* Hurdles before Newbreed politicians nationwide
* Party structures, funding, grassroots mobilization in focus
* Experts react over generation shift in governance
As Nigeria inches closer to the 2019 general elections, more people are showing interest in contesting for the highest post in the country, the presidency.
Expressing interest to contest with incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari (75), who no doubt will be the sole candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) are former Vice President Atiku Abubakar (72); Sule Lamido (69); Gombe State Governor Ibrahim Dakwambo (56);
Senator Datti Baba Ahmed (47), all on the platform of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); Donald Duke (56); Kingsley Moghalu (55); Comrade Eragbe Anslem (46); Omoyele Sowore (47); and Fela Durotoye (46).
Others are Thomas Ikubese, 47; Charles Udeogaranya, 46; Tope Fasua, 47; Mathias Tsado, 41; Ekiti State Governor Ayo Fayose, 57; Enyinnaya Nnaemeka Nwosu, 40; Olu James Omosule; 48; Eniola Ojajuni, 38; Adesanya Fagbenro- Bryon, 59; Remi Sonaiya, 63; Funmilayo Adesanya Davies, 55, and others.
Out of about 35 persons that already have shown interest in the race, over 60 percent of them are below the age of 60 years.
They are challenged by the fact that young faces are emerging on the global political map.
It is instructive to note that Justin Trudeau, 46, became Prime Minister of Canada in 2015. Emmanuel Macron, 39, assumed office as President of France in 2017. There is also the current Chancellor of Austria, Sebastian Kurz – he is the youngest President in the world. He is 31.
The new reality in the global political order, no doubt, gave impetus to young Nigerians to boldly come out to declare their intentions to govern the country irrespective of their political party affiliations.
Their onerous preoccupation is to change the current political order. These are set of educated, internationally exposed Nigerians who can think outside the box.
But the question bothering political watchers is how serious are most of these aspirants, and what are the chances of the serious minded ones to take over Aso Rock, the seat of power from the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari.
Experience in power contest especially for the highest political office in the land has shown that it goes beyond intention and that it is not an emergency project but a lifetime, well articulated and financially backed project.
Seeking political office in Nigeria also goes beyond party affiliation, tribal or religious primordial, ethnic cleavages and financial might but each of these factors could be an icing on the cake.
There are huddles to be crossed for neebreed politicians to beat a Buhari to the game come 2019. A look at the few notable ones among these contenders revealed that they may not meet the 2019 target of realising their ambitions.
The truth of the matter is that some of the names are strange to millions of Nigerians both at home and in diaspora.
They neither have any political and public service antecedent through which their mettle for the great task of governing a huge nation as Nigeria could be measured.
The seriousness of their aspiration, is therefore, in doubt. But the following individuals have the capacity to make impact and change the narrative for good governance.
Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo
Another youthful serious contender for the 2019 presidency is Gombe State Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo whose preference by some members of the PDP and certain blocs within the party might be due to his sterling performance as governor and his profound economic and financial management skills that have been brought to bear in Gombe.
He was recently adjudged the best performing governor in the northern part of the country.
In tune with the widespread yearnings for younger leaders, Dankwambo, who will be 57 next year, is a relatively young man; he is also roundly experienced, exposed and educated.
He is educated to the level of PhD and a member of seven professional bodies. His career achievements in the private and public sectors is another major attribute that cut him out as the ideal presidential candidate of the PDP.
A shrewd accountant, he began his career at the Coopers and Lybrand International, now PriceWaterHouseCoopers, as a chartered accountant from 1985 to 1988.
He joined the Central Bank of Nigeria in 1988 and worked with the apex bank until 1999 when the then Governor Abubakar Habu Hashidu appointed him as the Accountant General of Gombe State.
He was appointed by former President Olusegun Obasanjo as the Accountant General of the Federation in 2005.
The solid credentials Dankwambo has earned in the public and private sectors will obviously speak for him in the contest for the PDP presidential ticket.
Sen Datti Baba Ahmed
Another entrant into the race is Senator Datti Baba Ahmed, the Pro- Chancellor, Baze Varsity, Abuja.
