By Adeolu Adesanya ||
“Power is not given, power is taken. Power is not just taken, it must be taken strategically.” Adeolu Adesanya
I read Mitchell Aghatise’s article on the issues arising from Nigeria’s ministerial screening by the senate, especially the issues bordering on youth engagement. I loved every bit of the article. I believe it is essential to act on ways which we can advance the cause of young persons in the nation’s polity. We need a true alternative that is a clean break from the old guard. Neither APC nor PDP- as presently constituted- is the answer.
I strongly believe the Nigerian youth needs to stand up and TAKE power from the ‘old guard’. Nigeria has regurgitated leaders from the same set, for the past 40 years. It is not only time for new individuals, but new ideas. Canada just elected a new prime minster, Justin Trudeau. At 43, he is one of the youngest leaders in the world. Young people in power is therefore not without precedence.
This photo has gone viral of Justin Trudeau as a baby, while meeting former Nigerian Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon. Gowon’s mates, including the current President – Muhammadu Buhari, are still actively in charge of Nigeria’s political administration today. Truth be told, I supported Buhari’s race for the presidential seat. This was necessary due to the state of the country under Jonathan, and the lack of any other realistic option to stem the tide.
With Buhari in power, we are not to rest yet. We must support him to achieve the rebuilding process of our nation. However, we must also kick-start the next phase of the rebuilding process – young people with innovative ideas, as well as the capacity to TAKE power. The old guard will continue to hold on to power for as long as they are unchallenged. Challenge in this context is not violent opposition. No. We must have an alternative that challenges with better policy choices, roadmaps to develop Nigeria, with hands considered capable for the task, in all quarters. Then, the public will have to make a truly informed decision. Do not get it twisted; Bukola Saraki for instance, is not new school he is a part of the old guard.
Furthermore, we cannot look up to this current crop of politicians and wait for them to actively involve us in governing the country. It will not happen, they would only involve us peripherally when it’s convenient and would work to their advantage. They would never invite youths to have a seat at the table, the table where major decisions that affect the populace are being made.
These same people, forty to fifty years ago had to TAKE power themselves from the colonial masters. In the 1960’s when we won our independence from the British, power didn’t shift hands willingly, it was taken strategically through efforts by the nationalist movements. Some of our current crop of leaders fought the British to gain independence for the country to make it a republic, bearing in mind that they were not the first set of educated people in Nigeria, neither were they the oldest nor the first set of military trained individuals. However, they TOOK power.
One of the weaknesses bandied by those opposed to the incumbent Canadian PM was that he was too young and inexperienced. This criticism is stale. The same critique was levelled at Barack Obama in 2008, but he has shown himself capable to handle the office of president. In fact, Justin Trudeau, in the opinions of many offered the best economic roadmap to the Canadian people. Today, he has been elected the Prime Minister- one hopes he won’t misplace the trust of the Canadian people.
One must sound a caveat. Although several western leaders are young; Enrique Pena Nieto, David Cameron, Barack Obama, to name a few, nevertheless, the current American Presidential election Is littered with the ‘old guard;’ Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Bernie Sanders – Of these, the youngest is Jeb Bush at 62! In essence, the common denominator is the determination to take power- whether young or old.
Coming home, the PDP government did not want to relinquish power. They had been in power for 16 years, and did not wake up one morning to say, “we have held power for 16 years, it is now time to share it with APC, APC come and do your own 4 or 8 years.” That did not happen. APC led by the Tinubu had to strategically take power off PDP. Part of the strategy involved poaching some of the influential but disgruntled PDP members.
It is important and interesting to note that, the power brokers most times are able to spot a momentum, and leverage on it for a power shift. They sometimes read the agitations of the populace, and then subsequently take action. They try to influence the populace as much as they can. If that does not succeed, they jump ship early in order to have “bargaining power” – that is what happened in Nigeria. The power brokers saw there was a power shift in Nigeria that was led by Buhari and Tinubu, and they decide to join in early. Left to the Northern elite and other power brokers, Buhari would not be in their top 10 candidate for presidency. However, with the momentum he had on his side, they had no option but to go with him, or be forever cut off. He had the upper hand.
It is speculated that even before the 2011 presidential elections in Nigeria, Tinubu had initiated moves to partner Buhari in readiness for 2015 elections. A good 4 years head start, even though he had a candidate at the 2011 election – this was because he was able to read the political climate that was discontent with the ruling PDP. From 2011 the strategy was put in motion, which birthed the victory of the APC at the polls in 2015.
Currently there is growing agitation in the country. Many youths feel marginalised. Handled correctly, with the right networks, policies and roadmaps, this could birth momentum for a power shift. The youths need to be strategic in exercising their political influence in Nigeria. Again, we are the biggest voting bloc in Nigeria. Let’s consider how we can really transform our influence in numbers, to influence what policies triumph at the ballot box. Such influence could ensure that the relevant institutions become more accessible to young persons and benefit the youth also. My advice would be to form a party, be very strategic about it.
Amongst the first batch of ministerial nominees, Lai Mohammed spent one of the shortest time frames on the screening seat, and he is not a former senator. As one who lambasted the then ruling party for ten years or more, one would expect him to be the one given a hard time during screening. But he knew his craft and is respected for it. Therefore I say, when a few that knows their craft come together and articulate their position, in no time they would be respected. We do not need a lot – ten people are too much; three to four people are enough to start.
These four will push these agitations, nursing it till it becomes a momentum for a power shift. In doing this, they will get a proper strategist, and get other like-minded people on board. First they will seat and come up with well thought-out and debated policies that will combat the myriad of challenges facing Nigeria. They will keep their plans highly guarded secret till the right time. Patience is key here.
In the period, they would have started securing platforms to spread their message. At the right time, they would get the PR practitioners to move into action, this would steam roll into a movement. The wise power brokers will spot this momentum and will move to want to be part of it, but this is when we would lay our bargain power.
2019 elections in Nigeria are not far off at all. If we are aggrieved about the non-inclusion of youthful ministerial nominees, this should move us to action.
We must know, power is taken, and it is not just taken, it is taken strategically. It takes just a few people to begin this move, and in no time, we would be there. Come 2019, we will be celebrating a youthful government with with vibrant and innovative ideas to move Nigeria forward. This is not a call to dominate only the presidency, but we must ensure that the levers of power from the grassroots up are injected with a youthful outlook.
Once again, power is not given, power is taken- power is taken strategically.