Penchant for Youth Inclusion in Governance

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Simon Ugwueze

Ahead of 2019 general elections, a bill named Not-Too-Young-To-Run was concieved, championed and presented to the eight National Assembly by some brilliant youths for consideration and passage into law. Sponsoring the bill on the floor of the Green and Red Chambers of National Assembly were member House of Representatives representing Oshodi/Isolo Federal Constituency on Peoples Democratic Party’s platform, Hon. Tony Nwulu and Senator Abdulaziz Nyako who represented Adamawa Central District in the Senate.

The major import or essence of the bill, which received mixed reactions, was to reduce the constitutional age limit or barrier that had precluded youths from contesting certain elective positions, especially that of the president.

The bill was later passed by the National Assembly and signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari amidst fanfare. This was commended and applauded by many Nigerians, including the youths that saw it as their own and a leeway to exploit politically.

While all these were ongoing, I was among the youths that were opposed, critical, skeptical and cynical of the law and its essence.

My position is that instead of Not-Too-Young-To-Run bill, Nigerian youths would have clamoured and pushed for Not-Too-Young-To-Perform bill. I am of the view that placing age above performance capacity in leadership recruitment and assessment is a misplaced priority. It is like putting the cat before the horse. Globally, age ceiling is never an issue in leadership recruitment or choice. As a good student of political history, I know that the likes of late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello, Anthony Enahoro and other nationalists who fought and got Nigeria’s Independence did so as youths with the right attitude, patriotism, altruism, education, sincerity, diligence and commitment.

They never saw their ages as barriers or limitations. They utilised their youthfulness, energy and knowledge well at that point to get the needed result. They were never carried away by hedonistic and ostentatious lifestyle that is common among youths of today. They were more purposeful and united in the struggle for the country’s independence and others. What should be key in the choice of leaders or leadership at any level is the ability to perform and not age. Performance and age are two different things.When a leader has performed or is performing, nobody cares about his age. What good leadership requires is strength of character, direction, focus, accountability, transparency and selfless service. It is not about age. The capacity or ability to perform or deliver on assigned responsibilities is the key factor.

Many Nigerian youths who found themselves in appointive positions in private or public office, at home and abroad, have proven their mettle, while some have failed woefully to the disappointment of their people. This is also applicable to the elders, who have held and are still holding appointive or elective positions. One does not need to only occupy elective position to showcase his or her leadership quality or prowess. Being in appointive position is ample opportunity to do so.

Of utmost importance and requirement in the leadership recruitment process and choice is nothing but the capacity to deliver or perform, not age perse. That is the reason a visionary leader like Enugu State governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, has since assuming office continued to discover, recruit and support capable youths to occupy various elective and appointive positions in the state without compromising standard and quality.

It would be recalled that during his first term in office, most of his personal aides, some exco members, majority of development centre administrators and members, party officials at grassroots level and others were youths of remarkable capacity. For four years, these youths worked closely with the governor, they learnt a lot from him and other government officials about leadership, governance and its demands in a democracy like ours. Majority of these youths appreciated the governor’s unique gesture of giving them opportunity to serve at various capacities and levels in his government. That was the major reason they diligently worked for his reelection at poll, which eventually came out to be the best governorship election result in the state since 1999 with 95 percent plus votes.

In choosing majority of these youths for appointive positions in his government, Ugwuanyi never looked at their ages, where they come from or who are their relations, he considered their track record, experiences, maturity, capacity and knowledge, which he strongly believed would be of immense benefits and value to the state.

Most of them demonstrated competence, understanding and loyalty, while serving. This also contributed to the government’s overall sterling performance ratio in her first term that earned the governor second term in office.

It is not surprising that in line with his administration’s penchant and quest for youth inclusion in the governance of the state, Ugwuanyi, who has commenced appointments into his government for second term has appointed and elevated many youths to various positions of higher responsibilities.

While some of them were made commissioners, the likes of Mr. Anthony Ikenna Nwodo, Mr. Arinze Chilo-Offiah, Mr. Michael Ogbuekwe, Dr. Kingsley Udeh and Mr. Anthony Chukwudubem Onyia were sworn in as Special Advisers. Some others have been appointed and reappointed into various positions. The governor has also promised that more youths and loyal party members who have shown capacity and support for the government will be appointed into various positions in the days ahead in line with the constitutional provisions of appointing people into government offices.

Ugwuanyi is a promise-keeping leader, that never pay lip service to issues. His word has always been his bond. He does not say much, but does much.

It is quite unfortunate that despite the governor’s good intention of including youths in the governance of the state, some few persons have ignorantly, mischievously, maliciously and angrily insinuated that some of the youths were not appointed on merit, but on their ties with some godfathers in the state.

The insinuation is totally false, imaginative and nonsensical. It is expected, especially in a state, where virtually everybody is hankering to work with the governor because of his good works and dispositions.

This kind of mischief is also typical of some cynics,

who never see anything good in anybody or anything that is not directly benefiting them.

Meanwhile, none of these cynics is questioning, or has faulted the competence and qualifications of these appointed vibrant and energetic youths or the constitutionality of their appointments; rather they are only interested in their ties with some political leaders in the state. What about many of those who have no ties with any political leader, but were discovered and appointed into positions by Ugwuanyi? Does any law says that once a person has a tie with some political leaders, such person is no longer qualified to occupy any elective or appointive position in a state? The answer is simply No. So why the hullabaloo and misgivings on social media platforms over the appointment of these qualified youths into various government positions, if not sheer envy and pettiness? Have these cynics forgotten that it is the constitutional right of the governor to appoint whoever he deemed fit to occupy a position? Besides, democracy is synonymous with constitutionalism. It is about the law, people, governance and party politics.

Instead of labouring to make mountain out of molehill over Ugwuanyi’s appointment of some youths into sensitive positions in his government, the governor needs to be commended, while the appointed youths should be supported and encouraged to perform well. Nothing says that these appointed youths will not or cannot perform, especially looking at their antecedents and exploits in public and private offices before now. It has nothing to do with their ages or ties with anybody. They have the capacities to perform. They have performed well in their previous assigned tasks and have shown readiness to do better now.

It is obvious fact that Ugwuanyi’s administration does not promote political godafatherism, even though he respects and listens to virtually everybody. He is not discriminatory, arrogant or confrontational in his approach. That does not mean that he is being controlled or influenced by the political bigwigs in the state to the detriment of the rest of the people.

He is a grassroots leader who knows how to discover youths with leadership potentials encourage them to harness it by assigning responsibilities to them.

He has discovered many youths with poor background and empowered them to excel. Ugwuanyi is not like some of his colleagues that believed that youths are only good for political thuggery and social media rantings during elections. In short, since 2015, Ugwuanyi assumed office, political thuggery has stopped in the state politics.

This was evidenced in the 2019 elections, where elections in the state were ranked and adjudged the most peaceful in the country by the INEC leadership. Ugwuanyi believes that the youths are the leaders of today and not tomorrow as being widely said or held. He believes in human capacity building and his administration has demonstrated it to the benefits of many youths in the state.