“Succession planning is a culture that Africa needs to imbibe.
“It increases the number of people who are capable and available to assume leadership roles when the incumbent is no longer available to do so,” he said, in his keynote address at the King’s College Global Leaders Engagement series.
“We cannot continue to assume that by mere observation from afar, young people understand why we do what we do.
“We must introduce them to our networks and partners; set them up to represent us in important meetings while we can still guide and nurture them,” he added.
The former military, and later, civilian leader said organisations in Africa should not die because one person was no longer available to lead.
“Africa must learn to train the youth to succeed their leaders in all fields of human endeavours,” he said.
“Making one person the life of an organisation negates the rudiments of leadership,” the ex-President said.
“In government, it is a bit different. Incumbents are fond of anointing successors to watch their back which may often contradict the wishes and the interests of the people.
“Sometimes, politicians appoint cronies to succeed them in a bid to cover their tracks of misdeeds and corruption,” ex-President Obasanjo said.
He added: “Another challenge is too many bad examples of leaders. Many leaders in government, business and religion are corrupt. They wear acceptable behaviours in the open but are wolves in sheep’s clothing.”
“This is discouraging for young ones and particularly for those aspiring to leadership positions.”
The Global Leaders Engagement series is to provide a platform “for African leaders to showcase diverse ways in which they are producing ideas for Africa’s development and the security of Africa’s future”.
Ex-President Obasanjo spoke on “Demystifying leadership capacity deficit of African youths: our future is in their hands.
Warming to the theme, he said the word “leadership” in Africa “often evokes negative emotions and proclamations”.
The former Nigerian leader noted that “young people are often excluded or overlooked when it comes to issues of leadership because it is typically regarded as a space for experienced men and not even so much for women.
“Many young people are systematically marginalised because of their young age, limited opportunities, and projected lack of experience.”
That, had made many a young people less likely to participate in the political process and yet they formed the largest group of voters.
“We have seen leaders use violence to thwart youth participation as young people are seen as radical and dangerous elements that should be kept away from key decision-making processes.
“Also, most, if not all, political parties across Africa are guilty of virtually closing political spaces to youth especially by creating all sorts of barriers to keep them out, such as high cost of participation in elective positions,” he added.
He complained that the older generation was not providing adequate mentoring for the continent’s younger generation, which he said was “a huge challenge of leadership in Africa”.
“African leaders in business, government, religion, development, diplomacy, academia and many areas of endeavour do not have deliberate, institutionalised and active mentoring structure in place for the youth.”
He called for changes in constitutions, policies and political structures, to give young people more opportunities in politics.
“Of what use is a law that allows young people contest for a particular office only to be confronted with the hurdle of outrageously exorbitant cost of party nomination forms and campaign costs?
“Young people must continue to engage political leaders till they lower the cost of election and governance in Africa.
“Young people are not too young to run for political offices but insurmountable barriers are put against them,” ex-President Obasanjo said.
“Adults running for elective offices to be octogenarians or over in such offices are also barriers to the young in getting to political leadership.”
While acknowledging that the future belonged to young people, he urged them to “remember that the future is influenced by the present and the past”.
“The present is a legacy of the past, handed over by other generation. This legacy is a product of hard work, successes, failures and experience. It must be preserved. The youth must understand that today’s leaders are tomorrow’s seniors and the record of their leadership will also become a legacy to another generation.”
“It is pivotal that we recognise, support and promote the role of youth in the implementation of Agenda 2063 for Africa and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for 2030,” ex-President Obasanjo said.