Former President Olusegun Obasanjo Thursday promised to support any leader with integrity and zeal for service, no matter the person’s age or sex.
Obasanjo said despite the failure of some of younger politicians he supported for appointments and political office after his presidency, he did not think older people should be excluded from leadership recruitment process.
Although he lamented that his young protégées wasted the opportunity to develop the country because of their “materialism, self-centeredness and opportunism”, he noted that this would not stop him from mentoring more young leaders through democratic means.
Obasanjo stated this in his July 28, 2017 reply to a letter from former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Chairman, Olisa Agbakoba, urging him to lead a search for “young, vibrant political leaders” for the country.
Olisa had lamented that the country was held back by an aged political class and a poor culture of encouraging “younger people with new ideas to aspire to positions of leadership, in particular the office of the President.”
But, Obasanjo, who noted that he shared some of Agbakoba’s sentiments, said he could not “jump over the democratic system or put democracy aside” in the quest to help honest young people with leadership potential.
He said: “The point to ponder is how have the successor generation positioned themselves to lead? I look back at some members of the younger generation and 1 am miffed at the missed opportunities.
“I am equally saddened that although we the so-called older generation did facilitate, some semblance of infrastructural development, today the gains made have been mostly pushed down the drain by some of those privileged young people saddled with similar responsibilities in the recent past.
“You should know that some of these same young people whose interest we canvass have in the recent past been a complete disappointment and failures in their various appointed or elected positions.
“Some of these young people in public or private sector have frittered the prospect of being at the vanguard of sustainable development of what some of us, the earlier generation of leaders, pioneered on the altar of their crass materialism self-centeredness and opportunism.”
He added: “If I find men and women who have shown profound commitment and exemplary integrity in their various chosen careers or professions as well as zeal for the service our fatherland, I will, of course, give such both my support and inspiration, notwithstanding their age, circumstances or place of birth.
Obasanjo urged Agbakoba to “step forward and develop a mobilization framework that seeks to rearrange Nigeria on a different basis of legitimacy.
“The late Chief Awolowo and the great Zik were younger than you when they threw their hats in the ring. It is time to take the hard road. Olisa, it is time to jump down from the fence and the slddon look corner. It is your fatherland. The time is now.”
He urged young people organize themselves around positive core values.
“Let them become ideological in the sense of nationalism and patriotism in this struggle. This is a democracy. Politics is a game of numbers at the end of the day. The youth are in the majority. What is the excuse?
“So long as the older generation does not have the incentive to step down, for so long will they continue to reinvent and reappoint and resurface.
“The generational shift will need to be worked for and worked at. We did that before, but it was neither sustained by performance nor by commitment.
“But we should not give up I personally hold myself available to mentor and to guide but I cannot jump over the democratic system or put democracy aside,” Obasanjo said.