Ageism: Encouraging the Youth in political space or discrimination in recruitment

25th April 2024

Nigeria’s political landscape for years has been dominated by an ageing population of politicians some of whom have served since Nigeria’s military regime. For example, Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria’s past president (1999 to 2003) and President Buhari had served as military administrators.

Since independence, Nigerian rule has remained in the hands of the elites that recycle themselves in power and this has led to the impression that the nation’s political sphere is the preserve of a select view, who are typically male, above retirement age, and have the ability to wield wealth for influence.

This is further concerning given the reports of President Buhari’s numerous visits abroad for medical checkups. As such, there is the question of how old is too old in Nigerian politics.
Setting a retirement age for politicians continues to be a subject of discussion and comprises two major schools of thought. Some argue that advanced age can lead to declining physical and mental abilities, while others believe that the experience and expertise gained over a long career are necessary assets for success in the upper echelons of political leadership.

Before 2018, the Constitution and electoral laws stipulated that a person had to attain the age of 30 years to be eligible to run for any political office. The framers of the Constitution recognized the importance of setting a minimum age requirement for the nation’s leaders, to guarantee that they would possess a level of maturity and have the prior political experience necessary for success in these positions. However, no maximum age requirement was set. Would a maximum age limit ensure that those running for political offices in Nigeria have a healthy balance of the savvy of age and the zest of youth?

In a recent post on X formerly known as Twitter a user @Daveman_ posted a video of Oyo State Governor, Engr Seyi Makinde speaking at Debo Ogundoyin Legislative Summit which was held on Wednesday at the International Conference Centre, University of Ibadan.

He said: “When I came in as a governor of Oyo State at 51, some people believed it was impossible and against all odds, the impossibility became a possibility. I have decided that come 2027, I would not support any candidate above the age of 52 in my party,” Seyi Makinde, governor of Oyo State, declared at the Debo Ogundoyin Students’ Legislative Summit which was held at the International Conference Centre, University of Ibadan.

According to him, he would not support any candidate above 52 years of age for the position of governor in Oyo State.

Charging the youths to be resolute while pursuing their dreams, he reminded them how he pursued his dream of becoming a governor in Oyo State.

He further stated “I am here this afternoon to encourage the youth. If you look at the history of Nigeria, we had our independence in 1960 and six years after, in 1966, the person that became the Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, was 31 years and some months old. After him, during the Second Republic, former President Obasanjo retired as a General at the age of 39.

“You should dream big; people have ruled this country at very tender ages. So, for you, don’t think that at 29 or 30, you are too young to rule, and I am glad because this is almost like catching them early.

“You have the students here and in about three years, some of you will be out there to move on. If I were you, I wouldn’t start looking for work; I would start doing my own thing at a very early age of 24 or 25. With the kind of energy you still have, you can pull down the kingdom of Satan.

“For the Speaker himself, the opportunity came in 2018 to replace a former Speaker from his Constituency. He became a member of the House of Assembly.”

The governor’s opinion and decision about supporting the youth as his succession with an age limit of 52 has sparked a lot of reactions some kicked against the decision bringing up the issue of ageism in Nigeria’s workspace and its effect while others gave kudos to him.

The evil of age discrimination on recruitment

ONE of the signs that Nigeria is not keen on becoming a developed country is that she officially promotes different forms of discrimination. She discriminates against her own people on ethnicity, religion, gender, marital status, financial status, education, disability, age and other parameters. But let us narrow this discussion to age discrimination.

Age discrimination is not for fresh graduates alone. Some jobs for middle-level managers put an age restriction of not more than 40 years. The moment workers in Nigeria are over 40 years old, their chances of getting a good job begin to nosedive. When they are 50, the employment door is completely closed on them. The only people who may still be found relevant at this age are those working in similar positions in other organisations who are being head-hunted.

Nigerians don’t even see this as discrimination. They see it as a necessary employment requirement just like an educational requirement or professional experience. But it is a terrible form of discrimination that should have no place in any country that believes in equal opportunities and frowns at all forms of discrimination.

It is only when one compares Nigeria with other countries where people’s rights are respected and protected that one sees the harm Nigeria does to her citizens through age discrimination. Let us look at what obtains in Canada, for example.

Canada’s provisions prohibiting age discrimination are in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (“Charter”), which applies to all jurisdictions and governmental entities. Section 15 (1) of the Charter contains an equality clause, which provides as follows: “Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.”

Just as the 25-year-old man needs to earn money to pay his bills is the same way a 60-old-year man needs to earn money to pay his bills. As long as the person has not reached the age of retirement, which starts at 65 years in Canada but comes into full effect at 70, the person has equal right to employment. You dare not discriminate against him.

By Adedoja Adesoji