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By Gbolahan Balogun

 The events happened in quick succession. Oluwaseun Fakorede, a 27 year old graduate of Civil Engineering at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife from Ibarapa was announced as a commissioner nominee in Oyo State. By the appointment, Oluwaseun emerged as the youngest commissioner in Nigeria.

But his reign was momentary. Few days later, Joana Nnazua Kolo came on the radar as the new queen in government, as Kwara State House of Assembly received her name as a commissioner-nominee from Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq. Joana is the delectable 26 years old Youth Corper who had recently graduated from the department of Library and Information Science, Kwara State University.

 Both Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State and his counterpart in Kwara State, Abdulrasaq won accolades for giving added hope to the teaming Nigerian youths, who are still celebrating their success in scuttling the age dominance orientation of political leaders in Nigeria.

 For over three years, the youth had been in running battle with the political class through the globally acclaimed #NotTooYoungToRun campaign, until President Muhammed Buhari signed the bill into law on May 31, 2018.

 Soon after the bill’s passage, the #NotTooYoungToRun conveners addressed a press conference where they declared that it marked “the beginning of a new era” in Nigerian politics. They argued that the reform would promote democratic development, deepen inter-generational dialogue and learning. They also emphasized the positive impact on the political rights of young people, pointing out that youth under the age of 35 formed 65% of the population and 53% of registered voters.

 To them, the politicians who supported the passage of the bill have demonstrated “unparalleled belief in youth leadership and inclusive politics” and “putting Nigeria on the global map as a country fully invested in meeting the needs of its youth”.

 But they also advised the political class, “If you want the youth’s vote, take active steps within your political parties to support the emergence of more young candidates”

 The appointment of youthful Oluwaseun and Joana as commissioners may not be in the mode of popular political participation through elections, but Nigerians, especially the youths are trooping to social media to give plaudits to Oyo and Kwara state governors, for satisfying the yearnings and aspirations of youths.

 A particular youth, Kayode Afolabi wrote “Governor Seyi Makinde appoints a 27yrs old young man into his exco. Good decision from him. Hope the young man won’t disappoint the youths, He should work hard so other governors will see a reason to bring more youths onboard”

 In Kwara State, an utterly gratified KWASU alumni association issued a press statement immediately after Kolo’s nomination. “The leadership of Kwara State University Alumni Association wishes to congratulate Miss Joana Nnazua Kolo as the Hon. Commissioner Nominee from Edu Local Government.

 We feel humbled and delighted to see a member of this association occupying leadership position. It is our firm belief that you will use this opportunity to showcase the KWASU in you. We advise that you remain focused, committed, and unperturbed as the challenges involved in the discharge of your duties will make you strong.

 “Kwara State University is a World Class University known for our uniqueness in terms of academic excellence, entrepreneurship, community development and the ability to work under pressure.

 “It is also worthy to appreciate the pragmatic Governor of Kwara, Alh. Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq for his drive in ensuring youths inclusiveness in government.

 His Excellency has shown leadership sagacity and administrative dexterity by making visible the unimaginable. We also implore His Excellency to keep the good work going as we await more of this privilege.

 On this note, we wish to reiterate our unflinching support and gusto to Miss Joana Nnazua Kolo, the Commissioner Nominee from Edu Local Government.

 The statement was signed by Aliyu Uthman Abdulkadir, the national president.

 But it is apparent that the Not-too-Young-to-Run conquest is becoming a pyrrhic victory for Nigerian youths, as the odds against their participation in governance is becoming more glaring, given the opposition by the political class.

 Soon after Fakorede’s nomination, the media was awash of the placards-carrying politicians trying to stifle his screening and confirmation at the Oyo State House of Assembly. According to media reports, the grouse against his nomination was not only on the fact of his age but some members and leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) alleged that his father had ceased to be their member.

 Of course, the youths were in solidarity with one of their own. The pro-Fakorede demonstrators, made of students and representatives of student associations, squared up to them, insisting that Fakorede has the capacity to deliver and represent the youth in Governor Seyi Makinde’s cabinet.

 If there are different shades of opinion on the choice of Governor Abdulrahman and his cabinet, it is more on the proprietary of his appointment of youths and especially, the number of women. It is well on record that he is blazing the trail of meeting the 35 percent affirmative action on women.

