As the despondency brought about by the failure of President Muhammadu Buhari and his All Progressives Congress (APC) to deliver the massive change they promised Nigerians in 2015 reaches its crescendo, an increasing number of young citizens of the country have begun to express strong interest to wrest the reins of power from the older generation.
Bolstered by the passage of #NotTooYoungtoRun Bill by the National Assembly last July, many young Nigerians, citing lack of confidence in current political leaders to deliver the nation from perennial economic and infrastructural backwardness, are jettisoning their long-held I-don’t-care attitude to politics. The #NotTooYoungtoRun Bill, when it becomes law, would reduce the minimum age for presidential candidates from 40 to 35, the age for governorship candidates from 35 to 30, and the age for the House of Representatives and the State Houses of Assembly to 25.
Also spurred by the examples of Justin Trudeau, who became the Canadian Prime Minister in 2015 at age 44, and Emmanuel Macron, who defied all odds to become the youngest president of France at the youthful age of 39, a number of these youths are warming up to contest for the presidency ahead of the 2019 general elections. Those who have so far indicated interest or hinted that they may contest the 2019 presidency include Adamu Garba II, founder/CEO of IPI Solutions Nigeria Limited; Ahmed Buhari, CEO of Skylar, Inc.; Chris Emejuru, founder and managing director/CEO of Liberty Approach & Allied Consults (LAAC); Fela Durotoye, motivational speaker and leadership coach; Nollywood actor Yul Edochie, and Omike Chikeluba Lewis.
The Macron effect
The victory of Emmanuel Macron in the May 7, 2017 French presidential poll particularly aroused a new wave of political awakening among young Nigerians.
Macron, a pro-business centrist, defeated Marine Le Pen, a far-right female nationalist, by a vote of 66.06 percent to 33.94 percent, according to the French Interior Ministry.
Macron, whom many now see as the new face of possibilities, instantly became a source of inspiration for the youths of Nigeria, spurring in them a new consciousness that with the right political mobilisation and action, they can take charge of governance and redeem their country.
Many young Nigerians, on social media and elsewhere, seemed to have suddenly realised that their country has for too long been run by older people who lack the 21st Century leadership foresight Nigeria desperately needs.
“It is increasingly evident that these people can’t lead us anywhere because you can’t give what you don’t have. The change that we fought for is obviously not what we are seeing today. So, we have to organize for 2019. But the interesting thing is that these current leaders are not making it easier for an outsider to win election in Nigeria. We have to begin to think about how to push an idea, push a candidate, and push what I call ‘a ballot revolution’,” Chris Nwokobia, a 2011 presidential candidate under the platform of Liberal Democratic Party of Nigeria (LDPN), told BDSUNDAY over the telephone.
“Of the total 72 million registered voters, 70 percent of them are young people. Mobile phone service providers are saying that we have a total number of 115 million registered phone users; that means that the 70 percent registered voters are on social media,” he said.
There also followed a constant reminder that Nigeria had in the past been ruled by young people, most of who continue to rule the country today even in their old age.
“The people that fought for Nigeria’s independence were not in their 40s. They were in their late 20s and early 30s. Nigerian millennial generation are angry but they don’t know how to direct their anger. Now they find the internet, and can sit down on the toilet seat and rant and nobody hears the voice. What happened in France can happen in Nigeria too,” said Tomi Wale-Temowo, creative and visual strategist.
Young Nigerians who want to be president
Adamu Garba II
Adamu Garba II, founder/CEO, IPI Solutions Nigeria Limited, a leading cloud computing company based in Lagos, wants to rule Nigeria in 2019. Aged 36, Garba, who hails from Jimeta, Yola-North Local Government Area of Adamawa State, attended Kano University of Technology where he studied Electrical Engineering.
In an interview with ThisDay Newspaper published on November 25 last year, Garba listed his strong points to include that he is “strong-willed, able, healthy intelligent and smart”, with “strong emotional balance and all the attributes obtainable in a visionary leader”, and “fully prepared”.
“I think Nigerians should start to prepare for a new Nigerian dream by our great Nigerian renaissance project where each citizen will transparently measure our government in 4 key metrics namely: Better education and training for our children; better standard healthcare facilities for all Nigerians; better market to transact in goods and services, and more money in their pocket as a result of improved trade,” Garba said in the interview.
“We will work extensively to open our market potentials. We will use oil money only to build infrastructure and not to pay salaries and state subventions. The so-called FAAC will be discontinued under our government. With creation of special geo-economic zones in each state, we will support them to create their revenues locally and run their government.
“The shorelines, from Calabar, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Rivers, Delta to Lagos will be a strong economic activity area and energy production zones or Shoreline Energy Production Zones (SEPZ) .We will build heavy gas pipeline across the country and explore our natural gas to power our homes for energy needs. In addition to the hydro power for electricity, we will use coal to build a large thermal station in Enugu capable of generating 20000MW of electricity within the first 5 years of our government.
