Not so long ago, I was a student at the University of Ibadan with verifiable records as an active student leader. My involvement in student politics availed me the opportunity to interact with a number of young people who were politically conscious. Importantly, it also availed me the opportunity to see, first hand, the rot we call youth.
I was in one of the meetings of hall chairpersons and presidents, since I was the chairperson of the most prestigious female hall in UI, Queen Elizabeth II hall, and that allowed me the privilege of sitting in such meetings. It was the last meeting before we handed over and we were talking about finances and how difficult it was to raise funds for our programmes.
Somehow, the conversation drifted to how much we had left in our various hall accounts. One of the chairmen said, “I’ve collected all the money in the hall’s account. I sourced for the money and I will use it all”. Another chairman said; ” I have two hundred and twenty five thousand left in the account and I will collect the 200k. I will tell the warden we need to buy exam package for the hall. Buy like two bags of rice and keep the rest. I deserve my wages too na”. We all burst into a prolonged laughter laced with “Baba na you o” “Able chairman of destiny”, these are common ‘whining’ slangs amongst students of the premier University.
I, however, told them that I had over seven hundred and fifty thousand Naira left in the hall’s account and I had no intention of collecting it as my administration was done with almost all its capital projects. Also, because it was not my money nor did it belong to the members of my executive body. I thought it was a good and noble thing to do.
I thought my fellow leaders would commend my administration for our thinking. But no, I was told it was a foolish thing to do. Did we not source for the money? Were they not dues paid during our tenure? Why should we leave the money? That left a lasting impression about the so called young people ‘fighting’ to be involved in national leadership. We might have sourced for the funds but it wasn’t in our names. If we had gone to the people who sponsored us as individuals, we would not have got the funding. Globacom would not have sponsored me- as Banjo Damilola- to host a show in the school but sponsored the hall. It would be wrong to think money raised as the leader of the hall was mine or a largess to be shared between my excos and I.
I can write a long list of the corrupt practices of many of the said student leaders, who are now at the fore front of the #NotTooYoungToRun campaign. I shudder at the damage they would do to our failing country if these ones ever get the mantle of leadership.
This piece was not written to declare myself a saint, far from it. I’m sure there would be one or two people who might think differently about my leadership competence but no one would ever accuse me or find me guilty of any financial misconduct of any kind.
Financial prudence and integrity is very important, particularly for any leader in Nigeria. The country is tough, everyone is trying to survive, trying to rise up above the waters. The economy is terrible, people can barely meet their daily needs, talk less of finance goals and future plans. Therefore, it will take a person with strong character and integrity to have control over the nation’s resources and not think of how to ensure his family, to the tenth generation never suffer.
Nigeria does not need leaders with the ‘I’ mentality, even if they are young. Leadership is selflessness. If you lack the ability to think beyond yourself, leadership is not for you. One of our many challenges is that our leaders think first about themselves and those in their sphere of influence.
It is not enough to be young. If as a young person, you lack competence and the integrity to lead, you’re exactly the kind of young person Nigeria does not want.
If like our ‘honorable’ Senator Dino Melaye, you were impeached for defrauding the students, you are the virus we are trying to get rid of. It doesn’t matter if you’re 25, 35, 45, or 75.
It is also not about raising rumbles and saying what people want to hear. Using the social media to bash the government and inept leadership in the country is not all it takes to run a community. Many of our youths are reactionary and pro band wagon. Since condemning the government might easily earn you the interest of people, then you dance to their tune, playing the lyrics they want to hear. That is not leadership.
If you cannot take tough decisions and stand by them. If you cannot see above what the people think they want, to the level where you do what really they need, you’re not a leader my friend and you’re exactly the jelly livers we are trying to get out of power. You might be top notch on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat and Tinder, but leadership is not an app on your phone. It is real work with tough decisions to be made and you would not be able to just swipe right or left.
The yearning to have youthful leadership is premised on the assumption that a young person, with recent exposure, would have the strength to push farther than the older generation, know the plight of the 21st century generation and be up to date on innovative ways of solving modern day problems. If you lack these attributes, you are the kind of person we are trying to throw out of government. It doesn’t matter if you wear skinny jeans or know the latest on keeping up with the Kardashians.
Nigeria is in dire need of competent captains that can redirect this wrecking ship and just being young is not enough.