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Former Governor of Plateau State, and current Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Mr David Jonah Jang, goofed when he said on a radio show in his home state, that the “Nigerian Senate is not meant for young people”. Coming from the mouth of someone who was privileged to govern two states (Benue and Old Gongola States) as a young man, this statement is borne out of selfishness, malice, hatred and political mischief. I understand that the statement was a veiled reference to his political opponents in the PDP who are desirous of unseating him as a senator in 2019, all the same, it is still a statement in bad taste.

It is pertinent to inform Jang that there is no provision or clause in the Nigerian constitution that precludes young people from being in the Senate. Once a man /woman attains the age of 35, is of sound mind, has never been declared bankrupt, among other statutory requirements which also apply to older Nigerians seeking political office, then he/she is good to go.

The task of governing a state is more arduous and cumbersome than the task of representing a third of a state as a parliamentarian. If Jonah Jang, could carry out that task, as governor of two states, where he is said to have performed creditably well, as a young man, what makes him think that the youths of today cannot carry out the task of law making? It is true that all over the world, the Senate is for mature people who have paid their dues. But it is also true that maturity is not a function of age. I am of the opinion that leadership is not a function of age but of character and competence. America, the number one democracy in the world, elected a 70 year old man as their President, at a time when most European countries are electing leaders in their 30’s into office. Can Jang tell us the contributions of geriatric lawmakers in the Nigerian Senate other than sleeping during plenary?

At the dawn of the Fourth Republic, we had a lot of young men and women who were members of the Nigerian Senate and they performed excellently well in office. Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi, was the youngest member of the Senate at the age of 37 and one of its best and brightest. Senator Anyim Pius Anyim became a Senator at the age of 38 and became the Senate President at the age of 39, thus making him the youngest occupant of that seat in Nigeria’s recent history.

We must also not fail to note that our political system is so polluted that even if all the levers of power in the country are handed over to the youths, they will be polluted by the system and fail to achieve their aims and objectives. The youths need to unite and form a critical mass to change the system both within and without. We must stop supporting and applauding “old cargoes” who only view us as expendables to deploy in their quest to attain power. Nigeria belongs to all.

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