Playing Age Game in the Presidential Politics in the United States and Nigeria.
Written By Dr. Joel Ademisoye
Posted By Town Crier News Nigeria
Published By Fitness Network Communications
You may recall that many Nigerians have invoked the AGE FACTOR in the 2023 Nigerian presidential politics and its campaign in Nigeria, particularly in reference to the case of Alhaji Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the APC candidate and his health conditions, which many Nigerians are seriously worried about considering the President Muhammadu Buhari’s health issues, which warranted his traveling on a medical tourism to the United Kingdom. Why are Nigerians playing the Age game? Against this backdrop of President Buhari’s medical challenges and escaping to overseas for medical treatment, I think it is fair and right that the Nigerian people to be concerned about Tinubu’s age, scrutinize his health conditions and to determine his capacity to provide the appropriate political leadership much needed to solve the chronic and perennial development problems facing Nigeria. However, Presidential candidate Abubakar Atiku, of the PDP Party, who was born on 25 November, 1946, making him 76 years on his next birthday. But, out of curiosity, he hasn’t received much attention, intense scrutiny and uproar over his old age from the Nigerian voters, traditional and social media raising a question or having qualms with his age? At 76 years, Atiku is older than Tinubu. Imagine, if Atiku is elected the president of Nigeria, by the end of his first term in office, he will be 80 years old. Similarly, in the United States, Donald Trump is presently 74 years old, on Tuesday, November 15, 2022, he has announced another presidential bid for the Republican Party ticket in 2024. If elected to office, at the end of his term, Trump will be turning to be an octogenarian. I am not a medical doctor, but I think if a presidential candidate isn’t suffering from life changing health issues like dementia, Alzheimer’s and neurodegenerative conditions, I think other medical illnesses are controllable and manageable under the guidance, supervision and treatment of a medical practitioner. More importantly, if the health issues aren’t debilitating and undermining the performance of the president in office.
Presidential candidate Peter Obi of the Labour Party born on 19th July, 1961, which makes him 61 years old, the youngest of the trio-presidential candidates in the 2023 Nigerian presidential election. I am not sure there is a correlation between a youthful age and good performance in governance in a country like Nigeria. The records of previous performance in office as state governor or Vice President of Nigeria can be a measure of their potential competency, capacity and capability to deliver the goods, services and dividends of democracy to the Nigerian citizens. Also, age is a weak factor in measuring the competency and providing a good governance to the Nigerian people. But, age factor shouldn’t be the only intervening variable and the primary determining factor in the 2023 Nigerian presidential election. In addition to age, there other contributing factors in the political matrix, which can be helpful in determining the suitability and electability of a presidential candidate in the 2023 Nigerian presidential election, such as political will, competency, education, qualifications and experiences in the public offices held by the candidates. Arguably, Age is an instrument leading to the building of a wealth of knowledge and experience in the political realm and proper management of government. Thus, the younger politicians like Obi, who is 61 years old, is arguably less experienced and matured in making the right, tough political and economic decisions in the face of the difficult national crisis and social problems of the country.
Obi, who is agile and exuberant, former Governor of Anambra State, has a diabolical, controversial and mixed records of administration, achievements and tenure in the state. Well, the Nigerian voters aren’t unique in the world, who are interested, concerned and worried about the age and health factors of the presidential candidates that are seeking the highest political office in the land. In reality, I am cognizant of the fact that age might have bearing on and implications for human physical activities and mental capacity to govern, handle and quickly respond to and treat complex domestic and international issues facing the country.
