Nigeria is about the only country where political discussions and interfaces are not based on developmental issues, but rather on mundane matters, most politicians waste resources propagating issues that do not have direct bearing on the welfare of the masses.
In other climes, election time provides opportunity for politicians to proffer solutions to the plethora of problems plaguing the society. While critically examining the shortcomings of the government of the day, they never attack personalities but the issues. Political opponents are accorded the respect they deserve. The same cannot be said about how politics is done in Nigeria. In our great country, politicians are adept at coming up with issues ranging from where a candidate hails from or issues such as the candidate being too old or too young. They focus on such comical issues while more pressing matters are ignored.
The above scenario is about to play out again in Oyo state as we approach another election year. Politicians who lack the capacity to engage in intellectually-based political debates have started ” a whisper campaign” going about town feeding the minds of electorates with inanities. The word the indolent politicians are spreading among the naïve is that a certain candidate who is yet to show interest in the governorship race is too advance in age to contest the forthcoming elections! The former governor is being advised to leave the political arena for younger politicians with no antecedent whatsoever. The only criteria they boast of is that they are younger ! As if youthfulness equals capability.
Senator Rasidi Ladoja governed Oyo state between 2003-2007. During this period, Oyo state achieved monumental developmental strides in education, agriculture, infrastructures and health development. None of these “younger generation” can fault his economic policies or leadership style. To them, the only reason why Senator Ladoja should not contest is because he is advanced in age, not for being an incompetent nor fraudulent leader but because he became more astute and experienced by reason of age.
One of those going about town with this illogical reasoning was in the senate for eight years, four of which he was Senate leader. All through his stay at the senate, he was not known to be vibrant. He was one of those that was referred to as ” I-support Senator”. Though young, he never left a lasting impression and at the tail-end of his stay at the hallowed chamber, he was accused of murder and detained in a correctional facility. He made himself a fine example of a young man who could not manage the success that opportunity bestowed upon him. If Senator Ladoja were to leave the political stage should it be for his likes ?
Another young and inordinately ambitious politician who should still be under political tutelage but for greed and uncontrollable desire for power took a wrong turn, he was a former SSG in Oyo state, from his first day in office he had shown interest in his boss’s seat. Betraying him at every turn. He like others having nothing against Ladoja came up with the hare brained idea that the senator is Advanced in age and as a high chief of Ibadanland he shouldn’t be eligible to contest. I wonder where that part is in the Nigeria constitution.
Advanced age in political leadership is not unusual. History is replete with leaders who, at advanced age, left indelible marks in the hearts of their peoples. Let’s take a few examples in history of men who, at old age, made a difference. Winston Churchhill first became British Prime minister in 1940 at the age of 66. In 1951, he was once again elected at the age of 77. The history of modern Britain will be incomplete without the contributions of Winston churchhill. Charles de Gaulle, one of France’s most accomplished leaders, was elected President in 1958 when he was 68 years old. In modern times, we have Giorgio Napolitano who is the President of Italy at the age of 88. If the above names seem far fetched the following Nigerian governors who though advanced in age are performing creditably well, includes, Martin Elechi of Ebonyi state, Jona Jang of plateau State and Mutarla Nyako of Adamawa state, politics aside these governors have performed
outstandingly though they are of advanced age. Others Who though advanced in age are still a force to reckon with in the political space of this country, includes the indefatigable BOT chairman of the ruling PDP party, chief Tony Anenih who at 80 years old is still very active and contributing his quota to the development of the country and Gen. Muhammadu Buhari of the APC, who at over 70 still hopes to be the president of the country.
The present government in Oyo state is headed by a man younger than Senator Ladoja. His poor administrative style has demonstrated that the experience of the aged is still very much needed to salvage the state. This government is stunted by ineptitude, excessive Intra-party power play and an obsessive desire to pauperize the state through questionable economic policies with its exorbitant cost of project execution. Yet a younger man is at the helm of affairs. If the older were to bid farewell to the political space, should it be for younger men who cannot tell their right from left?
As we approach 2015, the favorite song in the mouths of these political neophytes is that Senator Ladoja should not contest, but give support to a younger man. They forget that Senator Ladoja has not grown old, rather he has only grown riper for the task ahead. It was Esther Williams who said that ” The wisdom acquired with the passage of time is a useless gift except you share it”. If Senator Ladoja decides to run in the 2015 elections, God keeping him, it should be known that he realizes the need to share the wisdom he has acquired over the years for the betterment of the good people of Oyo state. I urge the citizens of the state to borrow a leaf from Italy who have 88 year-old Giorgio Napolitano as President. Not because they don’t have younger men who are able but because they understand that the longer the wine, the better it is.
Omolere Omoetan,is a Public commentator resident in Awotan Ibadan.