Senator Datti Baba Ahmed could by every standard be described a successful politician. He was a member of the House of Representatives from 2003 to 2007 and senior party member in Kaduna State and elected a Senator on the platform of the Congress For Progressive Change, (CPC) in 2011 when he defeated two-time Kaduna governor, Ahmed Makarfi.
Until his recent defection to PDP, Datti Ahmed is prominent and staunch mobiliser in Kaduna State and he commands a sizeable number of followers.
He is a technocrat, young and seemingly vibrant, suitable for the leadership of the party to settle for.
He has age on his side. Now at 48, Senator Datti is a symbolic epitome of modest successful and exemplary life, a living proof that Nigeria can have a better future, and he represents the ideal critical opportunity for availing Nigeria the right leader.
He believes Presidency is a transformative engine to promote good and suppress evil for the enonomic prosperity, social security, and political stability of Nigeria as he now solemnly presents himself for 2019 Presidential Election to achieve the desired noble objectives.
He is simply the champion of the new generation to Fix Nigeria. His clear focus are Security, Economy and Education (SEE). He is a politician without corrupt charges hanging on his neck.
Former Cross River State Governor Donald Duke, who declared his intention at the 3rd Mike Omotosho Annual Lecture titled, “Mellinials as Protagonists in Nation Building” recently in Abuja said “it was high time Nigerians begun to project people with the technical know-how to take the country to the Promised Land”.
He said further that “we had young leadership at one stage or the other. Even in our First Republic, besides the likes of Awolowo, Tafawa Balewa, M.T.Mbu was in his 20s when he became a minister.
Projecting himself, Duke said: “I am entitled to run for the presidency of this country. I am entitled to it. Only on right circumstances I will aspire for it.
I don’t shy away from responsibility, only the right circumstance, I will aspire for presidency of this country. I have what it takes to be president of this country”.
He really has what it take. He was among the best governors in the history of Nigeria since the return back to democracy in 1999. He changed the landscape of Calabar, the state capital, while his developmental strides were visible in other parts of the state. Today, the state remains number one tourists’ destination of choice in the country.
Little wonder why his name has continued to be on the lips of many conscious politicians as a preferable vice presidential choice for any Northern presidential candidate desirous of impactful governance.
While he can run his show as a presidential hopeful, the circumstances surrounding the 2019 polls may not augur well for him. For now, it is an unwritten convention that a party that wants to unseat Buhari must field a northern candidate.
Secondly, a Donald Duke may not have the financial war chest to prosecute presidential project.
Of more substance is Dr. Kingsley Moghalu, 55, former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), an author and a scholar, who has also declared his interest in the Nigerian Presidency.
He is offering Nigeria, “bold and decisive leadership.
The scholarly reputable banker’s interest in politics dates few years back after his disengagement from public service.
He could be described as one who has used every opportunity he has in creating awareness for himself.
Of no influence would the platform that he chooses to realise his ambition be for the mere fact that he is not a northerner. Even, in the South East where he comes from, some of the leaders are throwing their weight behind Buhari candidacy.
Omoyele Sowore, 47.
Sowore is an activist whose activism started in his school days.
He was relatively unknown to Nigerians until he founded Sahara Reporters, an online newspaper known for government criticism.
He is not known to be a member of any political party, neither has he held any public position of note in the past.
His only weapon for now could be said to be the expected followership he is enjoying on the social media.
He has limited his campaign so far to appearance on radio and television programmes via which he called on the Nigerian youth to “take back Nigeria” from those who have destroyed it.
He has said, “I can run Nigeria better than Buhari in my sleep”.
Lack of a credible political platform may be a great hindrance to his ambition. Even the Peoples Redemption Party platform which he was offered to contest is a weak one.
There is also Fela Durotoye, 47, a Presidential aspirant on the platform of the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN).
Durotoye, a motivational speaker, wants to rebuild Nigeria through visionary and inspirational leadership.
Like Sowore, Durotoye is already exercising much influence among the Nigerian youth, not just on social media but also across the educational institutions and the streets.
He is also a green horn politically until his romance with ANN.
