On May 29, 2018, President Buhari, in his democracy day speech promised Nigerians that he would sign the much demanded political office seekers' age criteria amendment bill tagged "Not too young to run act" into law. He graciously fulfill that promise at the council chambers of the state house three days after.
His short address to the teeming Nigerian youths after signing the bill reads: "You can now aspire for President!"
The youths shouted Eureka!
But he went further to add humour to it, by urging them to postpone their aspirations till after 2019, to enable him run and finish off his tenure. Everyone in the hall bursted into joyous laughter.
But little did they know that age has little or nothing to do with being a good political office holder or a patriotic citizen. The errors, missteps and unguarded behaviours from many young political officials in the past five years have confirmed this. And the latest is the current scandal caused by veteran actor and Lagos State House of Assembly lawmaker -- Hon. Oluwashola Desmond Elliot's statements.
The last few days have seen numerous hostile reactions to his comments berating Nigerian youths and supporting the federal legislative assembly to pass a bill to regulate social media. He irritantly called the #EndSARS peaceful protesters "children." He demeaned his fellow compatriots who selflessly took to streets to demand a better government from our leaders.
The unprecedented dust raised by his position and the widespread condemnation which it received, was a pointer that we are on cause to self realisation. The youths are not sparing anyone (old or young) once their jingoistic struggle is attacked.
However, his gaffe has more lesson to Nigerians than meets the eye. It showed that the "Not too young to run law" is not the solution to our leadership undoing in this country. I had earlier discussed this point in a newspaper column six months ago, on May 13, when the appointment of Prof. Ibrahim Gambari as Chief of Staff to the President was made public, and I will share the excerpts here:
"...it is now proven (to those opposing it before), that Nigeria's development impasse was caused neither by the daft illiteracy nor intellectual flambouryance of her leaders.
In the same way, we have seen that their age differences wasn't our undoing either. I was never a fan of "Not too young to run" bill.
If we accused and excused the President on the ground that he is not an ivory tower intellectual, on what basis will we excuse the alleged blunders of Late Mallam Kyari who was educationally sophisticated and armed with the best of academic certificates?
Similarly, many also believed that the President's perceived anachronistic style of leadership was due to his old age. But this turned out to be ironical, when the youngest senator from Adamawa goofed and earned for himself the title of a "slapping" Senator, and the youngest of the present Governors flopped, and became a habitual salary debtor. That was when we realized how irrelevant age is to being a good leader.
Somewhere in south east, a Ph.D holder is superintending over a state with the highest number of unpaid salaries and dirtiest environment. While his contemporary in Oyo, with academic qualifications shy of his, is fulfilling electoral mandate with the speed of light.
Mallam Kyari, like yourself (referring to CoS Gambari) belonged to the class of beautiful brains - he, a Cantabrigian and you, a Columbian, are alumni of the best Universities in the world. But he was not rated well in office by Nigerians, when he was given the opportunity to prove that Cambridge passed through him and not just he passing through Cambridge.
As a result, not a few Nigerians are losing taste for 'paperly' or 'youthfully' qualified public stewards.
What we lack are leaders with good heart and patriotic spirit; and not necessarily leaders with good academic qualifications or youthful ages. One can be an SSCE holder and outperform most Professors in their insatiable greed. One can also be a septuagenerian like yourself, and perform better than quadragenarians in their youthful exuberance and juvenile delinquency. It's all about exhibiting love for fatherland and having integrity in office."
When Eliot contested for the House of Representatives at 41, youths saw in him, an Ambassador. They trusted and voted for him, hoping he would be their alter ego in politics, charting the right cause for Nigeria of our dream.
But surprisingly, while older men like Senator Abaribe is in the Senate arguing against the social media proscription bill, the supposed youths' 'Ambassador' - Hon. Eliot was raising his voice against it, in the lower parliament in lagos.
Therefore, Hon. Elliot's seeming irritational statement has to be tackled with regard to his status as a public servant without appeal to his age or educational exposure.
His reference to the youths who constituted the bulk of the electorates who gave him the mandate as "kids" shows he has no regard for them. How could he, when all he needed is the nod of Lagos strong man in Bourdillon to emerge victorious in every poll.
It was an infamous outing and his media advisers may have a lot of image laundering and public perception purification to do, to salvage his presently soiled image. Even in the apology he tendered yesterday, one could see the politicization of his acclaimed 'remorse' as he insists he was moved to the utterances by the economic impact of the notorious looting around the country.
To him, that was enough reason to mop up all the youths and tie them with the same rope of 'children.'
If Nigeria's future which the youths are always defined as, is prefigured and moulded in the likes of Elliot's personality, then we are done for.
The ball is in the court of Surulere Federal constituency.representative.
God bless Nigeria.
...Eze Jude O, a Laboratory scientist and public affairs analyst. NNL.