“On the northern part of the country, places like Sokoto, Jigawa, some parts of Kano, Yobe, Maiduguri, Bauchi, Katsina, Zanfara and Adamawa all have great potentials of generating a high amount of solar energy at industrial scale. We will invest $5 billion on solar and wind renewable energy in those areas. We will call this Inland Energy Production Zones (IEPZ).
“On education, we will take over the control of primary school education and transfer it under presidential task force of federal government. We will focus our training on skill-based, rather than academic-based training so that we can graduate young innovative minds. We will give reasonable autonomy to all universities and make them to generate their income to run programs which will be provided with curriculum geared towards skill-based training that is applicable in modern work place. All subventions going to universities currently will be directed to primary education and our unity schools.
“On healthcare, we will design a contributory system that will ensure health cover for all Nigerians irrespective of status or background. The system will ensure our life expectancy increases to 60 years. We shall also empower our rural women to generate value to the economy as it’s done in Bangladesh and other countries. More details will be available in our manifesto,” Garba said.
Ahmed Buhari, CEO of Skylar, Inc., a Lagos-based ICT company, says he has come to the realisation that young Nigerians should all be very concerned about Nigeria’s political environment because the decisions made by politicians determine their progress as a people and a country. He also spoke of his plans for the country.
“Our strategy for job creation and a reduction in the unemployment indices is a focus on some sectors. We are going to be focusing on agriculture and solid minerals, Information Technology (IT), and education. Our agricultural plan has the potential of creating half a million jobs in the first two years.
“We intend to revolutionise the agricultural sector by introducing highly-equipped mechanised farming and unlike the eagerness perceived from our Ministry of Agriculture, we will not be in a hurry to export unprocessed products. My administration will be focused on ensuring that no tuber of yam leaves the shores of this country simply because we want to realise foreign exchange. We must understand that for every tuber of yam that we export, we are exporting jobs. When you understand that the by-products of yam are used in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries, you will have a rethink before exporting unprocessed products. We must exhaust the entire value chain, not just stopping at the farm gates. We must begin to create jobs from the farm gate to the processing plants, then to the storage plant, and then we create openings around branding, packaging and transportation to the end user.
“We should ensure price control mechanisms are clearly addressed so that Nigerians can purchase commodities at the same price all year round. When all these are met, then we can go ahead and export for better value. Our agricultural plan for jobs will address National Youth Corp members, giving them the opportunity to be part of the supply value chain by creating optional vocational programmes that broaden their horizons on the possibilities embedded in agriculture.
“Our manifesto also clearly addresses jobs that will be created from solid minerals. We must not forget that the richest man in Africa makes his billions from solid minerals. We will ensure that the marble and tiles imported from China and Spain are sourced from within instead. We must rejuvenate the ceramic industry and tell the Nigerian people what the true mineral deposit quantity in Zamfara, Kebbi and Niger States amount to. Transparency, efficiency and accountability must all be incorporated into our economic reforms.
“Information Technology is the new frontier. As an IT entrepreneur, I know exactly what our focus on this industry can contribute to employment and income generation and poverty reduction. ICT enables people and enterprises to capture economic opportunities by increasing process efficiency, promoting participation in expanded economic networks, and creating opportunities for employment.
“ICT enhances the economic productivity across region and geographic location. For instance, ICTs can enhance rural productivity. ICT enables solution sharing between local people and communities, providing access to practical information on small business accounting, weather trends and farming best practices, for example. Timely access to market information via communications networks also helps farmers make appropriate decisions about what crops to plant and where to sell their produce and buy inputs.
“The number of young people today in Nigeria who are able to use ICT to proffer solutions as well as make a living for themselves is amazing. We must ensure that we make electricity and internet hubs available to enable aspiring tech-preneurs explore and develop the new Nigeria,” he told BDSUNDAY in an interview.
In a television programme monitored in Lagos, Fela Durotoye, a Lagos-based motivational speaker and leadership coach, said he was ready to serve Nigerians in whatever capacity including as president in 2019.
“The problem with Nigeria so far is that we have not yet seen a system that produces natural good people in governance. The leadership system we have in Nigeria is what I call ‘seletocracy’; it is a kind of system whereby the access to position of authority and power is to a large extent determined by a few people who have a higher interest in themselves and their own selected interest than they have in the interest of the general public.
“It now time for us to lead, but remember it is not just about the people being led, it is about us the people, choosing how to make life better, that we have to make our mission. Because we have woken up, now we have chosen to accept our responsibility for the wellbeing of our nation. Now we believe ourselves that our generation can do this; now we are committing our time and resources, rather than sitting in our comfort zones and most importantly, we are determined.
“I am ready to take up the task in whatever capacity it is. I will love to serve my people and create a desirable nation to live in first, which we can do. If I were to serve in the highest office in Nigeria and I am given the right condition, I will be honoured to serve my people in any position, including the presidency,” he said.
Chris Emejuru, a young Nigerian based in the United States of America, is the founder and managing director/CEO of Liberty Approach & Allied Consults (LAAC), a consulting firm whose goal is to inform and provide knowledgeable information to clients regarding fiscal, economic, social, cultural endeavours as well as present information on current events in Nigeria, from the perspective of the Federal Government, and government at state and local levels.