He is little known beyond Lagos State where he practices motivational speaking and probably in some churches.
Durotoye is not a rich man and could be difficult to find election sponsors.
Even if he became the ANN candidate, he will split the votes of the youths with the likes of Sowore.
Another in the youthful fold is Jaye Gaskia who is about 50 years of age.
Jaye is a household name in Nigeria’s civil society movement. He has been in the human rights struggle for a while.
Though he has no political track record, he is being linked currently with a new political movement that a large chunk of the labour unions have sympathy.
Should this movement have working affiliation with an already existing party and Gaskia could have his way as the flag bearer, he may pull crowd considering the huge population of labour and civil society movements in the country.
But the clamour for generation shift in political leadership and governance in Nigeria has been a subtle one until the emergence of the ‘Ready to Run’ campaign, a platform simply identified as #Not Too Young To Run, a citizens driven campaign supported by over 100 million Nigerian youths which seeks to reduce the age limit for running for elected office in Nigeria and globally.
The movement advocates for amendments to the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to reduce the age for the Presidency of Nigeria from 40 years to 35 years; Governor from 35 to 30; Senate from 35 to 30; House of Representatives from 30 to 25; and State Houses of Assembly from 30 to 25.
According to Samson Itodo, Executive Director of the movement, this demand is premised on four key points which include: promoting inclusion, deepening intergenerational dialogue and mobility, promoting competitive politics and enhancing democratic development.
The Senate and House of Representatives demonstrated their support for youth inclusion by passing the age reduction bill among other bills in the ongoing constitution amendments while the bill is awaiting the assent of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Opinion moulders who are stakeholders in the Nigeria Project recently lent their voices in support of generation shift in leadership.
First was former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who in a controversial letter to President Buhari gave reasons the nation needs a much younger leaders.
He said “Without impaired health and strain of age, running the affairs of Nigeria is a 25/7 affair, not 24/7”.
In the letter, Obasanjo said: “We have only one choice left to take us out of Egypt to the Promised Land. And that is the coalition of the concerned and the willing- ready for positive and drastic change, progress and involvement.
Change that will give hope and future to all our youths and dignity and full participation to all our women.
“Our youth should be empowered to deploy their ability to learn, innovate and work energetically at ideas and concepts in which they can make their own original inputs.
Youth must be part of the action today and not relegated to leadership of tomorrow which may never come”.
Another elder statesman and former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd) said: “We must be unanimous in what we desire for our country;
new generation leadership, result-driven leadership, sound political foundation, demonetisation of our politics, enhanced internal democracy, elimination of impunity in our politics, inclusiveness in decision making and promotion of citizens participation in our democratic process.
The search for that new breed leadership must start now as we prepare for 2019 election”.
No matter the level of yearnings for a youthful president, experience in either governance or public service could not be wished away.
Donald Duke said: “Gowon was 30 when he became the Head of State. It comes back to the disaster therein because most of them didn’t have experience in governance, which led us into war. We need the combination of both”.
“I think what we should be doing is to have a government that is youth friendly to provide opportunities because we need to groom the next set of leadership”.
Speaking on the youths’ readiness to take over power in 2019, the Chairman of Young Progressives Party, Bishop Amachree, said that the Project Nigeria is not peculiar to Aso Rock alone.
“The Nigerian project is a project that we need to think towards what is called a paradigm shift in all strata of governance.
If we peculiarise it to only Aso Rock, we will get it wrong just like what the APC did during their time and that is what why we are in this problem that we are today.
Then, they were all after removing the President – Jonathan must leave, and they were not thinking of the future of the country in other strata of governance and that is why we are hanging ourselves in the leg and found ourselves in the mess that we are today. So the project Nigeria is about us deciding what we want,” he said.
According to him, there is an immense rot in the system and the system needs a holistic cleansing to bring about genuine Nigerian Project that all of us will benefit.
He said: “It’s not about peculiarising our attention on Aso Rock, who should take over. No, let the youth begin to think of taking over parliament.
