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“Age is no guarantee of efficiency.” Q

Earlier in the week I had an interesting discussion with a gentleman who had read one of my articles titled What Would Olivia Pope Do?He found it interesting, though his only criticism was my heavy reliance on a fictional character to make sense of some of the issues discussed therein. Despite my best efforts to explain that there was much to be gained from applying the solutions I had proffered as they were common sense solutions which could apply in the real world as well, he stuck to his opinion vehemently.

At the risk of confirming his assertion, I’ll make use of a quote from a movie. I guess as it is just a movie quote this time, there shouldn't be much fuss about it. In a scene from the James Bond movie “Skyfall”, Bond and his new Quartermaster Q are having an argument about Q’s ability to perform his duties impeccably considering the nature of his job and Q’s age and experience in comparison to those of his predecessors. In defense of his age and competence Q said, ‘Age is no guarantee of efficiency.”

As humans, we have been programmed by both culture and nature to accept and believe that our elders know what is best for us and to rely on them for guidance. As the years pass by and the world changes, our elders need to keep up with current trends so as to maintain a balance in society. As we grow and learn the ways of the world, we are gradually inducted into the fold of the elders as they step aside after having taught us all that they know so that we may also serve as guides to the younger generation. This fact applies in every aspect of life; cultural, religious, professional and in matters of governance. Old wisdom may prove helpful in tackling certain problems but it will not always prevail for a time may come when old wisdom becomes a stumbling block thereby stalling the progress of the society. It is in such a case that the saying “age is no guaranty of efficiency” proves itself to be true.

In a country where the working definition of a youth has been stretched to include 50 and 60 year olds, the saying “The Children of Today are the Leaders of Tomorrow” has been scratched off the face of the earth as far as governance in Nigeria is concerned. I can't remember when I first heard it but it has been a recurring theme since my primary school days. I think at a point in time it was incorporated into the songs we sang back then. However, within the last two and a half decades that statement has been driven into extinction as no one I have interviewed in the course of mining for ideas for this article can recall the last time he/she heard it. It would seem that the growth of the children of yesterday has been stagnated and the elders of yesterday are still in their prime.

Since the inception of democracy in 1999, there has been very marginal inclusion of youths in governance or policy formulation processes. Political positions are continuously recycled amongst individuals that have advanced too far in age to be of any progressive value. Things have degenerated to such a point that whenever reference is made to the youth it is either to offer some paltry grant for skill acquisition or when elections are around the corner. Come on! Surely the youth have much more to offer than being used as political thugs.

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Former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan said:
“Normally when we need to know about something we go to the experts, but we tend to forget that when we need to know about the youth and what they feel and what they want, that we should talk to them.”

This statement clearly shows that not consulting with the youth or involving them in policy making processes will not only alienate them, it can breed discontent, as has been evidenced by various incidents of unrest in the country. Involving the youth in governance and policy making is an imperative as only the youth have the best understanding of the problems that affect them, whether it is health, education or the challenges of finding a decent job. Plus including the youth in policy making is a wise succession planning move. After all, let’s face it; our elders will not always be here to formulate policies.

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In what is fast gaining ground as a challenge to the current non-inclusion of youth in governance, a campaign was launched on twitter recently. It was tagged #30percentornothing. It is an agitation by youth to be given a 30% stake in government positions. Honestly, I feel 30% is a very humble and modest demand. Having interacted with Ahmed Magem and other bright individuals behind the campaign, 50% seems more of a fair demand.

As admirable as this is, there is the need for it to be more definitive so we do not end up making the same mistakes as our elders. The individuals to be offered this stake must be credible individuals with drive and a passion for change. Its true purpose should be about contributing to policy formulation and not just to acquire positions.

Most people reading this may view it as the ranting of a rude disrespectful individual. Far be it from me to be disrespectful to my elders but the truth has to be said, we cannot keep facing 2014 problems with 1970’s/80’s solutions. We need young, vibrant individuals with a clear perspective of current challenges to proffer solutions to our current problems. No disrespect or offense meant but nothing says “I’m old and have nothing more to offer” than individuals who can’t sit through a one hour meeting where serious national issues are being discussed without nodding off every twenty minutes. Granted, falling asleep is a natural thing to which no one is immune but when one considers the age and frequency of those who nod off at functions of immense national importance, the need for youth inclusion in governance becomes a valid requirement.

It is ironic that most of our leaders were in the early years of their lives when they took the reins of leadership. Yet today, they still hold on despite advancing in age to such a point where their involvement has become more of a hindrance than a push towards progress.

Considering how unpredictable life can be after retirement or after exiting the stage of political relevance, I can understand their fears. However, I am more fearful of not retiring, remaining relevant and having nothing to offer when I'm past my productive age than of retiring and not remaining relevant at all.

As the #30percentornothing campaign gains momentum, it is left to be seen whether the children of yesterday have finally come of age or perhaps the elders of yesterday have somehow found the fountain of youth and are capable of pulling us back from the precipice we’re dangling dangerously from.

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