The felicity that followed the signing into law of the bill to reduce the age barrier to seeking political office in Nigeria was quite significant and for the right reasons. Today, the average age of political office holders is not known but can be safely put at 55 – whilst this is an educated guess, I am not the only one making such guesses as this post on Nairaland attests – and has been the case for some time. And that for a country with life expectancy of 53 years – also note for the most part of the 2000s, life expectancy was in the region of 46-48 years.

However, souring these celebrations is the unfortunate recent rise of jokers, who declare for office and begin to ridicule the sensitivities of the public – with jokes capable of triggering episodes of depression amongst the conscious.

Most, from their utterances have exhibited they have no clue at best and will be worse if elected than the old guard we are trying hard to retire. Whilst these jokers have always been amongst us, today, it is difficult to separate them from the serious new entrants who the bill paved the way for. The jokers are somewhat making the victory against ageism seem like ashes in the mouth of many of us.

Two recent developments come to mind and I will describe them briefly below.

Mr. Fela Durotoye who has bandied about a vision 2025 for some time, in which Nigeria becomes the envy of the world may be seeking to become Nigeria’s president in 2019 to accelerate the actualization of that vision. Challenge is that for a casual onlooker like myself, I haven’t heard or seen much meat around this vision tied to the expressed presidential ambition.  And in a recent reported interview, Mr. Durotoye fell ridiculously short and proved he is not in touch with the reality of the people he wants to lead when he offered to create websites that will connect job seekers to job owners/employers of labour as panacea for the youth unemployment problem in Nigeria. A path that has been well worn in Nigeria and that we have the likes of Jobberman and several hundred others to show as evidence. He missed the point on the problem of youth employment which amongst others include ‘youth employability’ and the seemingly lack of motivation for job creation, two issues which if addressed will out the nation on a path to solving the youth unemployment.

Were Mr. Durotoye –  whose motives I have been bothered by, since his decision to intervene in Mushin, a poverty stricken Lagos suburb many years ago by painting street facing walls of houses there, the social, economic and/or cultural impact of which escapes my comprehension to this day  -have consulted with a group of young people on the same street as he lives today, he would not have made such a gaffe as he did with his dead on arrival proposal for fixing unemployment.

My problem with his decision making process remains and I have very little confidence in a commander-in-chief in his mental space. I am shocked he fails to see that the work required to elevate Nigeria to the status proposed in the GEMSTONE Vision he has sold to people for some time has not been done and will take more than five years separating 2019 from 2025 for him to achieve this goal(s) and he is yet to adjust timelines for this project.

While there is some understanding or evidence supported assumptions around Mr. Durotoye’s ambitions, one is left confounded by Mr. Olasubomi Okeowo, who has since a serious faux pass on a webTV show has abandoned the race for the presidential palace before it even really got started.

Mr. Okeowo debated the facts and data presented him by anchors of the show with dismissive wave of his hands and outrightly questioned the source of the data without offering any succinct counter position, except that his government will solve all of Nigeria’s problem. His depth of naivety was exposed when he retorted that ‘…the black man does not have the mental capability to be productive’ (paraphrased). Despite being interviewed by two clearly black young people with an abundance of claim to popularity well entrenched in hard work and productivity.

Never mind Mr. Okeowo’s introduction of himself as an IT guru – which for those who know, means nothing except to serve the ego of whomever is being referred to as one, making a self-profession of such an extreme joke. And his ignorance of the existence of Rene Descartes, the man who can be said to be to modern Western Philosophy what Newton was to classical Physics – for a man who claims to be a Philosophy major (yes you got me there… the classic Nigerian answer to such is “we haven’t been taught”)

And there are more aspirants with several levels of similar deformities as have been demonstrated by the two critiqued above: opportunists stealing airtime and selling hope without substance. Messing with the psyche of the impressionable, the downtrodden, the common man who now expects nothing short of miracles to fix the anomaly that Nigeria has become.

These jokers must be stopped. Stopped in no other way but one steeped in civility and democratic principles and that forces them to invite the public into their minds and the process upon which their thoughts and decisions lie.

These young people are not representative of the vast majority of serious, hardworking and cerebral Nigerians who I have no doubt can steer the ship of any corner of the public service they are handed. But the current crop of noise makers may end up discouraging the serious ones – never mind the institutional corruption that discourages serious minded people from seeking public office.

We have won the battle against ageism. Now we need to start to fight the battle against mediocrity.

And one way to start is to shut the current crop of noise makers down as Mr. Olasubomi Okeowo has been rendered irrelevant except in the comical scheme of things. Or force these comics into realising that what this is more than bland jokes veiled as policy. And seek out and elevate those young people with ideas and data to back up their ideas and who are ready to work.

That work starts with you and I asking everybody who asks for our votes to state their manifestos and provide empirical evidence that their solution will work – a verifiable resume of their past efforts should help. And even one more step above that is a clear demonstration of pragmatism. See, Nigeria is complex and any mind-set other than one bent on confronting the issues headlong and adopting the most credible and sustainable solution at all times will not work.

It appears this is what Falz and Leila doing with their ‘On the Couch’ series where they interview presidential aspirants (and some self-appointed candidates) in a relaxed studio environment mimicking a living room – I posit, forcing interviewers to let down their guards and bell out their true thoughts.


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