The most amazing thing happened Thursday. Amazing, because in a rare Freudian slip, the Governor of Lagos state, Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola revealed what he really thought about old people in governance. Splashed on the Front Page of The Tribune on Thursday the 15th of January, 2015 was the headline ‘Agbaje too Old to Rule Lagos’.
Speaking at the Sky Power Play Ground venue of the Lagos West senatorial campaign of the APC governorship candidate, Mr Akinwumi Ambode, Governor Fashola went on to say “today, at 52, I am counting the number of black hair on my head. Akinwunmi Ambode is the man that can do it. If you put an old man there, he cannot do it. If you call him in the night, he may not pick your calls,”
Now, Governor Fashola is a man of reason, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria at that. Being a man of logic, will the learned Governor agree with me that if Jimi Agbaje at 57 is too old to rule a state within the federation, then it stands to reason that an even older Muhammadu Buhari at 72 is then too old to rule a bigger territory than Lagos, in this case the Federal Republic of Nigeria!
What makes Governor Fashola’s inadvertent truth more embarrassing is that this is the very man who, with his party, mocked President Goodluck Jonathan for saying that General Muhammadu Buhari who could not carry out his vision for Nigeria during his days as a military dictator in the mid ‘80s when he was at the prime of his life, may find it impossible to do so now when he may be too old to remember his phone number!
The APC unleashed its propaganda machinery to take on President Jonathan for his factual comments and described it as petty for want of something accurate to use in rebutting the President’s truthful words. I wonder what the APC would have said about their own comments on Agbaje if it had been said by somebody from the PDP. Double standards would be the undoing of the APC!
Whether it was fate or whether it was coincidence, I do not know, but President Jonathan’s words came to pass the very next day after he spoke as General Muhammadu Buhari forgot the name of his own running mate as he was campaigning in Owerri. The General called Professor Yemi Osinbajo, Professor Yemi OsinBade!
So, with this Freudian slip from Fashola, we now know that the leaders of the All Progressive Congress, APC, know what the rest of us already know, but because of their desperation for power, they are not willing to tell the public the truth. Alas, they do not know that no matter how far and fast falsehood has travelled, it will eventually be overtaken by truth, whether or not it comes willingly or by reason of a Freudian slip.
The youths of Nigeria will do well to consider this slip from Fashola.
I remember travelling to my home town with my dad as a child and seeing written on luxurious buses we would pass on the way the following inscription ‘The Young Shall Grow’. I vividly recall asking my dad what it meant and he told me that that meant that young people like me would grow up and replace old people in all spheres of leadership. I asked my dad if that meant I would become his dad.
Of course he laughed at my childish reasoning, but when he came to visit me in England while I worked there, I remember catering to him, and looking after his needs and my mind went back to that day when I asked my childish question. It almost looked as if our roles had been reversed. It was at that point in time that the real meaning of that saying inscribed on the luxurious bus of my childhood hit home to me.
The young shall grow and this is a fact of life. Nations only grow when old men plant trees whose shades they know they will never enjoy.
If youths were leaders of tomorrow in 1983 after General Muhammadu Buhari seized power from the democratically elected government of Shehu Shagari, if youths were still leaders of tomorrow when General Abacha invited General Buhari to head the Petroleum Trust Fund in 1995, if youths were the leaders of tomorrow in 2003 when General Buhari first contested for the Presidency, is it not safe to say that that tomorrow has come in 2015 when according to Governor Fashola, a 57 year old Jimi Agbaje is too old to govern Lagos?
Governor Fashola is not the first APC Chief to bare his mind about the unsuitability of General Buhari for Nigeria’s leadership due to his age. In fact, other APC chiefs have been more forthright in their denunciation of Buhari’s continued quest for leadership.
In September of 2010, Malam Nasir El-rufai, the current APC Gubernatorial candidate for Kaduna state in an interview in the The Sun Newspapers said “Obama is 48 and Cameron is 43 for God’s sake. So, why are we recycling leaders that ruled this country very well or very badly 25 years ago? I was 25 year old when Buhari and Babangida were Heads of State and I am now 50 and they still want to be Head of State. I don’t understand that at all and I call on the young people of Nigeria to take their future into their hands and ensure that in the next election, they vote for a new generation of leaders. I think that we will not make progress until we break the link from the past and just move on. 70 per cent of Nigerians are below the age of 40. Many of these young people, the next generation, as they are called, are on internet services such as Facebook and twitter, using Blackberry and if you ask any of these people running for Presidency, they will think that Blackberry is a fruit…….. People like General Babangida and General Buhari should just disappear. They should give way to a new set of people with new ideas”
Even the very military government that Buhari headed in 1983 pegged the retirement age of civil servants at 65 years old. Why did they do that? Buhari’s government did that because in their own wisdom, a man of 65 years old should not be in service but should give way for younger elements to contribute their quota.
If Nigerian youths want that inscription on the side of the luxurious bus of my childhood to come to pass, I urge them to vote for President Goodluck Jonathan in the forthcoming elections because President Jonathan has shown that he is a champion of the youths. He appointed my friend, Dr. Nurudeen Mohammed as Nigeria’s minister of state for Foreign Affairs when he was just 33 years of age. Under President Jonathan’s guidance, Niger State has a People Democratic Party, PDP Gubernatorial candidate, Umar Nasko, who is a youthful 40 years of age. In addition, President Jonathan has a host of aides who are in their 20s (yes!), 30s and early 40s.
Right now, I challenge youths to scrutinize the APC, and see if they are well represented within the hierarchy of the party and within its functionaries. A very good place to start will be the age of the National Youth Leader of that party. While Malam Ibrahim Dasuki Jalo, the APC’s National Youth Leader is a disputed 42 years old, the National Youth Leader of the PDP, Abdullahi Mai Basira is just 31 years old. Doesn’t that say it all?
If you watch the Presidential Campaign rallies of the two major parties, you will notice that General Buhari does not really have much confidence in the youths if you take into cognizance the people surrounding him on the podium. Moreover, his message to Nigerians is ‘have confidence in me’. In contrast, President Jonathan surrounds himself on the podium with people who represent every strata of society and his message to Nigerians is ‘have confidence in yourselves’! There is a huge difference between these two approaches.
In conclusion, I must say that if Governor Fashola’s Freudian slip has proved anything, what it has proved is that in 2015, age is not just a number!
Reno Omokri is Special Assistant to President Jonathan on New Media.