The media, and of course the social media in particular, has been agog with the news of 39-year-old Emmanuel Macron emerging the French president. Macron had defeated his key contender Marine Le Pen on Sunday night with a margin of 66.06% to 33.94%, making him the country’s youngest president.
Nigerian masses versus the elite
The victory of Macron has caused a heated debate within the Nigerian social media space. And that’s for two obvious reasons: One, the charismatic young man won on the platform of En Marche, a political movement which he formed less than a year ago. Two, he defeated 62-year-old François Fillon and 65-year-old Jean-Luc Mélenchon who ran on the tickets of two traditional main right-wing and left-wing parties ending their decades-long dominance. In other words, he defeated the “powerful and elite” in the country without a party. In my country, it’s like defeating the APCs and PDPs of this world. So I ask, is that possible in Nigeria?
Of course it is. After all, up until March 2015 nobody per se had ever thought Nigerians would rally round a new party, then the APC, to remove the PDP which had held on to power for 16 years. Not only that, who could have thought of a scenario in which a sitting president Goodluck Jonathan would be removed from office; as if that was not enough, he was unseated without a civil war breaking out. Common! That was unimaginable, yet it happened. So this gives a precedent to the fact that the Nigerian masses, who are angry and frustrated at the moment, can turn around to vote out the established and powerful parties in power, at any level at that.
But where is that 39-year-old Nigeria’s Macron?
I was engaged in a twitter chat with Chude Jideonwo, co-founder of Red Media Africa, which owns the continent’s largest portfolio of youth media brands, a few hours ago. Chude lamented how he had persuaded young people who are capable and well resourced to run for office. They just would not. According to him, “they are so frightened of throwing money down the drain they don’t even have the coverage to take risks. I don do PowerPoint tire ……”
For me, they should be scared actually. An average Nigerian youth of today is still in deep slumber. Although many people have attributed this to poverty and the poor education system, I can’t agree less. In its 2016 Graduate Report, Stutern— a Lagos-based organization which connects employers looking for the best undergraduate talents, in-betweeners and graduates in search of internship/full-time opportunities— says about 3 in 4 Nigerian graduates earn below #50, 000 as first salary. Wawu! How does one who earns so little ever think of running for office or joining others to campaign for whoever is willing and competent?
Think about this scenario. I earn #30,000 as entry salary after spending about four years of my life studying in the university and another one year for NYSC. I feed myself, buy clothes, transport to and from office, pay bills, visit friends and still strive to save. Come to think of it, inflation is at its peak. With this, I’m frustrated, the future looks bleak and I can’t even work on my dreams. Naturally, getting involved in politics is definitely the last thing on my mind. In short, I’m pissed off with everything and anything government. That is the story of an average Nigerian youth today.
This is not to say there are no thriving, willing and competent young Nigerians anyway. But then, they would definitely have to think of the harsh political terrain, ethnic politics, the electoral processes and citizens’ apathy. I want to believe that has kept a lot of capable young people away.
Nigeria can actually produce a young president, but how?
Young Nigerians will have to solve each of the problems listed above to make a difference. We must put pressure on our lawmakers to ensure the establishment of independent candidacy. This will allow credible people run without a political party, exactly what Macron did. Also, credible candidates can also take over existing dormant parties and turn them around. I believe playing ethnic politics brought us to where we are right now, so we must eradicate it if we will ever move forward. In addition, we must exalt competence, values such as integrity and excellence, good antecedents over ethnicity. Let the best candidate emerge irrespective of ethnic or religious affiliation.
Are we not tired of suffering in this country?
I don’t buy the idea of saying we need a “youth-party”. In reality, it’s the youth who are making all the difference in the world today. The world is now a global village because of young people, so why underplay their capabilities? Bill Gate co-founded Microsoft at 20. Anthony Joshua is 27. Mark Zuckerberg is 32. Chimamanda Adichie is 39. Aboyade Inioluwa is 26. Jack Dorsey is 40. Tara Durotoye is 40. Onigbinde Oluseun is 32. Young people should join political parties to understand the existing structure and flow of things.
Realistically, we have the number— at least we’re about 60% of the Nigerian population. With that, amidst other things, we can make a huge difference I believe.
Can Nigeria ever produce a young president? Yes. Will Nigerians ever vote a 39-year-old, 41-year-old or even 45-year-old as their president? Yes, we can.