Atiku Abubakar GCON smiled uncomfortably as the interviewer, Miss Jones, tried to explain why she had just ‘attacked’ his age. He wondered why he would be “discriminated against” based on his age, if he felt he had the strength, good health, and capacity to run for the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2019.
In that moment the Adamawa-born philanthropist, businessman, and former Vice-President of Nigeria stood in the gap for a sagely class of political leaders who believe that they still have enough energy left in the tank to run the necessary miles towards Nigeria’s overdue emancipation from poverty, unemployment, lack of power, fearfully increasing insecurity, a very poor health sector, among many other factors that have kept the most populous black nation in the universe shackled in a tearful state of underachievement.
Was Miss Jones right when she said that 60% of Nigerians are young people who should be led by young leaders? Was she just jumping on an entitled bandwagon or did she echo the true aspirations of the general population?
Nigeria has suffered years of shockingly bad leadership, none more shivering than the incumbent administration headed by retired army general, Muhammadu Buhari.
Insecurity, the major challenge Buhari was elected to tackle, has continued to grow with kidnappings, beheadings and other forms of executions becoming such orders of the day that citizens have become impervious to news about every other killing.
Muhammadu Buhari is himself, a member of the elderly ruling class that Miss Jones inferred.
At the age of 32 in 1966, Yakubu Gowon became Head of State. He presided over the unfortunate civil war but also had the privilege of supervising Nigeria’s fiscal direction as the oil boom brought incredible wealth to the nation.
How well did Gowon manage his task of leading Nigeria to the level it deserved? There are many who believe that the institutionalization of corruption took its infant roots during that era. It is said in not a few places that the young Gowon lacked requisite discipline, experience, and knowledge, to steer the ship of a project like Nigeria.
But before Gowon, a band of young soldiers staged a bloody coup. It was in the early hours of 15 January 1966 that the bullets began to fly. The mutiny was led by Chukwuma Kaduna-Nzeogwu and other officers within his age bracket.
As at the time of the coup, Sandhurst-trained Nzeogwu was just 29 years old.
The reckless manner in which the coup was handled cemented an already toxic distrust upon which the major ethnic groups had tolerated each other until that point.
Perhaps in that, sometimes typical, manner of youthful behavior garnished by restless zeal and some measure of inconsistency, avoidable killings were carried out in some regions while a certain region was deemed to have ‘conveniently’ failed to carry out the kill order against their own leaders.
The coup plotters had their sympathizers. The boys were charismatic and daring. They were also intelligent and had a certain carriage that most educated Nigerians were blessed with back then. To hear them speak was pure bliss. Tafawa Balewa arguably had the best voice and diction in all of the continent in that era.
But there was one thing the Nzeogwu crew lacked; the cold, calculated calmness that comes with experience and, often, age.
I do not seek to claim that young people lack the qualities that the elderly have; oh they do. In the larger Nigerian context, anything the corrupt, inept elderly can do, a lot of the young ones can do even better.
A quick browse-through of young political leaders in today’s Nigeria might not post an inspiring picture.
The youngest governor in Nigeria happens to be the most reckless and unfeeling. Lacking empathy, he is known to have owed civil servants for over twenty two months while wasting monies accruing to the state from the Paris Club refund and federal allocation, amongst others.
Have you listened to him speak? The over exuberance never quite takes two seconds to manifest. Given to bouts of delusion, the man imagines himself invincible. He recently unleashed the worst level of electoral violence ever recorded in any gubernatorial election just to claim a mandate he knew that the people, custodians of democratic power, would not have given him.
Under his watch, citizens were killed with no repercussions against the known killers. From then till date, Kogi state has not stopped bleeding. The Lokoja-Abuja highway has become the Mecca for kidnappers and armed bandits while the state university in Anyigba, once the proudest bride of all citizens has become the deathbed for students with cult related killings rising exponentially.
Just the other day we watched the gory scenes as a student on the main campus was hacked to death in broad daylight while dozens of student onlookers whipped out their camera phones to record the incident, each passing exotic commentary while the assailant boldly committed murder, mounted the motorcycle that had brought him, and zoomed off.
It has never been this bad in Kogi state. A young man rules the state.
The youngest senator in Nigeria is a cantankerous bloke with absolutely no respect for women- or anybody for that matter.
