Nigeria has announced the date of the presidential elections next year. The only unexpected disappointment in this announcement, in the opinion of many young people, is date. Fixed on St Valentine’s Day, many think it might discourage young people, who might have better romantic arrangement for the day, from participation. Well, think about the massive debates regarding what is and is not our culture in relation to the recently signed anti gay law, and wonder why anyone would be worried about St Valentine’s Day when fixing the election date.
What most people have gotten used to though is the recycling of the same politicians for more than thirty year. Many of them have raised their heads once again, and nothing will stop them. A friend recently posted the following on Facebook:
In 1985, Ibrahim Babangida (IBB) was the president of Nigeria and our teachers told us that Buhari was the former Head of state. Our teacher also called us “the leaders of tomorrow”.. 27 years later, IBB and Buhari are still contesting for Presidency. Its either our teacher lied to us about being the leaders of tomorrow..Or tomorrow is yet to come.. Who’s fooling who?
He then went on to list some politicians who have been recycling, and often moving from one part to the other. A funny or maybe actually sad observation from the list is that the most experienced politicians seem to be former military officers. That makes you wonder why someone joined the military if all they wanted was to become politicians.
On the one hand, as long as it is a democratic process, everyone irrespective of age or longevity should be qualified to contest for any office. The question is, however, if it still in the best interest of the country to continue to have what is often described as “old wine in new bottles”. A common argument is that they have been tried and tested. However, given the level of development and degree of corruption, I struggle to see how any politician can shine on past glory. The problem is that very often these old soldiers see it as their god-given right to rule, and created a situation whereby anyone who wants to progress has to pay them patronage. We just wait to see how the situation develops, and what the electorate will make of it.
Now imagine a different scenario where young and new politicians were given the opportunity. Will they fair better? Will the time it will take them to get to understand how the system work not be an obstacle? Would it be better to start on a plain sheet? Looking back in our history might not be a good guide. Nigeria fought a brutal civil war otherwise known as the Biafra War when the Nigerian Head of State Yabuku Gowon and the Biafra Leader Emeka Ojukwu were 33 years old and 34 years old respectively. Many years later the Biafran leader was quoted as saying that he had acted as a 34 year old at the time. Is it possible the the war could have been avoided if we had more mature politicians then?
While we should definitely continue to make the case for fresher blood in African politics, we should not overlook the responsibility that may come with age and experience.