Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, former President, has called on the politicians to desist from using African youths as political thugs during elections while their own children are kept in safe havens, saying the future of the Continent is the hands of the youths. Kehide Akinyemi, his media aide, in a release made available to journalists in Abeokuta said Chief Obasanjo gave the warning in a paper entitled, ‘Demystifying Leadership Capacity Deficit of African Youths: Our Future is in their Hands’ delivered at the Inauguration Edition of King’s College London Global Leaders Engagement Series, held in London, UK. Obasanjo, who was quoted to have admitted that African young people were not too young to run for political offices, bemoaned insurmountable barriers which included the hurdle of outrageously exorbitant cost of party nomination forms and campaign costs put on their ways. He disclosed that lack of economic opportunity, inclusion and adoption of policies on education, skill acquisition, empowerment and employment were some of the obstacles hindering the youth of Africa from playing active roles in leadership, development and peace building. Obasanjo said despite the hindrances which also included systematic marginalisation, the hope of a continent where the creative energies, intellectual prowess and ingenuity of the continent youth are capable of leading Africa to the promise land. The former President said while the future belongs to the youth, the young people must also remember that the future is influenced by the present and the past, adding that there must be a deliberate succession plan to protect the future of the continent. He said, “The present is a legacy of the past, handed over by other generation. This legacy is a product of hard work, successes, failures and experience. It must be preserved. The youth must understand that today’s leaders are tomorrow’s seniors and the record of their leadership will also become a legacy to another generation. “This is one of the major reasons I set up the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library especially its Youth Development Centre and the Centre for Human Security and Dialogue to serve as nursery for training Africa’s future leaders through formal and informal debates, dialogues, interactions, discussion, research and visits. “Enough of using other people’s children as experimental subjects and keeping ours in safe havens. Enough of using other people’s children as political thugs and ballot box snuffers while we send ours to Ivy League schools. Enough of thinking we know what is right for young people without their input or the courtesy of asking for their opinions. “Succession planning is a culture that Africa needs to imbibe. It increases the number of people who are capable and available to assume leadership roles when the incumbent is no longer available to do so. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a deliberate process. “We cannot continue to assume that by mere observation from afar, young people understand why we do what we do. We must introduce them to our networks and partners; set them up to represent us in important meetings while we can still guide and nurture them. An organization should not kaput because one person is no longer available to lead. “I see hope in that the future of Africa is in the hands of its youth. I see hope of a continent where the creative energies, intellectual prowess and ingenuity of our youth is capable to lead us to our promised land. I see hope in the courage of our youth to hold government accountable and their resistance to tyranny and despotism. “I see hope of a thriving continent, made better by the youth than they met it. I see hope in the honest labours of young people on the streets, who shun illegal money-making means and who sweat daily to earn a living. I see hope in our youths who despite all they have seen and experienced, still believe in the dignity of hard work with tremendous energy, ingenuity and commitment.” Obasanjo advised that the hope must keep alive and that fear has no place in hope. “We must be hopeful in our actions and perception of our youths. And while we still can, we must give them all the support knowing that when we are no longer here, they will carry-on the torch, guiding it with their all,” he said. On the barriers against the not too young to rule policy, Obasanjo suggested that if there was need for constitutional change or political party structures be amended such should be done to make the youth more involved in contesting for elective posts. He moreover noted that the young people must continue to engage political leaders till they lower the cost of election and governance in Africa. “Young people are not too young to run for political offices but insurmountable barriers are put against them. Adults running for elective offices to be octogenarians or over in such offices are also barriers to the young in getting to political leadership. “Special attention and consideration must be given to the girl child. We have to ensure that they have equal opportunities as boys and see them collectively as our ‘tomorrow’, not a part of it,” he stated.
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