There is an old Latin saying meaning: ‘’From the treasures of the heart; the mouth speaks’’. The Holy Bible in Luke 6:45 contains a similar statement with the same meaning: ‘’A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.’’ I have an unfeigned regard for Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, GCON on account of his intellect. His flawless rendition and oratorical skills speak eloquently about his talents. The extemporaneous delivery of his speeches at some occasions casts Prof. Osinbajo in the mould of United States Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, who is noted as America’s third greatest presidential orator since 1933; and the famed Nobel Peace Prize winner, Martin Luther King Jnr, whose ‘I have A Dream’ speech still resonates as part of history.
VP Yemi Osinbajo is not really the main subject of discourse. However, Mr. Vice President’s very inspiring speech to the ‘Emerging Political Leaders Summit’ held in Abuja recently, at which he hit the nail on the head emphatically on the need for youths to be alive to their responsibilities makes reference to him imperative. He said in part: “Youths have a challenge in their hands for the future of our country; so, I advise you not to sit down and fold your hands and be lamenting over bad leadership or politicians. “Get down to business, organize and do something to become elected political youths; after all, Anthony Enahoro became a leader in this country at the age of 23 years, and later moved a motion for the nation’s independence at the age of 27 years’’. This charge was an eye opener. I surveyed the contents of the speech which was an enormous challenge. It is to be noted that most of the Nigerians involved in the struggle for independence were very young patriots in their 30s. These notable champions of nationalism were: Herbert Macaulay, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo became Premier of Western Region at 43; Ahmadu Bello was the District Head of Rabah at 24, and Premier of Northern Region at the age of 44 years; Abubakar Tafawa-Balewa became Chief Minister, the equivalent of Prime Minister) of Nigeria at the age of 45 years. Ernest Ikoli, H. O. Davies, Sapara Williams, Mokwugo Okoye, Suad Zungur, Raji Abdallah, Aminu Kano, Osita Agwuna, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, and Samuel Akisanya, who later became the Odemo of Isara. Akisanya, at the age of 36 years teamed up with people like J.C. Vaughan, Ernest Ikoli and H.O. Davies to found the Lagos Youth Movement in 1934. The organization became the Nigerian Youth Movement in 1936. Those who made remarkable impact early in their lives were: Michael Imoudu, Osita Agwuna, Mbonu Ojike, and Aminu Kano.
Osinbajo was clearly emphasizing the Latin phrase that says: ‘’Each man is the maker of his own fortune.’’ From the pre-independence era, through the period of the nationalists’ struggles, up till the time of independence and the post-independence era, one thing stood out clear: There was a common urge by Nigerians to live and function in a prosperous society. Students of the University College, Ibadan, (as it was then named) most of them in their 20s patriotically prevented the Federal Government from signing of the Anglo-Nigerian Defence Pact shortly after independence, through peaceful demonstrations. (not riots) Latter day freedom fighters included Wole Soyinka, who was 31 years old in 1965, when he seized the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation, Ibadan, in protest against an alleged rigged election in the Western Region. Balarabe Musa was 43 years old when he became a radical governor of Kaduna State; Colonel Abubakar Dangiwa Umar (retd), Gani Fawehinmi, Beko Ransome Kuti, Femi Falana, and several patriotic people became activists at relatively young ages. Gen. (Dr) Yakubu Gowon (retd) assumed the position of Head of the Federal Military government at 32 years, and was succeeded by late Gen Murtala Muhammed who was 38 years old. Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo mounted the saddle at the age of 39 years.
POLITICAL ACTORS OF THE FIRST & SECOND REPUBLICS
I researched into political governance and governments of the First Republic and discovered that majority of the political actors were between the ages of 30-45 years. Chief. M.T. Mbu, who traversed Nigeria’s political landscape for 50 years became the youngest Federal Minister ever to serve in the federal cabinet at the age of 25 years. Chief Richard Akinjide SAN, became the Federal Minister of Education in the government of Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa before attaining the age of 30 years. Festus Okotie-Eboh the flamboyant Federal Minister of Finance was elected into the Western Region House of Assembly on the platform of Azikiwe’s NCNC in 1951, at the age of 32 years, and was appointed a Federal Minister at the age of 36 years. Many of them joined politics relatively early in life. Joseph Tarka (aka J.S. Tarka) was 22 years old when he was elected into the Federal House of Representatives. S. L Akintola, Deputy Leader of the Action Group and the last Premier of the Western Region became a politician at the age of 39 years. In the case of women, Iyalode Wuraola Esan, the first Nigeria woman member of the National Assembly was in her 40s, when she was nominated the Senator representing Ibadan West. Another woman, Margaret Ekpo, became a political activist at the age of 31 years, Member of the Eastern-Region House of Chiefs in 1953; before berthing at the Eastern Region House of Assembly in 1961, at the age of 47 years. She teamed up with fiery Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti to protest killings at an Enugu coal mine. They fought for human rights and not for themselves.
