By Suleiman Abdul-Azeez
The next president of Nigeria will probably not be someone who’s over the age of 70. With the topmost hopefuls Atiku Abubakar at 73 and Bola Tinubu at 77, it is quite predictable that younger people who are transforming Nigerian politics and driving substantive ideological trends would prevail over the old.
The younger ones are also entering political office themselves and in doing so, they begin an inevitable process: soon enough, their generation will be the one controlling the state government houses, National Assembly and the Aso Rock Villa.
Though nobody, at this point, can answer with any certainty what Nigeria will look like, or if the millennials will default to the patterns established by the political class that they will eventually replace, but the future is beginning to take shape.
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A careful x-ray of likely successors to President Muhammadu Buhari by sampling a few likely potentials, provides us an invaluable early glimpse into the events and movements that will influence Nigerian politics for decades to come.
Recounting the trajectories of several prominent new movements and formations, some connective tissues among several up-and-coming leaders can be identified — namely a view of politics that can be less rigidly hierarchical and one that places a greater emphasis on plurality compared to their old predecessors.
In particular, the upcoming leaders flay the significant opportunities for rent-seeking in public office that have attracted many politicians of the old brigade with a focus on extracting rents.
Leading one of the major new generation movements is Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim, business mogul, former presidential aspirant, politician, public affairs analyst whose famous quote has come to be: “I am in politics to be the change, not to be changed by its vagaries”.
Common characteristics that distinguish Gbenga’s movement from the rest is that he is obviously much better with technology and much more fluent in the language of social media understood by younger Nigerians. The Gbenga vision definitely also cares way more about security of lives, fairness, justice and public safety in particular.
The vision aims to enlighten younger Nigerians, of all faith and all ethnic groups for a major role in rescuing the country from the margins of irrelevance, impotence, inconsequence and decay in the context of a global order which currently runs on the basis of values and practices that we need to understand, adapt to, or create alternatives that suit our cultures, circumstances and interests.
This approach is quite unlike most formations by other political leaders whose sole motivation to run for public office actually includes self-identity, self-interest and enrichment, family background, salaries, or a combination of these factors that affect the quality of representation and public policies they adopt after becoming successful.
Personally, Gbenga’s guiding principle has always been that no one wins a religious or ethnic war; no ethnic group can dominate another forever; and no benefit comes from fights and conflicts over what God has blessed us with: our population, our land and its resources and our values.
He raises his voice when he perceives an injustice and has cultivated the values of utilizing all options when dealing with challenging problems. A detribalized northerner, he sees the vision of a North that protects and respects the rights of other Nigerians, so that it stands on firmer ground when it demands respect and protection of the rights of the northerner.
“Join the fight to bring peace among northern communities from which we are all bleeding and acknowledge the damage which fights between communities in Taraba and Benue States, in Kaduna State, and in Plateau State are causing the communities and the North,” he used to say.
He fervently believes that these conflicts, as well as the Boko Haram insurgency, cattle rustling, banditry and kidnappings are our collective problems as a nation, but leaders and governments we elected cannot or will not do enough to bring them to an end.
Yet he is convinced that with the right political will and quality of leadership, the Tiv and Jukun conflicts can be stopped, we can bring lasting peace to Plateau, find solutions to the Fulani and his cattle, halt regional agitations and stop millions of Nigerian children living wretched lives in the search for education, and wasting the greatest asset of the nation which is its human capital.
He believes also that only Nigerians can solve Nigeria’s problems, but as should be obvious by now, not all leaders are committed enough to work to solve the nation’s basic socio-cultural problems, regressing economy or address its precarious future. He regrets that many Nigerian leaders today will prefer to leave the bulk of Nigerian youth in poverty, fighting each other, so that they can continue to manipulate them during elections.
Reflecting Gbenga’s positive traits, the movement he leads, representing the vast interest of the younger generation of Nigerians who have not witnessed the first civil war and not willing to witness any, works to keep alive the hope of returning our great country on the path of prosperity and enduring security.
This is in the hope for a Nigerian future in which its youth shall become, and remain the bulwark of respect, integrity, dignity, decorum, tradition, decency, morality, civilization, etiquette, good behaviour, politeness and accommodation.
Abdul-Azeez, a journalist, sent this piece from Abuja.