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Afoke Alabi: Tomorrow – A Failed Promise

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Afoke Alabi“Parents listen to your children!
We are the leaders of tomorrow!
Try to pay our school fees!
And give us sound education!”

As a primary school pupil, I would leave the daily morning assembly chanting this song with great conviction. Marching off the assembly grounds may have been a routine for many of the pupils in my school, but it wasn’t for me. There were many other songs to bring the assembly to an end, but this was my favorite. It provided a subtle promise. A guarantee. An assurance. If my parents paid my school fees and provided me sound education, I would be a leader tomorrow.

For me, this prospect was good enough. Tomorrow definitely would arrive someday, and I would be ready to lead.
I would watch our Mrs Akintoye, the headmistress, intently while she conducted the assembly proceedings. She was a leader. I wanted to be like her. At home, after bedtime, while everyone thought I was asleep, I would amuse myself by re-enacting my father’s way of addressing people and matters according to the situations that presented themselves during the day. He was the leader of our home and community, and by emulating him, I was preparing myself for the promised tomorrow.

If tomorrow ever came, it certainly would meet me prepared. Armed with my sound education, the impeccable elocution I learnt from listening to Mrs Akintoye during our daily morning gatherings at school, and the poise that came from copying my father’s carriage, I would make a great leader.
Alas! Tomorrow would never come. Memories of Mrs Akintoye and My father would become reminders of a dream that has refused to come true. And I would eventually resign myself to the grim reality of a failed promise. A promise made by a generation who can no longer be taken for their word.

Having given up the lofty dreams of my childhood, I have adjusted to life as a realtor.
Now in my thirties, I cannot help but ask. What happened to tomorrow? Was tomorrow dangled before us to get us to be the best in academics, so that we could use our knowledge to contribute to the election campaigns of our fathers. Or was tomorrow just an outright scam? I imagine a group of old men sitting in what resembles a hallowed chamber, arguing vehemently.

“Why are this children still expecting tomorrow? Shouldn’t they be tired by now?”
“I cannot answer your question, Elder K, but this is what I propose. Let us just give them a peep into tomorrow”
“No. No. No. That will not work. I will prefer we just keep sitting on it. I know that they have been prepared for it, but we will be too idle if we give it up now.”

Forgive my imagination for being so descriptive, but I have kept asking and found no answers, so I resort to my dependable vivid imagination.
How else do we explain the scarcity of Nigerian youths in the leadership of our country? I chose the word “scarcity” because a word like “absence” would be an insult to the few who have worked hard to secure their places in the top echelon of public offices across the country.
However, I admit that “absence” would have been a more satisfying word to describe whatever presence young people may have in the leadership of this nation. I would like to liken this presence to a drop of water near an ocean.
Or maybe as Nigerians, we can relate more to comparing it with a single speck in a bucket full of garri.
Can anyone please explain why among the 36 states in Nigeria, no single state has a governor below the age of 35. In a federal cabinet comprising 36 members, excluding the President, no single minister is below the age of 35.
(Note that my preferred age limit for defining “youth” is far below 35, but for the sake of adapting to the Nigerian situation, I’ll make do with it)

Even when a young person gets to a place of prominence in public service and leadership in Nigeria, the achievement becomes a subject of awe in many quarters, with the individual touted as a sort of rarity. A relic. A wonder. A Victor. One who grabbed life by the throat and forced it to throw up the much awaited tomorrow into his/her hands.
This leads to another question. Why aren’t many young people in this category. Well, I’ll give you an answer- Gerontocracy.
Gerontocracy is defined as a system of government or living where leadership is reserved for elders.
In these parts, Gerontocracy is not only a “system of government”. It has become a living being. A monster that has seized us by our shirt collars (apologies to those who only wear T-shirts), and shaken us so hard that we have let it dwell amongst us, that we may live in peace.

Gerontocracy is the reason why a young person will express aspirations towards a certain position of leadership, only to be told to wait and “understudy” a senior person who has waited patiently for the post in question. It will not matter if the “senior” is ill suited for the position or has a history of reckless living. It wont matter if this young person had spent years doing pro bono community work to learn the ropes. It will not matter if the youth had spent several nights reading and given up his life savings on courses and qualifications required to excel in such a position. It really will not matter, because gerontocracy is a resident of Nigeria. Bona fide resident, with national identity cards and all.