Hailing from Adamawa state, he was caught on camera beating up a nursing mother most mercilessly. When the senate committee set up to investigate the matter sat, he was quite rude and boisterous.
Within a few weeks of the event, a number of sham groups awarded the woman-beating senator awards with shocking appellations like “HERO OF DEMOCRACY.”
Most people believe that those awards were deliberate attempts at damage control. I find it hard not to believe so.
Somewhere in Kwara state, friends of the youngest commissioner in Nigeria came on Facebook and Twitter to accuse the lady, 26, of suddenly blocking them on all her social media handles the moment her appointment was announced. I don’t know if it’s true as I do not know the young lady.
Most assuredly though, the above references do not represent the totality of Nigerian youths in politics.
In Oyo, southwest of Nigeria, a certain Seyi Makinde is setting the standards as governor. But the thing is, people who refer to him as a young man forget that Makinde was born in 1967. At 53 he is hardly a ‘youth’ but in the context that most Nigerians speak, “young” means anybody below sixty five years and above.
Not many years ago, a political party appointed a man above sixty years as “Youth Leader.”
It makes it a bit of a challenge to place a range on what “young” truly means here.
Is Seyi Makinde doing well because he is of an age that is a perfect blend of youth and experience? When the man speaks, he exudes a certain calmness and maturity that shows he has spent enough years growing through life and he understands people, power, and empathy.
Does this bestow the same qualities in all elderly people? No way. Wait until you hear Adams Oshiomole speak. He is the national chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Mr. Oshiomole is sixty eight. But ask Nigerians and they would most likely tell you that they have yet to meet anybody of that age who speaks without decorum as an elder statesman.
This brings me to the question, should age be the real issue in politics or should competence be the yardstick for electing leaders in a Nigeria that is sorely in need of balance between youth, assured calculation, and experience to navigate the tumultuous waves she is currently struggling with?
As I type this, I am watching the Atiku interview on BBC for the 1000th time.
The shock he expresses when Miss Jones hit him with the question shows a genuine, almost child-like innocence of thought. The man believes himself capable and healthy.
In my experience, health is neither an automatic bestowment nor is it the exclusive preserve of young people; a younger (by Nigerian standards) President Yar’adua died from a kidney disease. He was not an old man.
Atiku Abubakar is above seventy. But he is fit as fiddle. He is the reason I believe that good health is a combination of good genes and a deliberate lifestyle. The man is blessed with both. I have seen men older than Atiku who are also very healthy. American president, Donald Trump, is not a boy. Yet his energy levels are sky high. Ever ready to banter anyone on social media, he still attends to his demanding job while defending his government against critics and opposition.
Now, competence. Is Atiku competent? Those who have encountered him will tell you that he is. He successfully established and has run his oil servicing firm, INTELS, since the 80s, making it one of the truly world class companies indigenous to Nigeria.
Faro Water, also one of his babies, is doing well against older brands in the country. Faro is actually one of the safest brands to drink from, a hallmark of Atiku’s dedication to quality.
There is the one grey spot of a corruption perception that propaganda has created against the man but, until one is proven guilty by a competent court, he must be assumed innocent.
As Vice-President between 1999 and 2007, Atiku successfully headed the economic recovery team that reclaimed a lot of stolen wealth from corrupt politicians and back into the national coffers. He created a strategy that comfortably encouraged the willful recovery of monies, saving the government hundreds of millions in litigation costs as well as what would have become, as evident today, unproductive media trials just for show.
When Nigeria faced international embarrassment in Togo- the embassy in Lomé was going to be evicted from their rented building- it was Atiku who quietly fixed the problem while on a personal visit to that country.
The embassy in New York also faced the same challenge and, after Atiku had approved state funds for the ambassador to fix the issue, the money disappeared into thin air.
Realizing the need to keep a calm head and focus on the immediate challenge, the then Vice-President resisted the urge to call out the ambassador. He negotiated a more direct solution by linking the then finance minister, if I remember correctly, to the agents in charge of the building. That money was paid, Nigeria was saved the humiliation, and culpable personnel at the embassy were handled by the book without the need for a sham media trail that has become a conduit for siphoning funds these days.
I do not believe that age is President Buhari’s problem. Any man or woman who was competent in their youth does not suddenly become incompetent overnight.
