Nigeria’s 2015 Presidential election campaigns are getting murkier and murkier by the day and indeed disappointingly personal and vain. There is too much mudslinging and little or no enlightenment. Currently, loud and mischievous questions are being raised by the ruling party and its agents about Buhari’s qualification to lead the country. If they don’t say that he is too old for the job, they are telling us that Buhari cannot possibly be healthy enough for the task.They even presume to foretell and pronounce on the poor man’s longevity.
Writing on the subject in a paid advert in the Daily Sun Newspaper of Friday, 06 February 2015, former Gov. Peter Obi of Anambra State declared thus: “All I am saying is that no progressive country of the world … like the US, the UK, etc, have ever elected anybody above 70 years of age since the inception of democracy in their countries”. It is all too bewildering. Surely, the level of obstreperous partisanship in the country is approaching its nadir.It is as if Buhari himself had some premonition about this turn of event. In his Chairman’s Remarks at the occasion of the 50th Anniversary Lecture of Nnamdi Azikiwe Hall, University of Ibadan, March 20, 2014, General Muhammadu Buhari made statements that appear targeted at his traducers of today.
Commenting on the appropriate age for national leadership, Buhari had this to say: “The topic chosen for today’s lecture: ‘Youth and the Future of Nigerian Politics’ is particularly interesting in view of the recurring public debate, favourite among Nigerian men of letters of the merits of young leaders vis-à-vis old ones.I suppose this debate will go on and on and the protagonists will likely not accept the other side of the argument. A brief look world-wide in the 20th and 21st centuries at the success of leaders tells us that we should not hold any hard and fast views. China and Japan post-1945 had a history of very old people managing the affairs of these two great oriental economies.
Mao Zedong and Chou En-Lai in their mid-to late seventies laid the foundation for their successor, Deng Xiao Ping to bring one billion people out of poverty into self-sufficiency in food supply and an economy second only to the United States.For several decades after World War II, Japanese politics restricted the position of prime minister to those between 75 and 80 years old! Considering the Japanese economic miracle it wasn’t such a bad idea. German post-war recovery and prosperity was led and guided by two old people: Konrad Adenauer, who became West German Chancellor at the age of 73 and his Economics minister, G. Erhard.Another 70+ General Charles de Gaulle led French resurgence after the war. In Britain three old men Churchill, MacMillan and R.A. Butler managed British recovery through the 1950s and 1960s. In Saudi Arabia the last three kings ascended the throne in their 70s and 80s and see what transformation Saudi Arabians have enjoyed in the last 40 years. If you think that this achievement is solely due to oil resources take a look at Nigeria and consider what poor use we made of our resources.
Looking at the other side of the argument considers the remarkable achievement of Lee Kuan Yew, a young man in his 30s when he assumed the premiership of Singapore. Today Singapore is a beacon of efficiency, growth, discipline and prosperity. Or the case of General Suharto of Indonesia whose administration lifted one hundred million of his people from stark poverty to reasonable levels of income and employment. A miracle, if ever there was one.Consider also the impact of another young man, John F. Kennedy. In 1961 he galvanized and kick-started American technological achievement by inspiring oratory which led to [the] landing of a man on the moon and satellite communications which has transformed the whole world. Your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, these cursory recollections from history teach us, I submit, one thing: Ability, competence and skill in politics do not reside in one particular age group.
The ideal is to have a mixture of experienced people who will bring their wisdom to bear and young men and women with energy and vigour to cooperatively run an administration.” How true!In Nigeria today, there is a new worrisome development in our relations of production. The Labour Force is being emasculated and marginalised through the payment of poor salaries and casualization by their employers. Even the Banks, the telecommunication, GSM, companies that are raking in trillions of naira from their operations, and many other big businesses in the country are all involved in this new casualization practice and the payment of starvation wages to their workers.
Nwankwo writes from Lagos