Gerontocracy is the reason why the leadership will distribute arms to the youth of their nation to fight for a “party’s” interest during elections, because they have come to be seen as mere instruments instead of resources.
Gerontocracy is the reason why a nation with a population of 180 million has continued to suffer the ill fate of recycled leadership since its independence. Gerontocracy is the reason why my much awaited tomorrow has not yet come.

Nevertheless, I will make do with the option of joining the few who have decided to look past the failed promise of tomorrow and give life a kick in the sheen, if that is what it takes for me to be a leader in today’s Nigeria.
Maybe when tomorrow does arrive, it will bring me a new pair of spectacles, because as of today, I only view it as a failed promise and nothing more.

Alabi Afoke is the C.E.O of Property Guide, a real estate company, and a public office aspirant. He is also an avid writer with a strong love for quality Ice cream, Shawarma with extra cream, and Afrobeat music. Follow him on Instagram @ fashh2016

9 Comments

  1. Dennis Parker

    December 8, 2016 at 3:56 pm

    Dude, you took this out of my mouth! Only that I never thought of writing about it. Heck! I cant even write to save my life.
    Alas! I digress………………..this is a well thought out and timely peice. Weldone

  2. That-I-May-Fly

    December 8, 2016 at 3:56 pm

    Tiri gbosa for you! Nailed it…we have a loooooooooong way to go in Nigeria. I just don’t know if we’ve even started on that journey yet. We treat democracy/politics like a royal succession thing and those waiting in line are the direct product or offsprings of those who have oppressed us for so long. I do think though that we could possibly innovate ourselves out of bad leadership, but only through community funding initiatives. If we all build something we all have a stake in, then we’d kick hard against those who just take and never give back. We just need some well meaning starters first…

  3. Bennie

    December 8, 2016 at 4:02 pm

    Hmmmmmmm! well said

  4. esther

    December 8, 2016 at 4:32 pm

    Couldn’t have said it better.

  5. nunulicious

    December 8, 2016 at 8:49 pm

    wake up Nigeria youth! wake up! take what is yours…murtala mohammed was 32, Odumegwu ojukwu aka Ikemba was in his 30’s, Gowon was 29, Obasanjo, IBB…they were all in their 30’s when ruled this country and they took it by force. When I mean force, violence is not the only way to take what is yours and I don’t mean the MFM way either…
    Wake up Nigeria youth!
    Wake up the justice system,
    Wake up the media.

    1
  6. molarah

    December 8, 2016 at 9:15 pm

    Abegii.

    The recently conducted US presidential elections had 2 septugenarians as the main contenders. And there was no protest by American youths as to why one of their “own” was not in the ring. Ever stopped to wonder why this was so?

    I’m sorry, but I think the major fault for senior citizens holding positions of leadership in this country lies with the youth. And I mean it. Let’s do a quick exercise: off the top of your head, give me the name of a fairly visible Nigerian individual under 40 years that has distinguished themselves in public service and leadership (in whatever position at all), that is detribalized enough to manage a diverse followership fairly and has demonstrated visionary capacity to steer the affairs of any organization. I need just one name.

    I have cited this proverb before as it is most apt for this situation: A child that washes their hand well enough will eat with the elders. And another one similar to this: it is the child that lifts its hands up that will be carried. How many Nigerian youth are actively grooming themselves to take significant leadership positions in this country? How many youths are “lifting their hands” and offering themselves up to voluntarily solve critical problems in this country? I mean, even if you don’t have connections to get Aso Rock visibility- almost all our senators and our Vice President are on twitter. The youths following these influential persons are more interested in using that channel to beg or hurl insults than to share innovative ideas on how to address Nigeria’s problems. And this is just one of the many ways we youths hurt our chances at leadership. In addition, this constant clamour for more youths in government fails to recognize that young people could equally prove as inept as the regular crop of rulers Nigeria churns out each election cycle. Newer (younger) does not always mean better.

    • Aint a youth

      December 9, 2016 at 9:32 am

      Here we go again!!!

  7. anonymus

    December 9, 2016 at 9:24 am

    well said….

    iyabose.com

  8. Damola

    December 12, 2016 at 9:43 am

    How then do we rechart the course?
    Who is responsible to make the paradigm shift?
    The old cargos or the newbies?

    To think most of the current ‘leaders’ had once been in the seats of power in their 20 – 30’s, baffles me why it’s not so today.

    Are today’s youths ready psychologically and mentally to take on the mantle of power?
    Will the older generation give in to a densely inclusive youth government?

    A lot of unanswered questions, and problems that seem not to have a clear path of resolve.

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