Good health can fade with age. Many things can suddenly fade away, but not competence.
Winston Churchill only became Prime Minister at the good age of sixty six (he was born in 1874) and he led Britain into the second world war with success. As a matter of fact, he became Prime Minister for a second spell between 1951 and 1955. He was aged seventy seven by the time he was elected to have a second go at leading Great Britain.
By every standard of measurement Churchill is not rated a failure as age did not hamper his ability to lead his country.
Should I mention Charles de Gaulle? He became president in France at the age of sixty eight and is given credit for his performance. He was also reelected and served until he resigned in 1968. His influence on French politics lives till this day.
Atiku Abubakar, in that interview with Jones, made a clarion call for a class of Nigerians that we simply cannot just wish away. There is no way we can negotiate a future without the past. Given the disconnect that has been forced between young citizens and our past, we need some of the sensible remaining elders to hand down everything they know about what happened to our once proud nation and help to heal wounded hearts, hurting ethnicities, and teach us how religious folks managed to be more tolerant of each other back then.
How many young Nigerians truly know- and understand- the dynamics of the civil War as well as it’s causes and effects, beyond the flowery threads sewn on Twitter and Facebook by subjective folks who were not there and did not have access to history in school or at home? A lot of what is written today is more likely to be deliberately tailored to cause more division than to honestly educate.
That is one of the assured outcomes of wild conjecture.
Only a man who has never experienced war craves for it. Those who have survived it never hope to see it happen again. But Nigeria is not all about the past alone. The world is fast moving ahead. On the home front, Ghana is dominating headlines with innovations that encourage foreign investors to set up shop in their country. They have relatively stable power, and there is less crime on their streets.
Nigeria’s population is a major challenge. It requires steady hands for guidance. Steady hands is not about age; it comes with competence and the experience of having managed large numbers of people and diverse interests successfully.
Nigeria is too politically complex for any inexperienced leader to successfully aspire to change.
As preparations continue to heat up towards the next election cycle come 2023, one hopes that the electorate do not make the same mistakes over and over. I believe that Nigerians have suffered enough to realize that competence, experience, and empathy is all they need to get better.
Forget age. Forget propaganda. It’s going to be make or break for this nation and the power should lie with the people next time.
Like Atiku said, “If I feel I have the strength, health, and COMPETENCE…..”
Michael Achimugu wrote in from Abuja
5 Nigerian Politicians That Tested Positive To COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has wrecked havock in many countries worldwide, shutting down businesses and more.
Many nations’ economy have suffered huge drops and alot have changed in terms of economic activities.
The pandemic has proven to have no favorites as every social strata can be affected by it. Nigeria is not left out on the list of countries affected.
As at the time of writing this article, Nigeria has about 5,100+ cases of COVID-19. While some Nigerians believe this, some others doubt and have tagged it a politicized virus on Nigeria’s shores.
Following mainstream media reports from March 2020, recall that both politicians and celebraties were affected by this outbreak.
Here in this article are the list of some Nigerian politicians that contracted the deadly coronavirus.
While some recovered fully, one died as numerous reports blamed his previous health challenges.
1. Abba Kyari (1952-2020)
Abba Kyari while alive was the chief of staff to the Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. Abba Kyari served the nation and while doing that contracted the virus.
He eventually died on the 17th of April 2020 due to the complications caused by the COVID-19 within his system according to reports.
2.Governor Nasir El-rufai
The Governor of Kaduna state, Nasir El-Rufai announced that he tested positive to COVID-19 himself .
The governor tested positive to the virus on the 28th March 2020. He has been under going treatments since then.
3.Governor Bala Monhammed
Bauchi State Governor Bala Mohammed tested positive to the dreaded Coronavirus last month. However, Governor Bala after receiving treatments tested negative after being tested on 9th April 2020.
He has since resumed work at the governemnt house and as well encouraged the use of malaria drugs in the fight against the COVID-19.
Raymond Dokpesi the Founder of DAAR Communications earlier tested positive to the Virus alongside other members of his family but fortunately, he tested negative after receiving treatments.
He was declared neagtive on 14th May 2020. He however lamented over the poor Medical infrastructures in Nigeria.
He called upon the Federal Government to look into ways to improve the healthcare systems in the country.
