2019 Elections and ‘Youthocracy’
A word has been added to the political dictionary of the world, and that word is ‘Youthocracy’. While that word is variably defined, a common denominator for all of its definitions is that it is the idea that the younger generation (youths) should hold political power. While it is one thing to play identity politics for the sake of winning elections or attaining power, it is another thing to represent those people you identify with when and while in office. While it is attractive to give opportunity for the young ones to live a better life, policies that are meant to make life better for the youth must necessarily convert to a better life for everybody. It is therefore necessary to be armed with ideas that make life better for all of the people. All political demographics, including the youth, must be involved in the effort to change the society; it is then that real change can come from the aggregation of positions coming from the real life situations of the people.
With the emergence of 44 year-old Justin Trudeau as Prime Minister in Canada, and the emergence of 39 year- old Emmanuel Macron as President in France, the beautiful debate about the best age group to be in political power has been sparked. The passage of the #NotTooYoungToRun Bill by the National Assembly last July, has raised questions about if such feats stated above can be accomplished in Nigeria. This has brought the debate down to the country with the energy of the young posed against the experience of the old in the argument between gerontocracy and youthocracy. While one might be forced to admit that there is a rife gerontocracy in the country’s political sphere, as most political office holders are aged around or above the life expectancy of the average Nigerian, it is necessary to remain unbiased in this debate as both the young and the old have their quota to contribute to the real change that both categories need.
Yet, we cannot but probe into the reason behind this alleged gerontocracy in the country, and the continent at large. It is necessary to recognize the culture of authoritarianism of the elder over the young which characterizes the history of most tribes in the country, so we can consciously start to reject these tenets. Based on our traditional systems, the elder seems to have more vote than the young. In Yoruba land, most of us grew up with the tradition to not say an elderly person is ‘lying’. In fact, a Yoruba adage asserts that old age is meant for nothing else but to ‘cheat the young’. It also used to be a taboo to correct the elderly, as this is considered disrespectful. All of these obviously contradict the liberal ideals of these modern days which demands that we speak truth to power, and in extreme situations damn respect for the sake of the truth. In addition to the traditional morality that contests this freedom with us, the religious doctrines of respecting and obey humanly fallible elders have brought more woes. We must recognize that this is the kind of society we are emerging from, and consciously transit from it into the future.
With the unavailability of free and quality education and a very high unemployment rate, youngsters have been reduced to a category of people to be used by political godfathers to violently rig elections, to manipulate public opinion on social media and to defend ethnic jingoism and religious fundamentalism. It is now typical for the unemployed youths who do not want to be used as political tools to find their way out of the country or seek a consolation and means of ventilation in individualistic artistic pursuits, while remaining apathetic to politics. Internet and information technology, though an advancement on its own, has given an illegal and inhumane option to unemployed youths in internet scamming and illicit international drug trade. Few of the youths who get white collar government jobs are compelled to join in the corruption that has disorganized the state machine, especially when and where salaries are not paid. Those in the private sector are either underpaid or overworked, with poor working conditions. Those patriotic enough to join the military or the force are sacrificed daily and needlessly in avoidable civil wars and unending wars on terror, which are mostly artificial conflicts to ensure that the security budget remains large and therefore easy to loot. Those that venture into entrepreneurship are frustrated by the electricity and energy crisis, fuel hike, and then starved by the unavailability of accessible financial aid.
Towards the 2019 elections, a number of youngsters have shown their interest in running for political office, especially the Presidency, and it is necessary to measure them on the scale of positions, actions, consistency and ideology, and not just accept them because they are young. Mostly from the Radical Centre, with Ahmed Garba II with the angle of better welfare and good commerce, Ahmed Buhari with the angle of agriculture and solid minerals, Lagos-Based motivational speaker Fela Durotoye with the angle of service, Chris Emejuru with the angle of unity, and celebrity actor Yul Edochie, it is obvious that the programmes and policies of the youths that have identified to run for the top political office are bland, wishy-washy and ambiguous. In fact, their manifestoes make them seem like political careerists who are interested in using the contest to bargain for political appointments with whoever eventually wins the elections. This is alongside the recent failure of Radical Centre politics all around the world, with its representatives like Tony Blair, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and others replacing the common sense slogan with nonsensical actions, replacing slogans of ethics with inhumane policies, replacing change and outside-the-box thinking with the stark semblance to the worst of capitalist regimes, and replacing claims of independence with bootlicking of and control by the establishment. Part of the failures of these ideas is that Macron has started to betray the votes he got from the masses by implementing public sector austerity. Meanwhile, none of these youths that are interested in leading are known to have made strong positions on issues affecting the lives of Nigerians, have taken critical actions to implement any solution, or have been consistent with any political ideology.
It is therefore the task of youthocracy, if it is going to gain any relevance with the 2019 elections, to represent policies like free and functional education at all levels, reversal of all forms of victimizations of youths and students activists, massive job creation to absorb the army of the unemployed, unemployment benefits for the unemployed, and insurance of the youths’ future in form of social security. These policies can only be fully captured and executed with a democratic socialist ideology, where the mainstay of the economy is nationalized under the democratic planning and control of workers and their representatives. It is these policies that the Socialist Party of Nigeria stands for, as it is not just a party for the youth, but also a party for the workers, artisans, peasants, and the poor masses. This is the kind of political party that can fulfill the tasks of youthocracy.
Omole Ibukun is National Secretary of Education Rights Campaign and Youth Member of the Socialist Party of Nigeria.