Opinion: Not too Young To Run Act: Many Rivers Still to Cross, By Dr John I Abhuere

Towards the end of June 2018, President Buhari signed the “Not too young to rule” bill into law. It was the right step towards reigniting the hope and faith of our youths in his administration and thus in our country.
As expected it created happiness and excitement in the average youth who had followed the metamorphosis of the bill from conception to birth. Rightly, many of the youth who witnessed the signing ceremony of the bill into law were excited, full of smiles and apparently filled with great expectations. But I am jittery because there are many obstacles and many rivers to cross before the dawn of their effective participation in Nigerian politics.
Against the many hurdles which the adults know and have encountered to their frustration, but which many youths in their innocence are too young to know and to bear, I can see disappointment lurking around the corner as a result of failed expectations. For all the celebration today, the Act is of very limited value: will not add an inch to their chances of winning political power in Nigeria. It will not put power on the palm of the individual youth any time soon. The youth earnestly need to know that things are not as rosy and promising as the advent of the Act seems to be making them to believe today or as they seem to understand it.
While I see the placebo effect of the law at work haunting us all in general and frustrating the youth to anger sooner in particular, it is observed that the youth have been ill-prepared for the political role and responsibility intended.
The purpose of this essay is to point to some of the obstacles with a view to helping the youth to overcome them in due course. The youth need to know more about some aspects of our reality especially the nature of the obstacles which had kept or frustrated many people out of the political game for long. They need to know what is possible today and what is not. Above all they need to know what is to be done- the right steps to be taken towards political power.
The starting point is youth awareness of the Nigerian environment to discover many of the things in its belly. Some of them are obscene and shocking and unimaginable. While I truly hope that the new law would ginger many more youths into playing the political game, I am full of doubt here because if carefully examined, the law was really not the obstacle to their effective participation in politics but other Structural and Environmental factors-some very visible, others not.
It is therefore hoped that the youth would not be disappointed and discouraged sooner than later.
Our fear is that there are many obstacles to effective citizenry participation in Nigeria which frustrate the adults of today and will also hinder aspiring youths. It is not an easy ride for anyone- much more so the novice youth. It would take a long learning period before the Eagles would land, I mean before the benefits of the law – if any can be felt by them.
They must be ready for positive participation, and to vehemently reject servile role of the past. The strength of the youth is not in the individual but in the collective subgroup. It is their numerical strength which for long has remained very disorganized and misused or unused. The mistake of the past was the youth’s withdrawal, their failure to organise themselves into a formidable sub-group, the temptation to fall for anything and to dine with the devil, and their ready acceptance of negative role as thugs and ruffians to subvert the law and decency in the murderous service of a mindless and highly self centered political elite.
In a word, they lacked the skills and power of organisation and so were at the mercy of the better organised adult members of the society. The youth were docile and so failed to organise themselves into a formidable political force to be able to turn their numerical strength to a potent tool of negotiation for political power.
Yhe times now call for positive change of attitude and style. Not all that glitters is gold. Thus they should be realistic enough to know when some useless carrots are on sale and to appreciate what is morally sound to emulate or morally reprehensible to reject.
There are many dirty things in politics to avoid even if dangled as as the stuffs for winning political power.
For instance while observing the rules of the game- the rule of law, learning skills in oratory, etc, they should reject human sacrifice, violence and such bad things that many politicians are associated with today in Nigeria.
They must not learn the marshal arts of boxing, fighting or bloody lessons of shooting gun just because some politicians had been seen boxing in parliament, seizing the maze or using some agency to close the entrance to the National Assembly. They are of no good use and they make politics a dirty game in Nigeria.
So aim at playing clean and decent politics or what the blessed memory, late Ibrahim Waziri, a former presidential candidate of Great Nigeria Peoples Party (GNPP), called “politics without bitterness”.
As I reflect on the “Not Too Young to Rule Act” many thoughts came to mind.
One of them is about the essence or value of the Act, especially the difference it could make to the political fortunes of the youth. As I pointed earlier, the youth should not expect much from the Act. At best it is a spur of sort. All the same they should remain steadfast in politics especially in learning the rules and techniques of playing the political game in Nigeria. Contrary to the current feeling or impression within the youth sector, the Act will not put power in the hands of the youth soon.
