Will A Younger President Make A Positive Difference In Nigeria?

By Ikenga Chronicles March 13, 2018

Will A Younger President Make A Positive Difference In Nigeria?

— By Philip Odoemena

This is a question that has no definite or clear-cut answer. This is a question that can only be answered when a younger President actually occupies the highest executive office in Nigeria. This is a question that can be answered by empirical evidence based on performance. A country with persistent demand for a younger President without any experience in governance may be taking a huge risk, a risk that may, in the long run yield positive results or may bring a misfortune to the entire nation.

In any position of leadership, an unknown potential leader with little or no experience may be compared or likened to a double-edged sword. He may bring to the office fresh ideas and energy or he may bring to the office some elements of impulsiveness and recklessness. In Nigeria, both the current President and the past Presidents have all demonstrated the positive and the negative sides of the equation. Considering the present situation in Nigeria, citizens are wondering if a younger adult as its President will be more innovative and vigorous and willing to take calculated risks in order to steer the wheel in the right direction. The question now is, will an older politician or a younger politician or even an “outsider”be that President that Nigeria needs at this critical time?

Recently, I read an interview Mr. Itse Sagay, the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption had with one of the Nigerian Newspapers. In the interview, he said, “there was no evidence backing the claim that youths were better than elders in leadership”. Maybe the honorable Chairman meant “Young Adults” and not “Youths”.

Before we proceed further, I think it is necessary to understand the difference between “Youth” and “Young Adults”. Youth carries the connotations of childhood or formative years, the period in life when one is very young, especially the period between childhood and maturity, in other words, the early period of existence, growth, and development. If this is the “Youth” Chairman Sagay is referring to, he may be right because at this period in one’s life, the person is not ripe or mature enough to be a president.

Furthermore for the sake of enlightenment “Youth” is best implicit or implied as a period of transition from childhood to adulthood and in between that period the easiest way to define it is by age. For instance, UNESCO uses United Nations universal definition of “Youth” to determine who falls into that age group. The United Nations, for statistical consistency defines “Youth” as those individuals between the ages of 15 and 24 years.

I do not believe that Nigerians are clamoring for a 15 or 20 year old to become their President. I believe they are saying that Nigeria would like to see a young adult occupy the office of the presidency rather than the older adults which has been the case in the past several years.

Contrary to what Chairman Sagay insinuated, especially, when he said that “Nigeria may regret having a youth as president because they would be embarking on a dangerous journey if elected, that may not be the case considering what is current in the world stage. There are many young adult leaders across the globe — from democracies, monarchies, and dictatorships in Eastern and Western Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. These young adult Presidents so far have not embarked on a ‘dangerous journey” with their respective countries. There are about seven younger presidents in the world at this present time whose ages are between 28 to 40years. Africa takes a back stage as no current leader in the continent is below the age of 40.

These younger leaders are doing very well in their respective countries. Who says that young adult cannot be a President? Chairman Sagay said so. At the same interview with the Daily Independent, he said Youths can’t be President in Nigeria because elders are better. He gave his reasons:

“It is shallow-thinking for anyone to think that if a youth becomes president, he will do better than the older one. It is very shallow thinking because, as I see it, it is the youths of Nigeria today who believe in overnight wealth, who want billions overnight, who don’t want to work for their living and gradually build up their assets and business. That psychology of overnight wealth is almost exclusively a youth attribute.”

With all due respect, I differ with the Chairman. The older politicians both military and civilian were and still are the ones whose names were or are synonymous with overnight wealth.

In world politics in recent years, younger politicians are having their moments. Former U.S President Barack Obama was in his forties when he became the President of the United States. President Obama is considered one of the best Presidents USA has produced. Next door up North is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada. He became the leader of his country two years ago, when he was 44 years old. From all indications, he is doing very well. Other world leaders that are young adults (not youths) are:  Austria’s Sebastian Kurz, 31; New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, 37: France’s Emmanuel Macron, 40: North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, 34: Qatar’s Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, 37; Ireland’s: Leo Varadkar, 38.

If the countries listed above were “shallow-minded”, perhaps these younger leaders wouldn’t have emerged, and you know what? They are doing very well considering the gross national products, security, foreign exchange, infrastructure, unemployment, welfare, etc, they are all better than the present state of Nigeria in these sectors.

Almost all of these leaders have similar traits in the science and arts of governance, hence, they are successful. I believe for Nigeria to get out from the hole that it is in at the moment, young adults without a great deal of political experience is what the country needs. These young leaders must be highly qualified academically, they must have a great deal of experience in business, legal, international and financial management, including, and not limited to emotional intelligence. Those younger leaders like President Obama, Justin Trudeau and others are successful because they embrace elements of change better than elders. They have the courage to make difficult changes possibly because their lack of political experience causes them to be more optimistic about their proposals for change. It is also likely that a younger President may know how to get his cabinet energized and excited about doing their jobs. They are not like the older Presidents that Nigeria had and still has that tend to lay back and are very reluctant to get up-and go. In short, these politicians that Nigeria has been recycling all these years, due to their long periods of time in the game tend to become complacent and take the status quo as sufficient.

All in all and in between time, I believe the time is fully grown for Nigeria to change the foundation of her political games. Nigeria will have nothing to lose but everything to gain when new breed of leaders are injected into her political dimension and governance.