Leave the siddon look corner: Obasanjo tells Agbakoba…
explains why younger Nigerians can’t rule in politics
By Bartholomew Madukwe
Former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, Thursday said the younger generation of Nigerians are mostly unwilling to beat an alternative path to leadership and contented with waiting for dead men’s shoes which is affecting generational shift in political leadership.
He said, “Politics is a game of numbers at the end’ of the day. The youth are in the majority. What is the excuse? So long as the older generation do not have the incentive to step down, so long will they continue to reinvent and reappoint and resurface. The generational shift will need to be worked for and worked at”.
In a reply to a letter sent to him by former President of Nigerian Bar Association, Dr. Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, Obasanjo explained that those who assumed the mantle of leadership in public offices at relatively early age were brought into limelight by circumstances which were not of their own making.
The letter in parts read: “Having been thrown into the deeper end of the pool, so to speak, some of us made great efforts with determination, commitment, broad national outlook, integrity and uncommon zeal to shoulder the responsibilities thrust on us. We recorded varying degrees of successes that the older people should be excluded in our leadership recruitment process.
Obasanjo advised Agbakoba to step forward and develop a mobilization framework that seeks to rearrange Nigeria on a different basis of legitimacy, noting that late Chief Awolowo and the great Zik were younger than him when they threw their hats in the ring.
“The modern history of Nigeria was shaped by young people. Your Excellency was 39 years when you became Head of State; Zik was 40 when he founded the NCNC; Awolowo was 43 when he became premier of Western Nigeria; Ahmady Bello was 40 when he co-founded the NPC; Ojukwu and Gowon were in their 30s when they took the centre stage in Nigerian politics.
“We demonstrated patriotism, selflessness and also acquitted ourselves creditably with our uncommon contributions to the socio-political development of Nigeria. My dear Olisa, it is sad that the successor generation of Nigerians have in most cases resorted to work avoidance in the quest for leadership.
”Most members of the younger generation of Nigerians are mostly contented with waiting for dead men’s shoes and are unwilling to beat an alternative path to leadership.
”In such a situation, it is to be expected and actually it is human that those with some head start in life will not concede such advantages freely and based on their innate goodness.
”The world, as I know it, is powered by shrewd hard-headed, calculating individuals and the cornucopia .of their mercy is decidedly thin and it is unlike God’s rain that falls on the just and the wicked alike.
”The point to ponder is how have the successor generation positioned themselves to
lead? I look back at some members of the younger generation and I am miffed at the missed opportunities.
”I am equally saddened that although we the so-called older generation did facilitate some semblance of infrastructural development. Today, the gains made have been mostly pushed down the drain by some of those privileged young people saddled with similar responsibilities in the recent past. .
”You should know that some of these same young people, whose interest we canvass, have in the recent past been a complete disappointment and failures in their various appointed or elected positions.
”Some of these young people in public or private sector have frittered the prospect of being at the vanguard of sustainable development of what some of us, the earlier generation of leaders, pioneered on the altar of their crass materialism, self-centeredness and opportunism.
”So, while these failed young men and women should not be a disincentive to support other young people, I don’t think that the older people should be excluded in our leadership recruitment process. ”For me, if I find men and women who have shown profound commitment and exemplary
integrity in their various chosen careers or professions as well as zeal for the service of our fatherland, I will, of course, give such both my support and inspiration, notwithstanding their age, circumstances or place of birth.
Obasanjo stressed that it is time Agbakoba takes the hard road by jumping down-from the fence and the siddon look corner; saying “it is your fatherland. The time is now. let the young people organize themselves around positive core values; let them become ideological in the sense of nationalism and patriotism in this struggle. This is a democracy.”
It will be recalled that Agbakoba, in a letter to Obasanjo, entitled “Nigeria Needs a Generational Shift in Political Leadership”, said Nigeria is held back by a crop of leadership that has outlived its usefulness and effectiveness as a result of old age.
“I am concerned about the quality of leadership in Nigeria; corruption is endemic; poverty is high, life expectancy is low. Nigeria ranks poorly on all international human development indicators. Chinua Achebe, in his book, The Trouble with Nigeria, pointed out the situation is directly linked to failure of leadership,” Agbakoba stated.
He said he was also convinced that with Obasanjo’s support, giving the young a chance can be expanded to become a policy of all political parties in Nigeria, adding that the country will benefit greatly.
”It seems to me a great contradiction that after a young vibrant set of leaders got Nigeria off the ground in the early 60’s, Nigeria has steadily descended into chaos and is probably now ranked as one of the most ungovernable countries in the world.
”I feel compelled to request your intervention because you are’ one of few past leaders with enough clout to galvanize the political elite to produce like in France, a Macron or in Canada, a Trudeau. I believe it is time for our elder statesmen to give way to a young new vibrant political leadership.
”I am also convinced that with your support, this can be achieved and expanded’ to become high policy among all political parties in Nigeria. Nigeria will greatly benefit. I strongly feel that a radical change in political leadership from old to new will be transformational.”