The Edo State House of Assembly speaker Frank Okiye on 25th March 2020 tested positive to the Virus. His status then made the Edo state Governor Godwin Obaseki go into self isolation .
However, on 24th April after receiving treatments, the Speaker tested Negative.
The Edo state government in a bid to curb the spread of the Virus decided to set up screening centres all around the state’s borders.
The Political Agenda For Repatriating Almajiri Boys To Southern Nigeria
Currently amidst the Coronavirius pandemic, many Northern States are actively repatriating large numbers of Almajiri young boys from one state to another but the part that makes it sound security threatening is that the practice of having almajiri boys within communities is not a common phenomena or religious practice in the southern region of Nigeria.
Some southerners have tagged the move of sending Almajiri boys down to the south as political and as well as religious with a terror plan underground. While this is unverified, the rate which at which trucks loaded with young boys from the north are trooping into the south is alarming.
The manner with which they try to smuggle them in makes it look like there is more to it. For some, they use trucks for cows to hide the boys. Days ago, a Dangote truck was involved in the smiggling of young boys from the north.
So, is there more to this recent smuggling? If they are not hiding something alongside the trucks, why are they not bold to drive into Southern cities without having to hide under tampoline covers meant for goods? These are questions the governors who are repartraiting almajiris from their states need to answer.
Politically, if we are to analyze this, there is an underground plan that has not been made bare yet as far as this all of a sudden repartriation of young boys are concerned. The Federal Government should not keep quiet about this neither Should southern Governors.
A practice perculiar to the North that doesn’t end well at the end of the day should not be shifted to the south for any reason. These boys they are shifting to the South have no home, family or any relation to stay with when they get to he South.
They will start by joining those Northerners who are predominantly farmers in the south in their humble abode until they seek something terrible to indulge in such as Highway kidnapping in the South-South and South-west regions.
Not judging but if you take note of the culprits behind kidanpping on South-west and some part of South-South highways, they are 70% Northern young men who have relocated to the south with no prior plan on what to do to survive.
Because they moved to the south with no basic plan of what to do, they are easily recruitd by kidnap kingpins in the South to perpetrate all manner of crimes within the regions. This calls for Federal Government attention.
Politically, those behind the all of a sudden shiting of Almajiri boys to the south are seeking a 20-50 years plan to battle for lands and communities in the South in the future. This may be tagged as mere allegations but that is the fact staring at the South.
THIS IS THE GRAND PLAN:
Move the boys to the remote southern regions, get their hands busy with all manner of activities (Legal or illegal). This gimmick is not easily understood by the people of the South. These boys leverage on this error of the south to have knowledge of all nooks and cranny of the remote southern parts.
Most of the boys being smuggled to the south via different means will not reside within the major cities but will smartly move to the rural areas. In the next 30 – 50 years, they will start claiming lands belonging to communities that housed them for over 40 years.
This method is not new as so many Fulani Normads have employed it severally in Plateau and Benue state in recent times. When this doesn’t go their way, they engage in a heavy masssacre of locals to prove their points.
Is this going to be the reality of some rural areas in the South in the next 50 Years? This should not be seen as a message to preach against one Nigeria because there are Northerners who are based in the Southern Nigeria and are there with good reasons likewise the Southernerns in the North.
Those who choose to smuggle themselves into a region with a decoy method have something devilish and demonic in mind against such regions are enemies of Peace. If one is confident of a good move, he/she doesn’t need to hide to do it.
Why are Almajiri Boys smuggled to the South in fishy ways recently? The Southern Governors should throw this question to the Northern Governors while it is still day.
One Nigeria is very much possible when a Region stops playing devilish moves against others.
EFCC Donates Allison Diezani’s Mansion To Lagos Govt as COVID-19 Isolation Centre (Photos)
In a bid to support the curbing of the Coronavirus, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Friday, handed over a property forfeited by former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Allison-Madueke to the Lagos State Government.
The seized mansion is to be used as an Isolation Centre for COVID-19 patients.
The property consisting six flats of three bedrooms and a boys’ quarter was forfeited by Diezani, a minister under the Jonathan administration, following an order of Lagos State Federal High in 2017.
Speaking during the handover ceremony, the Lagos Zonal Head of the EFCC, Mohammed Rabo, stated that the gesture was part of the commission’s social responsibility efforts towards the fight against the spread of Corona virus.
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