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Come to think of it, the incoming French President (although the decisive round of vote has been schedule to hold two weeks from now in which multiple polls had already shown that Macron will defeat the far-right National Front’s Marine Le Pen with a large margin) is just 39 years old. His name is Emmanuel Macron. Events and stories like this would make you want to ask: what is wrong with Africa and the kind of politics we practice here. At times, I just conclude within me that the kind of political practice and culture will exhibit in this part of the world is for Africans by Africans. When will young people in Africa wake up and take their political destinies in their own hands? It is almost becoming an impossible task for young people to be presidents of African nations.
Even in countries like Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa that boasts of youths whose interest in politics are evidenced across the continent; the bane of older presidential candidates in these countries has not been broken yet. Muhammadu Buhari is 74 years old, same as Jacob Zuma of South Africa. The recently concluded election in Ghana produced Dankwa Akufo Addo who is also 72 years of age. Zimbabwe has Robert Mugabe who is already 92, Tunisia has Beiji Cadi who is 90 and Cameroun’s Paul Biya is already 83. This is the trend in many African countries today, younger generations finding it very difficult getting into political offices.
There are a number of reasons why it has become practically impossible for this jinx to be broken. First is the fact that many young people find politics to be a dirty game. It is a game of money and power. In Nigeria where I live for instance, getting to hold any political office would cost a fortune. The political system here has not been designed to favor any young aspiring person. It is a rigged system that only favors the rich and the wealthy in our society. The kind of monies politician spends here to get their various positions would sweep you off your feet. In this part of the world, politics is money. Political power is being bought with money and that is why the positions are always gotten or rigged for the highest bidder. And so it is in many other African countries.
For instance, take a look at the figures below. This was how much it cost to even pick up nomination forms in the last general elections contested in Nigeria. The figures captures for the two main political parties: APC and PDP respectively.
For APC, those aspiring for the office of the President were asked to pay N27.5m; almost $70k, those for House of Assembly were required to pay N500, 000; those aspiring for the House of Representatives were required to pay N2m, for the Senate the price tag for the forms was N3m while for the Governorship it was N5m. For the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), presidential forms were priced at N22m; almost $60k each; Governorship forms were priced at N11million; Senatorial seats, House of Representatives and state Houses of Assembly forms cost N4.5m, N2.5m and N1.2m respectively. The above money however has nothing to do with some other charges that some of these parties also charge, like expression of interest forms.
The second reason has to do with our political culture which is made up of some set of attitudes, beliefs, and sentiments which give order and meaning to a political process and which provide the underlying assumptions and rules that govern behavior in the political system. The political system of so many African nations is repressive and therefore has created a system that makes so many young folks uninterested in politics. Some African culture for instance even still believe that young people do not have a say. Unlike countries in Europe and in America where freedom of speech and expression are given priority, and where young people are encouraged to participate in their political system, most African nations are still lagging behind in these areas. Young people don’t have a say.
The question then is: how do we young Africans get to hold elective offices at all levels? The answer is simple. African leaders must encourage and give young people real opportunities for young Africans (youths) to become involved in political decisions that affect them at all levels. Africa needs new breeds to drive the continent forward. African leaders must be humble enough to understand this: that the continent’s greatest resource is her youthful population and that through their active and full participation, the continent can surmount the difficulties that lie ahead.