Campaigners behind ‘Not too Young to Run’ movement in Nigeria have got an additional voice in their support. Dr. Innocent Jooji, an intellectual of the Catholic Church and Head of the Department of Political Science, Veritas University, Abuja says unfolding events in Nigeria suggests the need for fresh and vibrant leadership materials. He dismissed the wisdom and maturity ascribed to age as far as good leadership is concerned, saying the belief that entitles older persons to occupy positions of eminence or political leadership has not been helpful.
Political parties, said Dr. Jooji, tend to toe the line of ascribing wisdom to age by choosing older people to bear flag of party representations during elections but, as he put it, most of them have disconnected from innovation and expired in their way of thinking, a development he describes as making democracy suicidal for Nigeria.
In his argument, “the cult of mediocrity which is obvious not only in the political landscape but also in all aspects of our national life is because of the persistence of sit-tight syndrome of older and “expired” political stalwarts who have no meaningful contribution to the development of the country”.
Contending that the old breed should breed the new breed without transferring corrupt and greedy attributes them, the foreign policy specialist who was speaking at the Students’ Week’ of the university chapter of the National Association of Political Science Students, (NAPSS) mocked a situation where young people are marginalized, isolated, overlooked, sidelined, subjugated and even conscientiously exploited by the old breed. If 70% of Nigeria’s population is below 35 and the political culture has consistently ignored the youth by disconnecting them from political process, then the youths deserves political participation and now is the time to begin serious campaign, said Dr. Jooji who contrasted current situation with the period before and after independence when, in his own words, Nigerian youth were at the centre and also the heartbeat of the nation’s politics.
He had in mind such names as Tafawa Balewa, Maitama Sule, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Anthony Enahoro, Samuel Akintola, Mudi Sipikin, Magaji Danbatta, amongst others whom he said, started their political life very young. “For example, Balewa was elected into the Northern House of Assembly when he was 34 years old and at the age of 37, he was elected into the Legislative Assembly. At the age of 21, Shehu Shagari started his political life and when he was 23 years old in 1948, he merged his political organization, The Youth Social Circle with other political organizations to form the Northern People’s Congress (NPC). Continuing, Dr. Jooji said Maitama Sule became a minister in his twenties and that there were many others who occupied positions of leadership when they were in their twenties or thirties.
Reinforcing his advocacy for a return to what then existed, the HoD asserted the unacceptability of recycling government officials, especially at the Federal level. Old men who are in their sixties, seventies and eighties should, in his opinion, be mentors to the youths rather than restrict young and vibrant people from participating in public offices as is the case in many countries of the world.
But Jooji is not just all for youth participation, he is also for expanding the space for women whom he said are pushed aside along a stereotypical construction of the space in favour of ‘politically experienced men’.
He makes reference to how international development players such as the United Nation’s Development Programme, (UNDP) and the Inter-Parliamentary Union, (IPU) in terms of programmes responding to the current of youth primacy although he is also interrogating the move, with particular reference to the motive for youth campaign for insertion in exalted leadership positions of this country. “Is the motive for greed or service?, he asked.
Using the example of Jesus Christ who started at 30 years, recruited, tutored and equipped his disciples before sending them out for leadership roles, Dr. Jooji wondered how many youths are ready to learn as to be above being called half baked. He speaks: While we advocate for political participation of the youths in the management of the affairs of this country, we must admit that we cannot afford to hand over to wrong hands. This stems from the fact that there are some youths who are not emotionally, physically, psychologically, spiritually and morally stable. For example, we cannot allow drug addicts, cultists, alcoholics, armed robbers, kidnappers, rapists or fraudsters to serve as our leaders. Leaders must possess desirable qualities, such as hard work and dedication, honesty and integrity, creditability and accountability, passion and commitment, delegation and empowerment, intelligence and maturity, creativity and innovation …”.
“Can we make it happen? Yes, we can”, he concluded his presentation with high approval rating at the occasion attended by senior academics and students as well as their visitors.
The week long fiesta is featuring excursion, a Roundtable Session, a soccer slog out and an award night, among others.