By Isaac Ikpa
There’s a yet to be explained dimension to the current wave of political reawakening in Nigeria, where youths of the country are agitating to take charge of the affairs of the nation.
Recent protests leading to the dissolution of a police unit may not have come with the intended verve for positive action, but it signals one thing; that the youths are tired of occupying the back seat of national politics and now want to be at the forefront.
Since 2018, youths clamour for increased participation in politics gained currency with the signing into law of the Not Too Young To Run bill, which statutorily enhanced the scope of youth participation in politics by extending the age for running for political offices downward.
Before then, former military president, Ibrahim Babangida had tried to create a window for the youths in Nigeria to once again take charge of the affairs of the nation as it was in the 1st Republic, through banning of old breed politicians from contesting political offices. His efforts however became lost in the mire of intricacies that accompanied his transition programme and attainment of a particular age took centre stage in qualifying for political office.
Fortunately in Benue State, the agitation for the youths to have a say in the way they are governed preceded the Not Too Young To Run Act, as young people began to ask questions and to indicate they have what it takes to move the state forward as was obtainable in the 1st Republic but which was lost over the years in the national malaise of recycling old hands.
The moment Benue youths had been waiting for to prove this nearly came in 2016, a court ordered rerun in the contest for the Benue South Senatorial seat and Daniel Onjeh of the APC again challenged former Senate President, David Mark.
Surprisingly, Onjeh’s loss in the rerun rather than suppress the agitation for youth participation in politics, increased it.
Just last week, the posters of Chief Philip Agbese, who holds the traditional title of the Okanga Agila, announcing his intention to run for the Benue South Senatorial seat,
The colourful posters which had the picture of the young man doning a chieftacy hat was striking in both its aesthetic appeal and the potency of its message and drew lots of reactions across board.
The reactions as expected were electrifying as the entire Idomaland and beyond vibrated with the news of the entry of the Okanga into the 2023 Senate race in nano seconds, like a wave spiraled by a drop of an object in water.
Hitherto in the entire Zone C, it was thought that to aspire for Senate, one has to either be a grand father or be retired due to old age or had to spot grey hairs covering the head and visage to qualify.
But the sudden entry of the renowned philantrophist into the race has reinforced the quest for redefining political aspiration in the zone where only a circle see themselves as eligible for the seat.
But beyond that, it was the background and character of the Chief Agbese, that had served notice that something serious is about to happen in Zone ‘C’ as far as who will represent the zone in the next dispensation is concerned.
It is known in the entire Idomaland, that Chief Agbese does not talk where he does not intend walk neither does he walk away from something he had set his mind to do.
It is also known that the Okanga is a youth who had washed his hands and can therefore eat with elders and that he holds the key to unravelling political mysteries having been the brain behind the success of many politicians in the zone.
Little wonder that less than 24 hours after his posters flooded cyberspace, political office holders in Zone ‘C’ began to call for meetings with the people they have ignored since they won elections all in the bid to win back peoples’ confidence.
Political meetings were called late into the night to work out ways of confronting the new possibilities of the youths taking over political leadership in Idomaland.
Though many of the older generation pretended not to be perturbed, it was obvious that they were rattled and that voters in Idomaland would no longer be taken for granted.
The question many are asking is why these group of persons who have served in various capacities on behalf of Idomaland but largely wasted the opportunities are jittery about the Okanga joining the race for the Senate.
From the opinion of people sampled in the zone, it is obvious that the Okanga Movement comprising beneficiaries of his philanthropic acts cutting across age and geographical boundaries, if converted into a political force would be unstoppable!
People of the zone believe that between 2015 and 2019, no politician in Zone ‘C’ has affected the lives of the people like Chief Agbese has.
They say he has provided many indigent youths in the zone with scholarship to further their education, paid hospital Bill’s for many, provided employment for many in both the public and private sectors, and equally employed many in his private firms.
It was gathered that it was the youths he has helped in this regard that recently approached him and asked him to run for the Senate given his vibrancy, fearlessness and readiness to help others.
People also appreciate him for his constant contribution to security in the zone and recall with delight, how during the Covid-19 lockdown, he provided palliative for people by distributing trailer loads of food items in communities.
He has also provided capitals for many youths to start their businesses and helped the elderly with funds and vehicles.
The Okanga is seen a an inspiration to youths in Idomaland many of whom had hitherto become despondent and lost hope about making it in life.
The Chief Agbese story, where he rose to grace from a humble background excites the youths and gives them the hope to believe in themselves and aspire for greatness.
The Okanga is also known to embrace all in dealings with people and does not discriminate and is therefore seen as the bridge between the old and young, poor and the rich and as a unifying force for all communities.
His impact in national politics through youth activism and subsequent foray into business and the wide contacts he has both nationally and internationally is seen as the tonic that would be used to finally liberate the people of the zone and expose them to their entitlements as free citizens of the country.
Unfortunately, that is particularly what the old breed in Zone ‘C’ fear about him as they wouldn’t want the eyes of the electorate to be open so that they’ll continue to oppress and suppress hem.
The Okanga is also coming into politics with the pure intention of assisting people and to develop Idomaland.
Many know that God has blessed him as an Entrepreneur and his intention for joining politics is not to come and make money for himself and his family.
This is the Chief Agbese edge that has made many of the old masters to be jittery over his intention to run for Senate, but as good will always triumph over the contrary, arriving the destination in this particular journey is certain.
Isaac Ikpa writes from Asa-Ehicho, Otukpo.