There is a rot in the system even the parliament, in the judiciary there are some abnormalities which need to be upright. The youth need to summon the courage to stop all these brigandage that have taken over the helms of governance.
We have three arms of government: Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary. So are we saying it’s only the executive that has failed? No! Therefore, the new project is a project of a New Nigeria and not Aso Rock Project.”
On hurdles before Newbreed politicians, Amachree said, “Number one, I know that there is hunger in the land and this hunger is a deliberate orchestrated thing by the bourgeoisies to make sure they impoverish the people to make sure they do not have access to social benefits that will make their lives better.
So it’s a deliberate act by the bourgeois so that they will continue to find their way to leadership.
“The youth must summon the courage to say no to this act. If they like let them continue to put them in abject poverty, no problem but they will decide with their PVC which is their power, their fundamental right that they have within the constitution to right that wrong now. It is time for us to right the wrong.
“So I am advising them not to continue to play to the gallery of the usual ‘we are hungry’ when the elite will be offering them N5,000 or N10,000 and use them to cause mayhem and all kinds of anti-social vices.
I am advising the youths to make use of the ample opportunity of their numerical strength and their intellectual sagacity to decide their future by not voting people of no competent anymore.
Incompetence is one thing that we must say no to it this time around. Let us begin to prioritize what is called ‘competence in governance’. By so doing, Nigerian youths will say total bye-bye to anything called politics of ‘cash and carry.
“Again, the Not Too Young to Run Bill is an eye opener and I must commend its promoters, they have done pretty well for the young people in this country.
That struggle is indeed in a right direction and I think by the time they open the door for people to come and participate in politics, a lot of youths will get involve.
“And that is why we here calling on Mr President to assent to the bill so that we cannot continue to be called ‘lazy people.’
If you call the youths ‘lazy’ and you are already sitting on their future, refusing to assent to the bill, then it becomes a deliberate act.
They (the elite) know that there are many youths in this country with a lot of pragmatic ideas to drive the process of governance, but they will never want to give you that role.
Party structure, grassroots mobilisation in focus
Aspiring to contest for elective office does not come at the platter of gold. One must be able to have link with the people at the grassroots and must have the capacity to mobilize party faithful.
Bishop Amachree, the Chairman of YPP said, the impact the new breed politicians can make is unquantifiable, adding that : “But I think the only people that can actualise this dream for these young people as I have said; it’s the elite, electorate.
Like I have continued to say, we must prioritise competence in all we are trying to do this time around so that we will not continue to fall victims of the same circumstance.
I believe that out of all the contestants that I have declared their interests, so many of them are capable of making things happen, don’t forget that out of these people none of them is going to be a ‘one-man thing’ all of them are going to carry people along. So the only thing you can have a very dynamic government is when you believe in the strength and energy of people.
I have never seen a thing that makes itself a change; it’s the people around you that make you a change. It’s high time we begin to allocate responsibility to others too so that we can find a more broaden system that will work.
Speaking on the issue, a public analyst, Olutoyin Adeyinka Eweje, said the manner of electing leaders in Nigeria is fraught with dangers, corruptive tendencies and not in accordance with standards accepted all over the world.
He said, “There is flagrant disregard for rule of law, laws are not obeyed and citizens are disillusioned and no end in sight.
We need urgent reforms to our electoral system for democracy to work in our political environment and I strongly believe it is still a long way.
I believe that 95% of the present crop of politicians should not be re-elected back into the office and we need to start mobilizing our people towards ensuring that new set of people are allowed to take up the mantle of leadership.
“My proposals are as follows: The banning of all politicians who have been in the saddle for 10 years or more; emergence of New Political parties with clear ideologies and ban on cross carpeting;
parliamentary System of Government; people with questionable characters should be banned from politicos indefinitely;
an independent body to scrutinize the sources of funding of political parties and to contest for any elective posts, you must be a Graduate and have a primary job; the least requirement for any elective post in Nigeria should be HND.
“All politicians above the age of 65 should retire from active politics and made to account for their stewardship and if found wanting should face the music;
there should be a continuous political education for all elective office holders whilst in office. Enough of Charlatans, and Jobbers in our political clime,” he added.