By James Alabi
In the Yoruba proverbial parlance, a popular word of wisdom says “If you listen to the noise of the market, you will not buy anything” which literally means that “One should face what is paramount to one first before any other thing.” There has been quite unwholesome proverbial market noise about the role of the youth in governance system in Africa. While this argument persists and spreads very quickly like wild fire, there has been no argument in the direction of setting clear agenda in terms of what the youth essentially need to drive governance in a democracy.
Sadly, the focus of the narrative hitherto has been that the old men must dismount the horse and their characters quit or be made to quit the scene and allow a new generation of young minds take over the stage. While it may not be totally out of place to demand that Africa be taken back to the direction for which it was initially set to thread by her founding fathers, it is important to note that the foremost and paramount thing to do is to set an agenda and criteria for the young minds who by right could lead.
By agenda, it is important that the next generation of the young leaders come up with and table before the people, both electorate and non-electorate, clear strategy, policy and policy direction, practicable short, medium and long projections in the process of conceiving leadership position. They must be open and seen to be so open to democratic ethos that will align with global best practices, which however, will not infringe on or relegate the rich African value system. They must be ready to reinvent vast majority of our cultural heritage which apparently have drifted away through civilization and marriages of culture.
The potential young leaders must realize that votes are sacred and that for a people to mutually covenant their sovereignty and vest it in an individual through the electoral process, such sacrifice must be respected. Across Africa, the failure of leadership has largely been attributed to a number of debilitating factors which every so often are not essentially lacking in the corporate world where the potential young political leaders will emerge from. So, the question of preparedness, probity, transparency, accountability and responsibility must form the heart of every political campaign in all quarters. These key factors must be the central focus of their electoral discussion. And a consensus must be reached with the people whom they want to govern. The European Union could partly serve as a template to help develop a true Africa political space to be progressive and all-inclusive.
By criteria, the upcoming young leader must first and foremost be in touch with the people and their plight. Citizens in their cluster must identify and appreciate in the young mind the spirit service and servant leadership. The upcoming young leaders must understand that leadership and political ambition is not about grabbing power but has to do more with identifying with the people whom they want to serve and design clear approach to addressing their numerous problems. The major challenge has been that Africa under successive governments, either democratic or authoritarian, had to endure leaders who merely seek to rule without getting the consent of the people.
The sit-tight mentality must also change; a change that will give way to the will of the people to decide the choice of who becomes what in the polity. Also, all-round competence and merit should be allowed to triumph over ethnic, tribal, political or religious affiliation. And the potential young leaders should adhere strictly to the political and human credentials that do not merely emerge from the blues but one that are tested, tried and sanctioned.