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Nigeria’s youth & 2019 elections: Coalition to nowhere

I have deliberately refrained from commenting on the misadventures and miscalculations of many “bright young things” who have expressed interest in the presidency of our country in the past few months partly because I know almost all of them personally and did not want to dig into them publicly – and of course I thought it relevant for the purpose of my own learning as a lifelong student of public administration to stay on the fringes and observe to see how far they will reach with those ambitions.

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Hope is not a strategy. Dreams are good, but realities are better. I’m happy to support a coalition of realists who are willing to go the long haul and build through time. Politics is a marathon and wishful thinking one year to elections makes no sense to me. We simply bungled this opportunity. We should have ridden on the wave on the #NotTooYoungToRun advocacy platform and infiltrated our state and federal legislatures, and by doing so, elevated the level of conversations and actions around effective governance and development for our nation and her people.

To my utter disbelief, I saw these people of great stature in their varying fields – with sterling values and profound intellect demonstrate the most disappointing levels of naivety in the run-up to the upcoming 2019 elections. A PACT even fell apart.

Nigeria is a country of 774 local governments and more than 150,000 polling units, over 250 ethnic groups and more than 500 indigenous languages; nation of multi-complexities broken along the lines of ethnicity and religion –  predominantly populated with poor people whose abject poverty is the most powerful weapon of control in the hands of the political elite. These are the ones who determine the outcomes of elections, and they couldn’t be bothered about people who think the only pathway to saving them is through the presidency.

How people who aren’t masterful in speaking their own local dialect fluently, hitherto rarely visited or aren’t even known in their own villages, wards or senatorial districts, have no deep-rooted relationships or influence with their own kinsmen – some who may not even get votes from their own family members, staff or townsmen and women – did not comprehend that all politics is local and they should have started from the local governments or Houses of Assembly showed me how much the best western education should never be mistaken for and can never translate to practical knowledge, vintage intelligence and sound judgement of the prevailing circumstances in one’s surroundings.

Macron and Obama had solid antecedents of community organizing through decades and rose through the ranks before approaching the presidency of France and America respectively. They also hail from countries fairly more developed in terms of quality education, citizen rights and action plus widespread civic astuteness than ours.

Some of our Third Force presidential candidates could have probably become our Senate President/s or Speaker/s in the coming years if they had opted for and won seats into the National Assembly – positions with lower barriers of entry, easier to win, less subject to mockery for a rookie politician and more believable for citizens from whom they need buy-in.

Additionally, democracies don’t thrive on only executive powers; we need strong legislatures and judiciaries to have a totally whole nation. Ladders aren’t climbed from the top rung.

This is the first chance and shot our generation has had since independence to present young candidates to face and compete fiercely with the old guard, yet those of us who stepped forward did not prioritize political strategy, coalition building, stakeholder communication and management, grassroots mobilization, fundraising and the sustained momentum.

Only one of the 70-somethings, Atiku or Buhari, will become our next president and sadly, none of these new, young candidates has even caused any dent on the political firmament of Nigeria enough to give the old folks sleepless nights.

We peeped into the books of the old brigade and didn’t pay attention to their repeated comedy of errors. Now, look at us, three weeks to elections, we want to mend fences and build A COALITION TO NOWHERE.

Power is never served a la carte; and if we must take hold of the reins of political power over Nigeria, the best of our generation – in wealth, political sagacity, education, enterprise, understanding of foreign policy, grassroots engagement, strategic communication and social impact/investment – from all the six geo-political zones must come together, genuinely unite for a common purpose, form a political party, choose one candidate, queue behind her or him and be ready to compromise and make sacrifices with a fixed gaze on one goal that unites us, which must not simply be to unseat the gerontocrats but to restore the glory of a nation, so rich yet so poor, because we have never realised that the greatest impediment to our progress is the INEFFICIENCY OF LEADERSHIP.

When we do so, then we’ll be ready and then we’ll be talking.

  • toyosi_Akerele@hks17.harvard.edu
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