Wyclef Jean has announced that he is going to run for President in his native Haiti. I think he’ll make a compelling candidate, but that’s a whole other post. My concern is that he is 37. How does that make you feel? Do you think he could pull it off? Or is your problem the fact that he is so young?
Shame on you if you thought the latter.
I recently had a chat with some colleagues at work about whether the Ghanaian constitution should include rules barring anyone below a certain age from running for presidency. I listened for awhile as they argued over the youngest age group that has generated important global leaders (e.g. Blair, Obama, etc). They placed it around 45 and then said that no one below that age should be allowed to run for Presidency.
The sad thing is that it was young people arguing in favour of our aged. Such is the total and endemic lack of understanding of the importance of youth in Ghana.
If someone below the age of 45 is able to even reach a position of party leader in the first place (something totally unlikely in a country like Ghana that has no faith in its young) then that person is probably that special kind of ‘Obama’ person we never see here (no wonder… ) and should be encouraged. Not barred on principle. Should they have to vent their charisma and innovative ideas through an older person before they have merit?
I don’t want to discount the collective effort of the Big Six in getting Ghana its freedom, but there is a reason why the five brought Nkrumah into the fold and I’ll bet that his relative youth and the ideas and energy he had relative to his age had something to do with it.
Youth is about rebellion. You are leaving childhood and trying to express yourself and your independence. You are open to new ideas and most importantly you dream and have the audacity to hope and think that you can make your hopes – however wild or crazy – into reality.
That audacity is what Ghana’s elder leaders completely lack. Completely.
The older you get, the more you become tired of dreaming and fighting the flow. Life does that to you. You become a part of the establishment. If you fight, you do so pessimistically. Even with the best of intentions, your attitude is that ‘it can’t be done’ and you criticize those who dream audaciously of being ‘naive’. This doesn’t apply to every older person. But I’ll bet you it does apply to the vast majority of our aspiring leaders. Which is why I laugh when any of them pretend to be harbingers of change.
There will be no significant change in Ghana until the youth are taught to think and encouraged to challenge authority and then given (or seize) access to power to effect change.
From childhood, Ghanaian children are not encouraged to think freely. We are simply taught how to ‘chew and pour’ information from books. That is not thinking. It is knowledge (‘book long’) and has nothing to do with intelligence and the ability to analyze things.
We dismiss Western children as being disrespectful and talking back to their parents. Think about it though. The average Western kid loves their parents as much as the average Ghanaian one. Talking back to their parents is not a sign of disrespect. It forces the parents to answer their childrens questions, which gives the kids an understanding of why things are the way they are. When these youth understand it, they then bring fresh ideas on how to improve their elders ideas. Then they are empowered to go out, be independent and make those changes into reality. Over here, our rent laws and rates even prevent young people from leaving our parents homes until marriage. Then you’re forced to have kids and grow up fast. Then you become old. THEN you are given access to power.
A hero of mine (the picture is a hint) recently told me that no one above the age of 40 should be allowed near any position of power as they have no new ideas and even when they do, they meet the ‘Can’t Do’ attitude of their peers and can’t do anything. My father (who is 60 plus) takes it even further and says they should all be shot (himself included)! Let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water… but he has a point.
The last generation has so royally botched up our education system that the youth are incapable of thinking and wallow in tragic ignorance. If the youth even demanded power, the older generation would laugh and point to our ignorance. Sadly this ignorance is what they bestowed on us in the first place.
To any of you who are going to argue about the importance of experience, chew on this: we have allowed so-called ‘experienced people’ to rule this country for years. Experienced politicians and experienced soldiers alike. Where has it taken us?
For God sake, let’s teach our kids to think.
- Answer their questions instead of telling them to shut up.
- Foster their rebellion instead of squashing and suppressing it (this is one of my biggest problems with faith in Ghana…)
- Scrap the nonsense that is our education system and really rethink it.
- Encourage them to run for positions of power and influence.
Harness the youth’s energy, hopes and fresh thinking… and we just might move this country forward.