A tale of old African leaders and her wild youth

Contrary to popular belief by dear white people, Africa is a CONTINENT made up of 54 recognized sovereign Nations that constantly make all of the notable bad lists.

Although it has abundant natural resources, it remains the world’s poorest and most underdeveloped continent, the result of a variety of causes that may include corrupt governments that have often committed serious human rights violations, failed central planning, high levels of illiteracy, lack of access to foreign capital, and frequent tribal and military conflict (ranging from guerrilla warfare to genocide). According to the United Nations’ Human Development Report in 2003, the bottom 24 ranked nations (151st to 175th) were all African.

In almost every African country, it’s  very safe to say that the leaders failed. Not that we have definite measures in place to estimate which leaders scratched the bare minimum of acceptable governance and which leaders are exponentially bad.

What we can estimate however is the demographics of several key African countries and a shocking trend of old leaders and senile irresponsible youth.

I looked at the African countries with the largest GDP and made a compilation of the men in power. The results were mostly as I expected, as you can see in the table below.

[table id=1 /]
  • The youngest leader – Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya is 55 years old.
  • The oldest -Mohamed Essebsi of Tunisia is 90 years old.  He was elected in 2014 at 86 years old.
  • The longest incumbent President – José Eduardo dos Santos of Angola has been president since 1979 – A full 38 years in power.
  • Seven out of the Eleven Presidents are over 70 years old. 
  • Only one of the Eleven presidents is under 60 years of Age.

This data is troubling, especially if you consider the fact that Africa as a whole has the youngest population in the world.

The Nigerian Example

In Nigeria – Africa’s largest economy, a staggering 75{e00c9ed7e7e78cbd5622b6cd3fde3ff435acf45ce874ee8daf87a19dec815e52} of the population is under 35 years of age, and of these, over 50{e00c9ed7e7e78cbd5622b6cd3fde3ff435acf45ce874ee8daf87a19dec815e52} have a college degree. So why are there no youth in leadership?

The Constitution –

Qualification to the position of the President is provided for in Section 131, which states that – A person shall be qualified for election to the office of President if –

  • he is a citizen of Nigeria by birth;
  • he has attained the age of forty – years.
  • he is a member of a political party and is sponsored by that political party, and
  • he has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent.

Our current president is a relic of some of the darkest ages of our country. A battle bred and bloodborne soldier who fought for what he believed in and toppled governments in bloody coups and counter-coups. He became a significant figure in the Nigerian leadership by the time he was 28 years old and never looked back.

Most of our National heroes were aged 35 or younger at the time when they fought for independence or in military coups.

Yakubu Gowon became Head of State in 1966 aged 32.
Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi was the Head of state before Gowon in 1966 aged 36
Murtala Mohammed became the military head of state in 1975 at 37
Olusegun Obasanjo became Head of state in 1976 aged 39
Shehu Shagari became the Federal Minister for Commerce and Industries in 1958 aged 33
Mohammed Buhari became the Governor of the Northeast state in 1975 aged 33
Tafewa Balewa became a senior legislator at 34

If they could lead a Nation then, why not us now?

The Same age requirement of 40 years and above are observed in Egypt, Ghana, and Sudan; while Tunisia and Kenya require 35 years and above. Interestingly, there are no maximum age limits for presidential candidates in these countries.

wild african youth

Wild, Senile, Unmotivated, and incapable youth –

In primary school, we had a children’s anthem every school kid would recite with pride.

“Parents, listen to your children.
We are the future generation.
Pay our school fees, and give us a sound education”

The only problem with that poem was the motivation behind it. It was to be a constant reminder to our parents to pay our fees so we would not be kicked out.

In Secondary school, we were taught the history of our country; about the men who fought for our independence, and the men who were sold into slavery. All of these history lessons ended with another reminder – “You are the leaders of tomorrow”. 

Some five or six years later, we got into college, graduated and had families. But have never seen the tomorrow that was always spoken about.

At a time where polio and cholera no longer causes mass epidemics and loss of lives, when technology allows us to be connected to anyone anywhere, and when there are more churches than hospitals, banks, libraries, universities, secondary schools and museums put together; the Nigerian youth has struggled to have any form of identity.

We identify with and promote fads, fight in wars brewed by corrupt old men, and constrict our ideations to the propaganda of who is killing who. We have almost become a wasted generation right when we’re about to see tomorrow.

A way forward?

Firstly, we have to sanitize the media. There’s so much information now, and on our way to a brave new era for the young Africans, we must be custodians of information that is both true and insightful. We can not afford to continue making buffoonery popular or suppress information which while truthful, does not suit our taste. Our media must be able to aptly represent our values and promote healthy conversations.

Secondly, with properly informed minds we must become agents of change. I have demonstrated that the constitution prevents young people from being able to be leaders, but I have also demonstrated that it is the young people who vote for the leaders. It then makes no sense if the established order is subjugative. In this case, we can and should work to tear it down. When 75{e00c9ed7e7e78cbd5622b6cd3fde3ff435acf45ce874ee8daf87a19dec815e52} of a Nation speaks, the nation is bound to listen.

Thirdly, we must find our identity. Young Nigerians and Africans must develop their own voice. These identities are mutually exclusive, hence finding our voice takes us beyond the grasp of political bastards that see the youth as Thugs, ballot hoarders, and agents of chaos.

Finally, while there’s so much more that we can do, these baby steps will lead us into a new era of leadership with a purpose.


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