Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has called on the politicians to desist using African youths as political thugs during elections while
their own children are kept in safe havens, saying the future of the
Continent relies on the hands of the youths.
The former President, according to a release made available to
journalists in Abeokuta by his media aide, Kehide Akinyemi, said this in a paper titled ‘Demystifying Leadership Capacity Deficit of African Youths: Our Future is in their Hands’ delivered at the Inauguration Edition of King’s College London Global Leader Engagement Series,
held in London, UK.
Obasanjo, who was quoted to have admitted that African young people are not too young to run for political offices, bemoaned insurmountable barriers which included the hurdle of outrageously exorbitant cost of party nomination forms and campaign costs, which
were put on their ways.
He disclosed that lack of economic opportunity, inclusion and adoption
of policies on education, skill acquisition, empowerment and
employment were some of the obstacles hindering youth of Africa from playing active roles in leadership, development and peace building.
Obasanjo said despite these hindrances which also included systematic
marginalisation, the hope of a continent where the creative energies, intellectual prowess and ingenuity of the continent youth are capable of leading Africa to promise land.
Obasanjo said while the future belongs to the youth, the young people
must also remember that the future is influenced by the present and the past, adding that there must be a deliberate succession plan to protect the future of the continent.
He said, “The present is a legacy of the past, handed over by other
generation. This legacy is a product of hard work, successes, failures and experience. It must be preserved. The youth must understand that
today’s leaders are tomorrow’s seniors and the record of their
leadership will also become a legacy to another generation.
“This is one of the major reasons I set up the Olusegun Obasanjo
Presidential Library especially its Youth Development Centre and the Centre for Human Security and Dialogue to serve as nursery for training Africa’s future leaders through formal and informal debates,
dialogues, interactions, discussion, research and visits.
“Enough of using other people’s children as experimental subjects and keeping ours in safe havens. Enough of using other people’s children
as political thugs and ballot box snuffers while we send ours to Ivy League schools. Enough of thinking we know what is right for young people without their input or the courtesy of asking for their opinions.
“Succession planning is a culture that Africa needs to imbibe. It increases the number of people who are capable and available to assume
leadership roles when the incumbent is no longer available to do so. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a deliberate process.
“We cannot continue to assume that by mere observation from afar,
young people understand why we do what we do. We must introduce them
to our networks and partners; set them up to represent us in important
meetings while we can still guide and nurture them. An organisation
should not kaput because one person is no longer available to lead.
“I see hope in that the future of Africa is in the hands of its youth. I see hope of a continent where the creative energies, intellectual
prowess and ingenuity of our youth is capable to lead us to our promised land. I see hope in the courage of our youth to hold government accountable and their resistance to tyranny and despotism.
“I see hope of a thriving continent, made better by the youth than they met it. I see hope in the honest labours of young people on the streets, who shun illegal money-making means and who sweat daily to earn a living. I see hope in our youths who despite all they have seen and experienced, still believe in the dignity of hard work with tremendous energy, ingenuity and commitment.
“And it is this hope that we must keep alive. Fear has no place in hope. We must be hopeful in our actions and perception of our youths. And while we still can, we must give them all the support knowing that when we are no longer here, they will carry-on the torch, guiding it with their all.
“More than ever before, I believe in African youths and their capacity as I have seen them and understood them. And as for hope, they are the
reason while an octogenarian like me is filled with hope of a united, progressive, integrated and prosperous Africa, taking its rightful place in a global decision-making process and in the international division of labour and production.”
On the barriers against the not too young to rule policy, Obasanjo suggested that if there was need for constitutional change or
political party structures be amended such should be done to make the youth more involved in contesting for elective posts.
“If constitutional changes are required, let us begin now. If policies and political party structures have to change, let us begin now. Of what use is a law that allows young people contest for a particular office only to be confronted with the hurdle of outrageously
exorbitant cost of party nomination forms and campaign costs?
He moreover noted that, the young people must continue to engage
political leaders “till they lower the cost of election and governance in Africa. Young people are not too young to run for political offices but insurmountable barriers are put against them. Adults running for elective offices to be octogenarians or over in such offices are also barriers to the young in getting to political leadership.
“Special attention and consideration must be given to the girl child.
We have to ensure that they have equal opportunities as boys and see them collectively as our ‘tomorrow’, not a part of it. Understand that a girl can learn to be homely and still be a great scientist. A child
is first human before his or her gender. Like the male child, girls have dreams and the wherewithal to achieve them.
“I will also like to talk about entrepreneurship. It is the buzz word on the street. And I am glad that our youth have been bitten by the bug. They are building businesses and not all waiting to be employees. This paradigm is much needed at a time like this. I, however, urge them to do more than create businesses that will cater only for their personal survival. At the onset, they must broaden their mind and vision for their businesses to grow from micro to small and from
medium-scale ventures to corporations.
“They must deploy technology to make friends and meet business associates across the globe to build international brands. They must think global and begin by acting local. Government needs to also come to their aid –another reason they must be actively involved in governance. Government must make policies that encourage their businesses and expand their horizon.
Obasanjo submitted that African leaders “must partner with young
people to use their strength in prevention of violence and recruitment
into violent and extremist groups and embrace promotion of peace
through peer-to-peer education and sharing.
“Young people must continue to take advantage of the social media to organise themselves. It is pivotal that we recognize, support and promote the role of youth in the implementation of Agenda 2063 for
Africa and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for 2030.”