Born on December 1, 1982, of Rivers State origin (Elele), Chimene “Chris” Emejuru has a background in Business and Politics. His reach has expanded to four continents including Latin America (Costa Rica), Africa (Nigeria), Asia, (Istanbul, Turkey) and North America (United States). His passion for enterprise and social development has led him to his home country of Nigeria for the past 17 years since 1999.
In a statement published on NAIJ.com, Emejuru, who believes he can make a difference in Nigeria, said: “Today in Nigeria, there are many challenges that we face, and I tell you they are deep. We have a mountain to climb (power, health, education, finance, labour, etc.), but the vision that has risen from this difficult journey will not end in vain but I believe will be overlooked at the glorious view from the mountain top.
“Nigeria is one; from the beauty of the North, to the magnificence of the South, to the wonders of the West, united we will remain, as an example for many, for Africa, for the world.”
Yul Edochie, Nollywood actor who ran for governor in Anambra State under the Democratic People’s Congress, chose the occasion of his 36th birthday, January 7, 2018, to give a hint that he might seek election as Nigeria’s president in 2019.
“2018 is just unfolding, we pray for more blessings so let’s just keep our fingers crossed. Who knows, I may just decide to run for president of Nigeria this time, in 2019, and I will win,” Edochie said in a video posted on Instagram.
The last of six children of veteran actor Pete Edochie, Yul attended the University of Port Harcourt where he studied Dramatic Arts. He ran against 36 other aspirants, including the incumbent governor, Willie Obiano, in the last Anambra gubernatorial election and secured only 145 votes. That notwithstanding, he is confident that he has all it takes to become president.
Omike Chikeluba Lewis
Omike Chikeluba Lewis last year announced his intention to run for presidency in 2019. In a statement exclusively made available to NAIJ.com, he said it was time for the youths of Nigeria to take charge of the country and stop voting in the same set of politicians who have been in charge for a long time. He apologised to leaders he might have insulted in the past and promised to make the country a better place.
New political movements emerge
As the momentum builds, there is also a consensus of opinion among the youths that APC and the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) are spent forces that hold no hope. Even before now, the failure of the Buhari administration to fulfil the yearnings of the youth who massively supported him in 2015 had dispirited many young Nigerians, leading to a fresh yearning for change – a youth-led change. That yearning has already produced movements like Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP), founded by Tope Fasua, CEO at Global Analytics Consulting Limited; Ordinary People’s Party, led by Chris Nwokobia, who contested the 2011 presidential election; Progress Party, which was initiated by 29-year-old Nigerian writer Onyeka Nwelue, among others.
“The old men who sold us out cannot bring us the change we seek. The old timers have profited from our complacent and nonchalant attitudes. For too long. It is time we stop waiting for salvation and take Nigeria back. Hope without work is useless. We are the ones we have been waiting for, we are the change we seek. And together, under the Progress Party, we will create our promised land,” Progress Party wrote in a post on its Facebook page on January 6, 2017.
Just last Wednesday, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) handed certificates of registration to 21 new political parties at its national headquarters in Abuja. Some of the parties include the All Blending Party, All Grassroots Alliance, Alliance for New Nigeria, Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party, Coalition for Change, Freedom and Justice Party, Grassroots Development Party of Nigeria, Justice Must Prevail Party, Legacy Party of Nigeria, Mass Action Joint Alliance, National Interest Party, National Rescue Mission, and New Progressive Mission.
Others are the New Progressive Movement, Nigeria Democratic Congress Party, People’s Alliance for National Development and Liberty, People’s Trust, Providence People’s Congress, Re-Build Nigeria Party, Restoration Party of Nigeria, Socialist Party of Nigeria, Sustainable National Party, and Modern Democratic Party led by 27-year-old youth activist and entrepreneur, Bukunyi Olateru-Olagbegi.
Poll results favour youthful candidates
There seems to be a groundswell of support for younger presidential candidates, with many Nigerians expressing optimism that bringing about the change that all Nigerians earnestly yearn for is achievable if only the youth could forget their difference and pool their resources.
The result of ‘The 2019 Presidential Candidate Age Preference Poll’ conducted by NOIPolls in May 2017 in partnership with BusinessDay showed that Nigerians would prefer middle-aged candidates for the country’s 2019 presidential elections. Sixty-four percent of Nigerians said they would prefer to vote for a presidential candidate between the ages of 40 and 50 years, while 15 percent said they would prefer candidates between 51 and 60 years. Specifically, ages 50 years (33 percent) and 40 years (21 percent) constituted the highest precise age preferences cited by Nigerians, according to the poll result. Similarly, almost half of those interviewed (48 percent) expressed their preference for middle-aged presidential candidates, and when probed on the reasons for their preference, 44 percent said “they combine youthful energy and maturity”, while 23 percent said “they are more mentally alert”. Similarly, 35 percent expressed support for young candidates and further cited the following reasons for their preference: “they bring new and fresh ideas” and “they are more vibrant than the elderly”.
CHUKS OLUIGBO & NATHANIEL AKHIGBE