agba”. This adage means that the experience of the older generation still matters to us. Therefore, I wouldn’t subscribe to the idea of chasing them away. They are needed as a partner in progress as well. We can all build this country together.