Time For A Paradigm Shift In Governance BY PETER NANDI BETTE

In Breaking News, Opinion, Politics

On November 20, 2022, Equatorial Guineans reportedly re-elected 80-year-old Teodoro Obiang Mbassogo Nguema, for a sixth tenure of seven years as President of their country. By this, Nguema’s 43-year rule has been further elongated till when he, God willing, shall clock 87 on this planet.

Nguema does not play alone in this league of septuagenarian leaders on the continent. He is in the unenviable company of the likes of Paul Biya of Cameroon and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda.

Just for records, 89-year-old Paul Biya has been on the saddle as President of Cameroon since 6 November 1982. Before this, he was appointed Prime Minister on June 30, 1975, and acted in that position until he became president. He has won every election held since then. He won the most recent one held in 2018 with 71.3% of the vote. As of 2022, he was the longest-serving head of government in the world.

Their co-traveler, 78-year-old Yoweri Museveni has ruled Uganda for 35 years. Like his comrades-in-authoritarian rule, he has stifled opposition and rigged himself through every election that ever held, to retain the presidential seat. Press freedom is an anathema in the country. None of the Ugandan elections since 1986 are free and transparent. On 16 January 2021, Museveni was re-elected for a sixth term with 58.6% of the vote, despite reported widespread irregularities.

Elsewhere away from the continent, there are speculations that 80-year-old Joe Biden, President of the United States of America is quietly but preparing a potential re-election bid, come 2024. The influential Washington Post Newspaper reported in its November 1, 2022 edition that the president and his wife have been meeting since September with a group of senior advisers at their White House residence, to pave the way for a 2024 re-election campaign.

Meanwhile, his predecessor in office, 76-year-old Donald Trump reportedly announced on Tuesday 15 November 2022 that he will seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2024. According to CNN, he’ll want to return to the White House “in order to make America great and glorious again”.

In our dear country Nigeria, those opposed to a generational paradigm shift in governance at the presidential level, will readily rely on the ages of these aforementioned leaders to argue that it is normal for septuagenarians to continue to aspire to rule the country.

During the last presidential primaries, for instance, old-breed politicians used the power of the Dollar, which appears of late to have replaced the Naira as Nigerian currency, to reaffirm their control of the two major political parties – the People Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressive Congress (APC). It was clear that it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for any upcoming new breed politician to emerge as presidential flag bearer in any of those parties.

At this point, it is pertinent to state straight away that the progressive world is turning to the younger generation for leadership in governance. Let us do a brief tour around the globe to verify this assertion.

Sanna Marin, a woman, is 36 years of age. She was elected and sworn in as President of Finland on December 10, 2021. In Kosovo, another female politician, Vjosa Osmani, was elected President of the country in 2021 at the age of 38.

In Georgia, Irakii Gabribashvill, born in 1982 was first elected Prime Minister on November 20, 2013. He was re-elected to the same office on February 22, 2021. He is 40 years old.

Carlos Alvariado is a Journalist and former Labor Minister. In May 2018 at age 38, he won the election and became President of his country, Costa Rica. In New Zealand, Jacinda Avdern was 37 years old when she was sworn in as Prime Minister in October 2017.

In Ireland, Leo Varadkar became that country’s youngest Prime Minister in June 2017 at the age of 38. Emmanuel Macron who was recently reelected in France became that country’s youngest President in May 2017. He was 39 at the time.

Nayib Bukele is the President of El Savador. He was 38 when he first took office on June 1, 2019, following a victorious election. The Prime Minister of Mongolia, Luvsannamsrain Ovun Erdene is 41 years old. He was sworn into office on January 27, 2021.

Most recently, in October 2022, Rishi Sunak, aged 42, was elected as the Prime Minister of Great Britain. This was after his predecessor, Liz Truss, 47 who was in office for only a couple of weeks, had stepped down.

So, one may wish to ask, what is happening in Nigerian politics?  Will it ever be possible to have a generational paradigm shift in governance at the presidential level? What will it take for the old order to give way to a new order? In the entire universe, youths are the acclaimed leaders of tomorrow. Here in Nigeria when shall this tomorrow come?

There is no gainsaying the fact that, to the old political class, the future of Nigeria can only be seen when viewed through their thick bi-focal glasses. For them, it appears that occupying public office is an eternal right. It defies common logic that these great grand political leaders, with due respect, claim indispensability. That is the reason why they’ve kept perpetuating themselves in power. Some, interestingly, have been around since the second republic.

But, it is possible for the young people of Nigeria to take the destiny of this country into their hands. They can do so by peacefully embarking on meaningful action with their PVCs to bring about a new order during the forthcoming general elections.

The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Mahatma Gandhi Institute for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP) insist that “youths need to have the ability to question, assess and evaluate issues to arrive at the most peaceful and optimal solutions”.

Take a critical look at the way Nigerians generally have been traumatized during the current political dispensation. Citizens have been so subjected to outright suffering. Youths, especially those of ‘ordinary parentage,’ have been consigned to the lot that Franz Fanon would refer to as “The Wretched of The Earth”.  It is only wise that things shouldn’t be left to continue like this. Young people should henceforth reject servitude, and elect to stand on their own.

Imagine the current travails. Education, for instance, is no longer a priority on the template of governance. University lecturers can be on strike for months, with students idling at home. Yet those in power seem not to be bothered because their kids study abroad in European and American institutions. Children of ‘ordinary Nigerians’ have a very slim chance of acquiring an education.  Those who manage and successfully go through school come out only to realize there are no jobs. Lack of capital makes it difficult for many to think of venturing into even small businesses. 

The hyperinflation resulting from the mismanagement of the economy is aggravating poverty and propagating insecurity in the land. Added to this are our weak institutions that have failed to check Corruption, the cankerworm which has eaten so deep into the moral fabric of the nation. All these trends should worry any right-thinking youth.

If a vinyl record plate plays for too long on the turntable, it cracks and the music becomes incoherent. We have been on the same route for too long with no positive results. It is foolhardy to keep expecting different results when the same old methods are applied now and then. Since 1960, paradise has remained an illusion. 

The youth have the opportunity to reshape the polity and begin a journey that will steer this country toward the path of greatness. The statistics released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) are instructive. The Chairman, Prof Mahmud Yakubu says that, of the ten million, four hundred and eighty-seven thousand, nine hundred and twenty-two (10, 487,922) new voters registered in the recently concluded exercise, youths account for 58%.

There can be no better opportunity than now for young people to make a positive statement that will put an end to the nation’s present predicament and the seeming drift into hopelessness.

The hour is at hand. Youths must go out en masse and exercise their franchise in the forthcoming polls. The time for a paradigm shift in the governance of this country is now!

Peter Nandi Bette, a Senior Citizen, Educationist, and Author writes from Ogoja in northern Cross River State.

NB: Opinions expressed in this article are strictly attributable to the author, Peter Nandi Bette, and do not represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organization the author works for/with.

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