Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, YIAGA AFRICA, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, Global Rights Nigeria, Concerned Nigerians, CN, and Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution, CDNDC, have decried appointments made by President Muhammadu Buhari and the apparent neglect of young people in the Federal Executive Council, FEC, as far as nation-building is concerned.
The leaders of the CSOs bare their minds in a chat with Vanguard at the weekend, which they expressed dismay and called for young people’s inclusion in governance in order to galvanise potential they have for rapid development of the country in all fronts based on their contribution and impact made over the years, especially in this democratic dispensation
The Executive Director, YIAGA AFRICA and Convener of the Not Too Young To Run Bill, Samson Itodo, alleged that the system of government in Nigeria now is gerontocracy and also described the administration as ‘Old Boys Club’ because the President does not believe in young people.
He said: “I don’t think we should be surprised that the President is more than reluctant to appoint young people into his cabinet because this is a government of gerontocracy by gerontocrats and for gerontocracy.
“I can tell you that as far as the President is concerned public leadership is an ‘Old Boys Club’.
“Now, one of the things we have learned is signing or accenting to the Not-Too-Young Bill is not really an indicator that the President believes in the capacity of young people to lead. If you look at the people he has appointed only a few of them were appointed as young people.
“And if you look across the board his Special Advisers he has, look at the age cohort of special advisers, look at ministers in his first term the youngest was 52 or 53, and also look at you also see what we have as well.
“The President does not believe and it is my considered opinion, the President does not believe in young people being in a leadership position because if he does he would have appointed more young people into his cabinet, boards and parastatals and make them heads of agencies.
“If you look at the young person he appointed into the Rural Electricity agency someone who was 36 and it is just a drop in the ocean when you compare it to our demography, contrition of young people to national development; when we talk about technological space, agriculture, hospitality and look at what young people are doing around and how they are contributing to our Gross Domestic Product, GDP.
“But you have a state-led by an old person who does not believe and the President needs to prove by his actions that he believes in young people and believe young people have the leadership capacity to lead.
“Look other countries where we have ministers at 23 in Botswana but how come a country like Nigeria that has the largest bulk of its population young, a very educated middle class dominated by young people but none of them are able to find themselves in public office because you have political leadership that does not believe in young people.
“How can we experience the rapid development of the country when you are unable to tap the resilience of your people or a generation?”
He acknowledged some state governors who have appointed young people below the age of 40 years as commissioners and are doing well in that capacity.
“The governors are doing really well. We have commissioners who are 27. There is a Commissioner for Youth and Sports in Kwara who is 27, there is a Commissioner in Oyo State who is either 30 or 31. There is a Commissioner for Finance who is 37, there is Mark Okoye who is 30 or 32 who was appointed Commissioner in Anambra
“If you look at our registered voters 51 percent of them are young people. Why is it that when the Federal Executive sits there is no young person there? So there is no voice for young people there.
“We will continue to remain a developing nation if we are not deliberate in converting the potential of our young people into assets and the President has a role to play”, he stated.
Also, the Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, Auwal Ibrahim Rafsanjani, said the President not appointing young people should be reconsidered as all over the world young innovative, educated and qualified people are encouraged to play an active role in the socio-economic and political development including science, technology, computer and other human development as well as leadership position to provide quality governance.
“However, in Nigeria since the return of democracy and particularly under the current administration going by its appointments in both state and federal levels we have not seen many opportunities for those able, competent, innovative well educated young people appointed to contribute positively to our Nation.
“At the federal level, most of the appointments are for the oldest generation, I guess because the president believes in working with the people of his age group that is why his appointments usually are for the oldest or older generation. But there is value for bringing others to contribute to the nation-building. Young people are excellently doing well in Nigeria and they need to be mainstreamed”, Rafsanjani stated.
He also cautioned and said that “We must not reduce the role of young people to old political thuggery, violence, and recruitment for criminalities but rather we should give chance and provide positive mentorship for them contribute to our country.
“At the level of elective positions again because of corruption in political parties the electoral corruption generally is very difficult for many young people to get in. This is despite the fact that allows young Nigerians to contest for elections.”
The Executive Director, Global Rights Nigeria, Abiodun Baiyewa, said the President needs to have a mix of both old and young in his cabinet for the sake of diversity.
“I think we need to be forward-thinking as Nigerians and be more long term in our curation of leadership. Of course, it’s important for the president to have people he completely trusts around him, and most of them might be of his generation. But he must also remember that he needs to mentor the next generation of leaders on the job and ensure diversity.
“The true test of democracy lies in diversity. Again, it’s difficult to justify his preference for older people considering the stillest and global wealth of experience the current crop of young Nigerians possess. Perhaps, it’s time to change his advisors who have a perchance for senior citizens”, Bayewa added.
In another reaction, the Convener, Concerned Nigerians, Deji Adeyanju, asserted that while the President signed the Not-Too-Young-Run bill into law made it clear that the young people have to wait, and that was a wrong signal that indicates no place for young people in his government.
“When the President was campaigning in 2015 some of us who opposed his candidature and said we didn’t have any problem with him per se as an individual but we had a problem with the age of his ideas because at his age with all that the President has done and been through naturally you will not expect him not to relate with people who are younger.
“So it is very practically impossible and if you look at Buhari’s cabinet is filled with old people, and he even takes pleasure in appointing dead people that he related with and who he knows. You can only appoint those you can relate with and their ideas.
”The President cannot relate with the ideas of the young people and that is why the President even when he was signing the Not Too Young To Run bill was saying that the youth should wait and that is his mentality and you are going to see from the choice for a successor he will choose for his political party”, Adeyanju said.
Meanwhile, according to the Convener, Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution, CDNDC, Ariyo-Dare Atoye, the President has demonstrated some curious consistency in appointing older men and women into a position of authorities and that he (Buhari) has consistently demonstrated that he has no trust in anyone below 60 years of age.
“His government is more or less a retirement package for the old. Buhari is predictable. He chooses from two cohorts of friendship – from the pool that served him between 1983 and 1985 when he was Head of State, and the pool that he worked under the late dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha when he was the PTF Chairman. This is talking about appointments that he is directly interested as a person and not based on participatory political benefits”, Atoye asserted.