In Politics, age is not just a number.

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APC Youth Leader Ibrahim Jalo

In politics and other fields, it is not unusual for talented people to do signature work late in life, when they can apply cumulative wisdom of experience and leverage personal connections cultivated over time. However, along with a significant amount of Nigerians, i have become critical about the choice of opposition party APCs new Youth Leader. A man as old as the current Emir of Kano.

Where the issue is plainly competition between two or more people, one can understand the primitive desire to seek competitive advantage, but unlike in the sporting and academic arena, the political arena (especially in a democratic environment) is one where the needs and wants of the majority have to be often matched with the philosophies and values of their chosen political party.

For a political party that means to un-seat a ruling party, for a large group of defectors that have begun to preach change, the choice of a 52 year old as a Youth Leader isn’t just incorrect, it shows a lack of respect for the coming generation. One thing I am sure about is this, I may be more experienced, but I am not as sharp as I was 10 years ago and that goes for APCs Ibrahim Jalo too.

A lot of people have recognized this, both in the academic field and sporting arena. At 23 a close friend of mine Mustapha Ibrahim was done with University education(typical Nigerian standard). With a First Class degree in Finance and Accounts, he felt in charge. Waiting for the NYSC (National Youth Service Scheme) for one year made him 24, another one year of NYSC (technically two years) made him 26. Staring at an online job application Ibrahim discovered he did not qualify to work for several international accounting firms including Deloitte based on what he deduced to be their Graduate Trainee recruitment policy. Why? He was too old. Only those below 25 were being considered. Age was a factor.

In the 1999 FIFA U-17 World Championship, Nigeria beat Japan 9-0. Following the game, Japans French Manager Philippe Troussier quipped that he saw one of Nigeria’s U-17 players enter a taxi “with his wife and children”, implying that Nigeria had used over-age players. Such an accusation didn’t come off as outrageous, just 10 years earlier over allegations of using overaged players, the Nigerian team was banned by FIFA for two years and Nigeria was been stripped of its right to host the 1991 FIFA World Youth Championship. I do not wish to point this out as a Nigerian problem, no it isn’t. Cameroons international football defender Tobie Mimboe held several documents during the course of his career that indicated he became younger as time went by, and at 72 United States Senator John McCain stubbornly contested against Barrack Obama in the 2008 elections.

Some people have argued that I need only to take a look at the average Nigerian youth to understand why things are done the way they are. I have, and my conclusion is the same. As much as I love and respect the older generation, I believe also strongly in the coming one. As much i love and revere a man like General Muhammadu Buhari who i also personally regard very highly, I wouldn’t vote for him for any coming election should he chose to run and that decision will have to do with not only his age, but my greater respect for the potential of present and coming generation.

A good read for those still doubting the capacity of young people to lead is an extract, very rampant on several sites depicting the discrimination of Nigerian youths by the older generation due to their age. It does the good task of listing the ages of prominent Nigerians at the height of their glory.

“…for those who hold that the current generation is too young to rule, here is a blast from the past. Obafemi Awolowo premier of the South West was at the time 37, his counterparts Ahmadu Bello was (36) and Tafawa Balewa (34). At the South-South, Okotie-Eboh who brought Julius Berger to build the third mainland bridge was (27), and Enahoro led the struggle for independence after the death of Macaulay also at 27. Only Nnamdi Azikiwe was 42 at the time. In 1966, the first coup was led by: Chukwuma Nzeogwu who was at that time 29years and countered by Murtala Mohammed at the time also 28. Others who fought in the counter coup include Theophilus Danjuma (28), Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (25), Sani Abacha (23), Shehu Musa Yaradua (23), and the counter coup brought Yakubu Gowon into power at (32). Gowon and  Ojukwu at the time 33year fought a 3year civil war. During this period now two time president of Nigeria, Obasanjo was 29years and Buhari 24. Most of the military administrators who governed the states under the successive military regimes, most of whom are governors now, were under 30 years. The brief democratic dispensation which interjected the military interregnums also saw the House of Representatives in particular populated by majority of members under 30 years as well as some senators. Under 30s were also not in short supply with appointments, we have examples of MT Mbu who became foreign affairs minister at 23 and Pat Utomi who became a presidential adviser at 27…”

Yes, I concede to the argument that a majority of what is today ‘The Youths’ in Nigeria do not know their left from their right. However it is a duty of the older generation to correct that. They owe us that much. Even without being an APC member, it is essential to point this out. Ibrahim Jalo as Youth Leader does not speak change. It says power over the people.

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2 thoughts on “In Politics, age is not just a number.

  1. ……and my director in d office says “u are too young for dis post and u don’t even know anything, fresh graduate from university of dese days” forgeting dat she also started like me some over 30yrs ago. All of dem na d same, refusing to give us opportunity and infringing on our rights

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    1. Your Director is probably right and you should listen to her most times. That amount of time is suffiecient experience worthy of respect. However I believe she underscores even you (who I regard very intelligent and reasonable) where she says ‘fresh graduate’ and the notion that knowledge correlates with age.

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