Coincidentally, I stumbled into this article about President Joe Biden of the United States, who is the oldest sitting president (Biden will be 79 years old on November 20, 2022.) of any country in the world, who is presently weighing his options whether to seek a re-election in 2024 (Source: Toluse Olorunnipa and Yasmeen Abutaleb, “Biden faces age questions anew as he weighs reelection,” The Washington Post, November 14, 2022, PA3.). I found the article to offer some lessons to Nigerians to learn from given the exploitation of age factor in the 2023 presidential election in the country. This article raises the age factor anew, which was a bone of contention in the 2020 United States presidential election, which his political opposition in the Republican Party, candidate Donald Trump on every opportunity and occasion invoked and hammered on the Age factor during the political campaign. Again, it is rearing its ugly head in the United States as the country is 2 years away from its presidential election in 2024. You may recall that President Ronald Reagan, 1981-1989, before President Biden, came to The White House at the age of 69, but left at the age of 77 years old. Reagan held the record of being the oldest U. S. President, before the current president came to office. Similarly, the American people were concerned about the age of President Reagan too. But, it should be revealed that Reagan spent 8 years in The White House without any major health problems.
But, fortunately and interestingly, Biden escaped and survived the age trap set by his critics and invoking of a old age factor as a barrier or an obstacle to seeking the Office of the President of the United States. In the case of the political Office of the President in Nigeria, it seems the script of the American political experience in 2020 is being replicated involving the hammering on the age factor against the presidential candidacy of Tinubu, whose age is put at 70 as of March 29, 2022. In 2023, Tinubu will clock 71 years. For this writer, Tinubu is still a young man, bearing any unknown catastrophic health/medical conditions, which many members of the political opposition are speculating about without any proper medical facts/attestation and certificate of the proof. I see the opposition parties are just beating the drum of noise and feeding on the Age factor to stop the election of the Tinubu presidential candidacy in Nigeria. The age for the presidential candidates in Nigeria hovers around the 70s. For instance, Chief Obafemi Awolowo was 74 years old when he contested in the presidential election. You may recall that the former military Head of State, Ibrahim Babangida got into the age conversation, controversy and frayed, when he made the statement that I will not support any candidate, who is above 60 (Source: Michael Adeshina, “Tinubu’s age and 2023”, PM NEWS, 20th January, 2022.). Also, I honestly, consider the Age Factor as peripheral issue in a presidential election, which is inferior to other factors, which should be in the front burner and vital to providing a good governance and the delivering of a performance based government for the Nigerian citizens such as competency, qualifications and experience and other factors. In the American presidential experience, Presidents Reagan, Trump and Biden have demonstrated to a certain degree that Age is just a number, which if properly monitored and managed, it shouldn’t be a limiting factor or a serious barrier to seeking the presidential office in a country like Nigeria. I am not sure why the Nigerian people/voters are vehemently concerned about the generational gap in the country’s political space? I guess the Nigerian people are influenced by the effects of globalization, which led to the formation of the Obi’s political movement of the Obedients in Nigeria. Also, I think the current trend of a young political leadership around the world like the former President Barack Obama of the United States, President Emmanuel Macron in France and Prime Minister of United Kingdom Rishi Sunak, is providing the incentive, inspiration and motivation for a rebellion, opposition and action against the octogenarian political culture and syndrome in Nigeria. Moreover, I see the money factor and its huge spending power in the Nigerian presidential politics and campaign environment as a barrier or obstacle rather than age factor in closing the doors to the younger generation of Nigerian politicians. Imagine in the current presidential contest, the APC and PDP Political Party sold their presidential nomination forms at exorbitant amounts of money N100millions and N40 millions respectively. Question; How many Nigerians or young Nigerians can financially afford to pay the huge amount of N100million or N40million to pick up the APC Or PDP presidential nomination forms? I consider this financial obstacle to limiting the effectiveness of citizens participation in the Nigerian presidential politics in Nigeria. The huge amount of money for the presidential nomination forms is indeed exclusionary. Consequently, the Nigerian people should be concerned about the money politics as well as age variables in the country’s presidential politics and election. The uncontrolled and unmanageable election financial expenditures is a pathway to and a driver of electing and installing an incompetent and corrupt political leadership and poor federal governance in Abuja.
The Nigerian election laws need to undergo a significant reforms involving the appearance of the presidential candidates before a national medical panel to examine and performance health/medical tests and to issue the certificate of good health/ medical clearance and fitness. Also, I suggest that there is the need for the National Assembly/ federal government of Nigeria to take action in putting the sanity into the uncontrollable and wild huge financial spendings on the presidential election in Nigeria.