• Saturday, July 20, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Where power resides

The youths who account for the largest demographic group in Nigeria have for long felt aggrieved that they have been sidelined and have not been given the opportunity to showcase their leadership abilities in governance.

With 43.7 percent of its population being 15 years old and younger, 50 percent being 19 years and below and 65 percent below the age of 30, there is little wonder why the larger part of the country’s population does not feel represented by a government led by a 79-year-old President who falls into a group of just 2.7 percent of the population that is 65 years old above.

The Not Too Young to Run Act, which President Buhari signed into law in May 2018 and is, at least on the surface, intended to encourage greater youth participation in politics, has so far made little impact. This is partly because in a nation where money-politics still holds sway and most of those who have excess funds to throw around are of dubious character, these moneybags would rather back candidates who they believe will protect their interests.

If I may add to this, politics is also too pivotal to the life of the leaders of tomorrow, for them not to have a say in how it is played

Sadly, these interests nearly always diametrically oppose the interest of the nation and so the cycle continues.

The Nigerian youths urgently needs reorientation if only to make them understand that power indeed resides in their hands and that their future and that of their unborn children will be determined by how they use it or fail to use it. For this reason, Mr Atedo Peterside’s ANAP Foundation deserves to be singled out for its effort in galvanising the Nigerian youth to take more active interest in politics. This effort cannot have come soon enough as hopelessness has become the lot of many Nigerian youth.

With rampant unemployment levels due to a lack of jobs and equal levels of underemployment with many Nigerian youth taking up jobs far below their educational level, despondency has become the order of the day. It is not unusual to find a graduate working as a security guard and earning a meagre N20,000 a month just to keep body and soul together.

To compound matters, this pervasive state of hopelessness has resulted in a whole range of vices that typically emanate from a poverty ridden environment such as an increase in prostitution, drug abuse, petty crime, armed robbery and cybercrime. There is no part of the country that has been lucky enough to escape this. As a wise man once said, politics is too serious a business to be left in the hands of politicians. We must all be involved. If I may add to this, politics is also too pivotal to the life of the leaders of tomorrow, for them not to have a say in how it is played.

One of the most damaging and also among the most common mistakes that people make about leadership is to assume that all “leaders” have it. That an individual is fortunate enough to find himself in a position of authority does not automatically confer upon him, leadership qualities. Far from it. Much as you will find individuals occupying leadership positions bereft of leadership qualities, so will you come across people within organisations and society in general lacking in titles but effectively playing leadership roles because they are endowed with the right qualities.

Read also: Who is truly in charge?

With reference to the concept of leadership and the management of meaning, most Nigerians already perceive the government as one that cannot relate with them – their needs, aspirations and digital worldview – and therefore do not feel that their need to be led and given direction is being met.

The combination of high handed tactics and the issuing of “decrees” rather than engaging the youth in discussions on policies that will affect their future; and failure to dialogue with various stakeholders with cogent interests has left many citizens devoid of that corporate spirit that is essential to establish unity in any body of people.

The leader should be the glue that holds everything and everyone together. A ship in which the rowers are all rowing in different directions can never arrive at its destination because apart from dissipating energy in opposing directions, the destination was never agreed upon. There is no visible synchrony between the country’s political leaders’ actions and the youth’s need for direction, making responsiveness and receptivity of followers impossible.

In a world that has rapidly become a global village, leadership speaks of the skills to address and satisfy the demands of disparate stakeholders and this is needed nowhere more than in a country as diverse in language, religion, and culture as Nigeria.

One of the biggest problems with governance in Nigeria and a major reason why most of the governments at all levels fail is that they hardly involve the people in their decision making. Instead of actively seeking constructive contributions from the public, they ensconce themselves from the governed and dictate what they believe the people need, without first asking the people. Effective leadership emanates from knowing what the people want and being able to respond swiftly to their needs.

Many a time, this will require providing an innovative solution and as policy experts at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Management found out while working on Ford Foundation’s Innovation Awards, “innovation does not usually happen because someone at the top has a good blueprint.

Often, it happens because good ideas bubble up from employees who actually do the work and deal with the customers.” Our government leaders in Nigeria would do well to put structures in place that would allow them to receive direct feedback from the officers burdened with the responsibility of implementing government policies to know how well the policies are being received by the populace. This way, when the leaders decide on the need to effect change, subordinates will see themselves as part and parcel of that decision because of the part their own feedback played in bringing about that decision.

Leadership is no longer limited to the person at the top of an organisation or the individual who leads a nation but is a collective effort which requires the crucial involvement of capable and influential individuals at all the different levels of the organisation or society.

Changing the nation…one mind at a time.