Age versus Success - a Nigerian Tale

Uzoma Dozie
6 min readOct 24, 2019

I recently attended the 25th Nigeria Economic Summit - the mission of the event this year was to, “set a new agenda for Nigeria in the Fourth Industrial Revolution; and that marks a critical strategic shift to a competitive private sector economy by 2050”.

Our President, His Excellency Muhammadu Buhari, gave the keynote, and the two-day programme was essentially a who’s who of industry titans for Nigeria. Dangote, the Emir of Kano and my own father, PGD, were part of the proceedings. These are people who have literally built Nigeria.

However, one of the panels that struck me in particular was one focussed on Under 40s; Leadership in 2050: Insights from Tomorrow’s Leaders. Throughout the session, my ears pricked up, and in fact, I shuddered each and every time I heard, “you young ones have done really, really well so far”. Imagine having your accomplishments diminished so breezily? Imagine, in your late thirties, being referred to as a youngster, after you’ve grown your business in a competitive environment? Why do older Nigerians feel the need to make the distinction between age and success?

France’s President Macron is 41 years old. He became President of his country at 39 years old. Would we refer to him as a “youngster” and commend him on his achievements to-date, in such a patronising way? The man is a statesman.

The whole dialogue and means of addressing [and keeping in check] the so-called “youngsters” irked me. But it did not surprise me. I have been in many situations, in meetings with older or titled people, where the salutation is "Young man”, with them hastily then making comments to ensure I knew that they knew my father. Whether intentional or not, to set the tone of the meeting I would not know, but a seed had been sown...

Still, the language around our young people at the Economic Summit made me consider the cold hard facts around age-bias in Nigeria. We are a nation of youth, dominated from the top down by leaders in their sixties and seventies. Over 80% of Nigeria’s population is under 30, yet where is the representation of so many millions of people, in our Government, Federal and even Corporate bodies? The disconnect between the two ages is almost two generations. How will that serve us as a country for the future? Quite simply, it can’t and…