Another election season is fast approaching and characteristically the ill wind of allegations of corruption and age barriers against certain aspirants is again taking its toll, thereby reducing the possibilities of having a contest of men with capacity and capabilities needed to reposition the straying ship of state. The question that keeps coming to my political mind is; for how long will the Nigerian electorate be tied to this political abattoir of slaughtering old age and always throwing up issues of alleged corruption against fellow politicians, during every electoral season just for cheap sentimental votes from unsuspecting electorates? When would the Nigerian electorate be enlightened enough to see through this shambolic creation of greedy and lazy politicians? When will opinion leaders break this thin political chain and begin to demand substance from aspirants rather than feed their followers with colorful chaff?
Nigeria as a Federation adopted its style of governance from the well-developed democratic system of the United State of America that is proudly 215 years and have successfully built a country of the ‘free’ and the home of the ‘brave’. With a literacy level of 86% and an overwhelming youthful population, one begins to wonder why such matters concerning age of presidential candidates do not get the green in the United States elections; the simple answer is that they have a very literate electorate that would rather focus on competence, capacity and capability rather than mundane issues of how old a candidate is.
No study has established or shown that a youthful United States President translates to high level performance. The U.S has so far had 45 Presidents and very few have etched their names in the sands of history as exceptional and high performers because of their youthfulness and unfortunately this so-called youthful bracket do not dominate in this regard. Even the old and handicapped Presidents of the United States have earned more space in American history than the youthful ones. The American story is clear, the criteria for who becomes President is a product of its realistic National challenge at those times. Hence in more recent times, Barack Obama won the race on issues of immigration, foreign relations and Fiscal discipline while Donald Trump won on issues of economy, unemployment, trade deals, debt profile and security.
Donald Trump was in his 70’s as at the time of his election but his records speaks loud enough for his performance to date. If Nigeria were America, Trump will not be winning elections with the naked demons of age and alleged acts of corruption unleashed on his candidacy and swallowed by gullible voters and opinion leaders. The American electorate were simply smarter! They knew what they wanted and went for it. Same with Ronald Reagan.
The role of the Presidency in our adopted democracy is not so cheap for any sleep walker to come toy out a fairy ideology. The lives of more than 180million people cannot be used for careless experiments as we have seen in the present government; the consequence will take nothing short of sorrows, tears and blood. Just like the Americans, Nigerians need to know the type and quality of leadership desired to lead us out of our current quagmire and such qualities must scale low on Age but talk more of health status, experience, exposure, education, visible personal achievements, and growth record; let’s talk candidates capacities, capabilities & proven track records. The President Muhammadu Buhari regime which some will quickly cite as the other side of age is particularly not an issue with age but more of issues with health. If Age did not deter Ronald Reagan and it is not holding Trump back, why will it hold Nigeria down? In recent times, we have seen movements like #nottooyoungtorun; as much as I will keep encouraging them, I must warn of the consequences of throwing a learner on a trunk A road, we must rather encourage our youths to join politics and climb the political ladder as it is expected for safer exposures.
Another major issue to take centre stage is the issue of alleged corruption; some person’s political ambitions have been crippled for unsubstantiated charges or media allegation of corruption. We must see through this as a people so we don’t throw away diamonds simply because it’s buried in mud. Nigerians must ask critical questions of evidence of judicial convictions in such cases of alleged acts of corruption and must help educate others. The fact that a person has once stood before a court doesn’t make him a felon; after all if alleged act of corruption is anything to go by, Vladmir Putin will not be Russian President today and Donald Trump will be serving his terms for tax evasion. The fact remains that most developed countries pay little attention to petty issues as raised and rather focus on what the candidate will and can do. Our political process ahead 2019 must rise to the level of seeking men of action rather than searching for misplaced clergies whose only score card is integrity; yes we need integrity but we need more of knowledge, experience, exposure, network, political clout and patriotic heart to lead a nation such as ours to its desired place among the comity of developed nations.