 But perhaps, this is also the grouse of the political class against his choice of cabinet members who sees some of his nominees as too youthful and being neophytes in governance. Kolo and another youngster, Fatimah Bisola Ahmed, who also recently graduated from the University of Ilorin, are among those pointedly marked down.

 In spite of the fact that Kolo has been described as a thoroughbred and an astute grassroots mobiliser, opinions are rife that she, and her fellow ‘minors’ are starting from the top and may not be able to cope.  While others are saying that the governor is trivialising the enormous problems that are at hand, others are asking whether he's trying to play out the politicians.

 Many are however of the opinion that the governor knows best, since he has done a rundown on his nominees; that the ladies might spring surprises because they are sure intelligent, etc.

Gov Abdulrahman congratulating Kolo

 Whatever that may be the reason for the strident voice of opposition against the youth flies in the face of global call for more active youth participation in politics and more so on the heels of agitations in various quarters for increase of youth’s participation in the nation’s democratic process at all levels.

 It is especially more so now, as President Buhari’s administration recently threw a challenge to the youth leaders on their participation in governance.

 At the Democracy Youth Roundtable 2019, hosted by The Central Working Committee of the 100 Most Influential Young Nigerians held in Abuja on Thursday May 23rd, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, represented by the Permanent Secretary, Special Duties, OSGF, Festus Daudu, urged the youth leaders to come up with useful suggestions to assist the government in policy directions with regard to youth participation in governance.

 Among the invited guests were Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the Executive Director, Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth & Advancement, Samson Itodo. By the way, YIAGA Africa is the arrowhead of the #NotTooYoungToRun crusaders.

 The SGF said at the occasion, “This gathering could not have come at a better time. There are agitations in various quarters for increase of youth’s participation in the nation’s democratic process at all levels. This in itself is a good development indicating that better days and opportunities are bound for our youth”

 The clarion call for opportunities and need for participatory structures and greater trust between youth and institutions and for greater capacity development have been on the front burner across the globe for some time.

 Report of a survey conducted by the United Nations Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development (UN IANYD) in August 2012 had observed that “a majority of 13,000 respondents expressing their voices from 186 countries highlighted that the main challenges for youth were limited opportunities for effective participation in decision-making processes.

 “With limited opportunities and exposure to meaningfully participate in inclusive decision-making processes, young men and women feel excluded and marginalized in their societies and communities”

 Governor Abdulrahman in his wisdom has taken the bull by the horns in effecting a paradigm shift in the age dominance orientation and preferred attributes of political leaders in Nigeria. He is breaking a longstanding assumptions that the Nigerian youths cannot differentiate their left from their right hands.

 He has also in a way dealt with the Everything-is-up-for-Grabs mentality of the ruling class, the intergenerational injustice, of equity between the young and old.

 While he is unmindful of the controversy that his choice of cabinet members has thrown up he had told his audience at the swearing in ceremony of the commissioners-nominees that the ‘naysayers’ should wait and see.

 However, Dr. Oba Laro, a lecturer in the department of Mass Communication, University of Ilorin, while dissecting the situation observes that the age controversy has its root in our traditional beliefs, where the Governor has in a sense, changed the narratives.

 "The concern being raised about recruitment of young persons into governance is both emotional and logical. Emotional because many who expressed apprehension about their capability to perform are doing so based on the fact that they are used to seeing older persons in governance. The concern is logical because, the arts of governance is a complex one and full intrigues especially in our climes that is riddled with high wired politicking.

 "The wily nature of civil servants that lures and traps a rooky in governance is another dimension. Also, a commissioner as member of the cabinet is seen as ambassador of the constituency he/she comes from. This constitutes another source of pressure and distractions.

 "Within all these dimensions, is the expectation of policy initiative that will lift Kwarans from myriads of challenges inherited by this government. It is within this context that we can understand the concern being expressed about youth in government.

 "While it can be conceded that the youth may not be too young to run, but the running may lack commensurate baggage of experience and emotional stability. The critics have their say, the youth have the field to prove themselves. Time, as the saying goes; will tell.

 As Laro opined, indeed time, the ultimate arbiter, will tell!