Seriously speaking, the Act is nothing more than a toy offered by the parents to keep the children busy, happy quiet and of course hopeful.It is a kind of giving to them what they ask for – even if it is not going to be helpful beyond the ordinary or original order of things. As the youths jubilate,
I am wondering if we are not watching the parent’s child development game through “the not to young to run Act”. The adults who made the law knew much better that it could not send the political youth to Aso Rock or the Senate.
It was a cosmetic offer made not because it was necessary or would deliver power to the youth but to fulfill all righteousness because the youth asked for it. In short beyond its massaging effect on the ego of the youth, it signifies nearly nothing beyond a toylike gift from a parent to a child to keep him calm for a while. As we know, children demand for many things including moon, stars, cars, aero planes etc and no matter the level of irritation, parents would exhibit utmost patience.No matter how useless or unrealistic a demand, a parent must be patient and careful in dealing with children’s requests- many of them impossible. So while not saying ‘no’ outrightly to them, parents will also not be meeting their unrealistic demands through creative gestures such as the use of toys as delay tactics.
If you tell them the truth at the initial point of of demand, the children would feel bad, unloved and cry all day to the disturbance of everybody. And some could even resort to throwing stones. Thus some parents show deliberate weakness before their children not out of cowardice, but to help keep their hope and faith alive and high until they eventually grow to discover for instance that aircrafts are not sold in ordinary local market.
As part of nurturing them to maturity and reality some parents may even say yes to even the things they know to be impossible, but which the youth think is feasible in their childish innocence.This is truly how I see the “Not too Young to run act”- the game parents play with their children at times to develop and empower them to cope with the oddities of life.But a gift of toy is still better than nothing from a parent. And some toys can be useful especially as a learning tool. So grab it with both hands. And begin to learn the game of politics – at least mentally.
Henceforth, there must be seriousness. “Nothing good comes easy” says the wise man. There are many difficulties involved in playing the political game in Nigeria.Winning political power involves so many factors that are beyond age limit and the youth of today.One thing is to make laws and another is to make them work properly. As an exercise in hope keeping and faith/trust building among the youth, as an approach to strengthening and sustaining their interest in politics, as a legal step toward encouraging more youth participation for a better future and as a constitutional action in recognition of the powers inherent in the youth, I welcome the Act as a massaging balm especially on the ego of the youth.
Otherwise as an instrument aimed at making the youth to win power, it is merely a placebo, a bubble in the air or what Shakespeare calls “sound and fury signifying nothing” much for the youth. Yet it is a welcome development. Essentially theAct was meant to advance and protect the interest of the youth politically. It is a great good idea that could heighten the level of political consciousness of the youth and hopefully spur some of them into practical action of tasting the political menu. It could promote sub- group positive action. Thus even, if a toy, the aspiring youth must play with it carefully.They must not throw it away or quit the political game, but play well with the toy served them by the adults.While the Act would not add an inch to their chances of winning political power, it could spur them to positive action such as registering with a political party
The Act Is not the work of a a bad or dishonest guy out to flatter and deceive but a noble deed and an appealing gesture with clean intention. The only snag is environmental constraints. As they say cowards die many times before their actual time. So be strong. Rather than quit, they must learn from past mistakes and aspire to correct them henceforth. Here the era of unhelpful act of staying on the fence or carrying dangerous weapons on behalf of the political elite should be seen as over.
Towards this end, they must be prepared to play new and more responsible role of positive participation than hither-to in the political process. Before now, except the corps members, most of the youth were recruited to serve as thugs in the electoral process. Now, they must become conscious learner of the political game with a view to be a professional player sooner than later. They must be hungry for knowledge and know what is immediately available and possible. For instance the president’s position is certainly not the starting point. They must be conscious of what is possible, how to go about it and what is to be done to attain that which is impossible for now.
The other day a top government official let it be known to the novice that the president’s position in Nigeria is a product of negotiations. Some said it was a slip of the tongue. Whatever is the case the task of the youth is is to know the negotiators. They need to know where and and how the negotiation is done? But in the interim, there are other positions to aspire for either at the party level or government’s level. They should not be afraid to try hands on them. This the essence of the “Not to young to rule Act”- to prompt the youth into positive action.

Dr. Abhuere is the Founder/Chaiman, Centre for Child Care and Youth Development (CCYD), Abuja.

Author: News Editor

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