Between septuagenarians and spring chickens

Kenechukwu Obiezu

Kenechukwu Obiezu

It would appear that in Nigeria`s corridors of power, life begins at seventy after all. The fact that many of those who occupy the levers of power at the federal level and those angling to succeed them are septuagenarians would confirm this assertion and, in the process, bury any accusation of ageism.

In 2015, having drunk to their fill from the cup of woes held out by the Peoples Democratic Party, Nigerians believed the All Progressive Congress enough to elect Mr. Muhammadu Buhari as President. Mr. Muhammadu Buhari successfully retained his seat in 2019 though it remains to be determined just how much hand incumbency had in the events of that year given that by his sixth month in office, Nigerians were already fed up because of the length of time it took him to form his cabinet.

Nigeria will be sixty-two in October. Its first citizen is seventy-nine. Two of the leading candidates to take over in Aso Rock next year are seventy-five and seventy respectively. At least, five of those who currently serve as ministers are over seventy themselves. A former governor in one of the states recently used the occasion of his seventieth birthday to announce he was going to contest elections to represent his senatorial zone in the next elections. One of his successors as the chairman of the ruling party, and the current one, is himself seventy-five. These are just but official figures in a country where many routinely believe that politicians, public figures, celebrities and even athletes routinely falsify their ages.

African believe that wisdom comes with age as one cannot casually go to a store to pick up experience as one would pick up groceries. But there is a sense in which there is an unspoken entitlement to power by people who are above seventy and who already find themselves in and around the corridors of power.

If this be the case, and if by reason of financial and political muscle, they are able to find their way to the corridors of power, or simply take same by force, where does that leave Nigeria`s young people many of whom witnessed an eruption of spontaneous joy when the Not Too Young To Run Act received presidential assent in 2018?

Although Nigerian government officials think the EndSARS protests that rocked the country in the twilight of 2020 was about murder, mayhem and looting, Nigerians who have their sights undimmed by bias know it was a cry from the heart about police brutality and the deep-seated frustrations many young Nigerians feel about their lack of inclusion in the only country they know.

When protests simultaneously erupted in many Nigerian cities, it was the dam of helplessness and haplessness that had burst, and were it not for the Lekki toll gate massacre, Nigerian`s Augean stables would probably have been swept clean by now.

There should be an age ceiling beyond which one cannot aspire for any political office in Nigeria. The constitution should be amended to include not just an age threshold but an age ceiling beyond which all aspirations to political office must expire. Taking into consideration the mental and physical decline that comes with age, and the rapacious effects of senility, there should be an age beyond which one should not be allowed to contest for political office. Nigerian public offices that require rigor for the delivery of democratic goods should no longer be seen as retirement homes by those who know that their days are numbered.

In a country which has aged a thousand years in just seven years because power has simply refused to move with the times, the question of age in Nigeria`s politics has become a very valid one.

As septuagenarians strengthen their grip on power in Nigeria, whither the spring chickens? Whither Nigerias young people who desire to serve their country? Political polemicists may be quick to argue that everyone should be allowed to slug it out as it is a democracy. But it is common knowledge that in Nigeria, the playing field is not level. Years of territorializing Nigerias corridors of power and appropriating public funds have ensured that only a select few boast the war chest necessary to navigate the treacherous terrain of elections in Nigeria.

And now, with the Not Too Young To Run Act lying practically comatose, how these men must secretly laugh not just at the Act but at all those who vigorously advanced and advocated its legislation. How they must secretly mock the fate of the children who were not careful to come of age before donning the robes meant for their fathers.

The Not Too Young To Run Act is just another example of a Nigerian law stuffed with so much topaz but too few teeth. When the races to Aso Rock heat up, Nigerians should not be surprised when the septuagenarians inexplicably breast the tape before the spring chickens.

 

 

Kene Obiezu,

keneobiezu@gmail.com

 

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