30 Percent or Nothing

Grimot Nane#30PercentOrNothing is the latest trending hashtag in cyberspace on Nigerian politics. The political youth are demanding that in the forthcoming 2015 general elections in Nigeria (at least) 30 percent of politicians elected (and appointed) to political office at federal, state and local authority levels should be youths themselves. The uncertainty of this audacious demand is evident in the paucity of energetic youth political activists pushing tirelessly for it and more.

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That things trend in cyberspace may not mean there are popular in reality (i.e. “on the ground”), but it is hard to imagine a perennially used, misused and overused political youth usually paid back by electorally successful established politicians with disappointment, neglect, disrespect and failed promises would not delight in the realisation of greater electoral participation for themselves.

On the higher front there is the opportunity youth energies, inclusive of freshness and daring (in ideas, thought, innovation, dynamism, organisation, etc.), to chart the path of or build a nation that is well governed, genuinely democratic, economically successful and stable. Great nations invariably rise with energetic and visionary youths at the helm. Great nations also invariably decline when presumptuous, corrupt, pocket-conscious elders control everything. Voting for the morally upright and competent youth leaders against older disappointing leaders should be an easy choice at the polls.

However, this is definitely not the case in Nigeria today because it is a stark gerontocracy with some youths in office only as tokens or dynastic politicians. One may blame this on the youth themselves highlighting a lower front. On the lower front, there is hunger in Nigeria for all its mineral and natural resources. Access of the political youth to government wealth, with pre-secured unaccountability and impunity, is culturally a most alluring route out of poverty, basic income or daily hustling. We must be exceptionally careful to note that the youth is not to blame for any greed, rapacity or corruption they may intend to exact on public funds if ever they get into office – that is the fault of Nigeria’s gerontocracy, induction by example.

It gets worse. If the Nigerian political youth cannot be trusted by the public to be truly conscientious or competent in office because of the track record of older predecessors and incumbents, why should they deserve 30PercentOrNothing? The political youth are between the Devil (gerontocracy) and a hard place (lack of confidence). Slaughtering the gerontocrats via violent revolution will not solve the problem effectively, but neither will the attempt by the political youth to beat them at the polls ceteris paribus. The gerontocrats have well-established patronage networks, bags of money, client good will and tribal pragmatism on their side. What do the youth have? Everything!

If the political youth in Nigeria want to get out of that “hard place” they have to work unrelentingly hard. The usual roles assigned to the political youth such as thuggery, mudslinging, insult ambushes and mindless self-sacrificing, at the behest of the older politicians, will only keep the political youth in that same “hard place.” Strong political organisation and the organisation of social movements “on the ground” that are based on ethical goal-consistent vision of politics and governance that are persuasive, workable, practical, far-reaching and can win the confidence of people by landslides should be the primary focus of the political youth. The youth have to take control of and secure their political destiny on their own terms. Benefit of the doubt will be the worst possible deal the political youth with superior organisation will get. This is the only way to achieve 30PercentOrNothing in 2015 and subsequently. Any appeal to the conscience or goodwill of the older politicians is sheer folly. Any reliance on hashtags trending in cyberspace will remain just there even if logistically useful.

Alas, if the political youth do eventually get elected into office in large numbers, but do no better than the older politicians before them, the former (they have the resources) will successfully prosecute them in revenge for their election losses and it will be a long time till the public trusts youth politicians again. That would be the ultimate price of a misused 30PercentOrNothing (or better) that came to fruition.

  • Dr. Nane is an errant scholar and economist. Follow him on Twitter @Grimot

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