Let me quickly say that the situation was not peculiar to the First Republic, although the assemblage of the Legislature of the First Republic was much better than that of the Second Republic which spanned 1979-1983. The Legislature of the First Republic, as a result of it being a Parliamentary system had the opportunity of utilizing the skills of some of the best professionals in various fields who attended the Legislative Houses as Part-Time Members. You had young brilliant lawyers, educationists, and other professionals who were totally committed to development and good governance. It is to be noted that the Second Republic Parliament had brilliant young Members. Liyel Imoke, a former governor and Minister of the Federal Republic was a Senator at the age of 30 years. The Oyo State House of Assembly had relatively young legislators like Rotimi Bidmus and the current Hon. Minister of Communications, Abdur-Raheem Adebayo Shittu, who was elected into the House of Assembly by his people in 1979 at the age of 26 years. The highly cerebral lawyer served his NYSC scheme as a legislator in the Oyo State House of Assembly. He was there for four years and his contributions were electrifying. Shittu and Bidmus were particularly loved and respected for their brilliant contributions on the floor of the House, and always got the recognition of Speaker Mokolade Gbolagunte. Adebayo Shittu later served as the Oyo State Commissioner for Information, Culture and Home Affairs between October and December,1983; and as Attorney General, and Oyo State Commissioner for Justice in the Rashidi Adewolu Ladoja government. He was also a Member of the National Political Reforms Conference of 2005.
YOU CANNOT COMPEL OLD POLITICIANS TO QUIT
Every so often, people speak about ‘’old politicians’’ and ask them to quit the scene for younger generations. That is undemocratic. Talks about old people in politics is rubbish in as much as an old man or woman is fit and qualified to hold any political office and is desired by hiss or her constituents. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu once asserted, and rightly too, that ‘’power is not served à la carte’’. Going by the literal meaning of the French phrase, there are choices open to all participants in the democratic process and nobody will give you political power without you struggling for it. Youths must prove that they are better alternatives. There can be no justification for disqualifying political actors on account of staying too long in the corridors of power. Joseph R. Biden Snr, the 47th Vice President of the United States from 2009 to 2017 was the Senator representing his Delaware constituency for 2 years from 1973 to 2009. The 42nd President of the United States, Bill Clinton was governor of Arkansas State from 1993 to 2001. Prior to the presidency, he was the Governor of Arkansas from 1979 to 1981, and again from 1983 to 1992. Veteran US Democrat, John Conyers, aged 88 years only resigned a few days ago after spending over 50 years in the US Congress. He left following sexual harassment accusations by his former aides. Innocent Audu Ogbe, the current very intelligent Minister of Agriculture & Rural Development emerged the Deputy Speaker of the Benue State House of Assembly at the age of 32 years and has since been a constant star on Nigeria’s political firmament.
PREPARE TO PROVE YOUR WORK AND LEAD
The notion of leaders as the embodiment of ultimate intellectual, and decent aspirations of a society is as old as human society itself. Youths, as leaders of tomorrow, must keep themselves physically fit, mentally and psychologically, in every virtue. It is possible to succeed by emulating the sterling qualities of great Nigerians, and even surpass their contributions to national development through creative abilities. Youths have a great role to play in the collective efforts of Nigerians at building a united, great democratic country. The early nationalists were fired by the determination to build a very great Nigeria. They were emboldened by the available enormous human and material resources. constitutional provision that spells out the age at which you are qualified to seek election into certain political offices takes cognizance of the fact that you have reached the age of maturity. If you plan is to run away from Nigeria simply because you believe that things are not working, you may be taking a faulty step. It could even be a very costly adventure if you plan to take the route of illegal migrants. If things work abroad, it is because their people collaborate with government for the people and government to be jointly involved in nation building. It is important for the government and the governed to fulfill their obligations. The best way to change a situation is to staying within that structure to be part of those that would make the necessary changes possible.
BE FIRMLY ENTRENCHED WITH YOUR CONSTITUENTS
Since 1914, Nigeria has been tossed by the waves, but it has not sunk by the mercy of God. Evidently, the every challenge, test, adversity, vicissitude and trials that Nigeria has passed through over the years has strengthened the nation. It is important for the nation and its people to embrace a system that throws up the best in the society for leadership roles, if our society must experience the desired development. An expert in International Relations, Prof. Akinjide Osuntokun, has posited that “There is a correlation between democracy and development. ‘’Democracy means the Rule of Law. ‘’Laws must therefore be ultimately sovereign, apart from the people. ‘’It is apparent that there is too much of regional tendencies with shouts of marginalization here and there, leading to centrifugal force. ‘’It is essential for the people to assist the leadership in gravitating towards fulfilling the objective of entrenching an enduring democratic culture. The responsibility for sustaining democracy in the country is that of the people.’’
The way you live tomorrow may very well depend on the way you live today. It refers to the sacrifices we are prepared to make for our tomorrow. The foregoing translates into the need for youths to examine the issue of why you want to serve your people. Is it for selfish or selfless interests? Sell yourselves early enough. Start canvassing for support and educate your people on what democracy, accountability, transparency and faithful service mean. Campaign against financial inducements. Sell your plans and manifestos to the electorate. Campaign for respect for electoral regulations. Campaign against thuggery. No ‘’A luta continua’’ the wrong way. Samora Machel of Mozambique, who used the Portuguese phrase to cultivate popular support against the Portuguese colonial presence in the country never used it to shed blood. Youths can make peaceful changes possible. Apparently, there is no magic wand for turning the situation around, beyond good governance, leadership, viable democratic culture, planning and visioning as well as commitment and dedication of the part of all Nigerians. By endurance, determination, commitment and prayers, people conquer. Lastly, I leave you with the assertion of Mary Ray: ‘’Begin doing what you want to do now. ‘’We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand, and melting like a snowflake’’ Please watch out for suggestions on how youths could contribute and participate meaningfully to national development in subsequent publications of TERRIFIC HEADLINES.
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