In my daily routines, I get to deal with a lot of people. I interact with the highs and the lows. Ordinary citizens, as well as people with influence, including political, especially friends in active politics. There seems to be a silent, general “unsavoury” consensus about Nigeria. It is believed that, as presently constituted, Nigeria cannot move forward and make progress.
Many of them often laughed at me because of my undying optimism about the country. They usually differ from me on many issues concerning our country, where I tried to proffer practicable and realistic solutions to many of the maladies we are facing. They hinged their conclusions on the fact that, there are too many selfish interest groups battling for the soul of Nigeria, both internally and externally. This has made it impossible for us to make necessary leap forward.
This opinion seemed to have been buttressed by the content of a viral video in 2018, of former Minister of transport and a minister designate, Honourable Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi. There, he was heard talking to a group of people where he categorically said that Nigeria cannot change. And that nobody, not even President Buhari can change it. He opined that except all of them, including himself, are killed. And so on.
Many will say that his proposition was extreme. Such brutality can only happen in a violent revolution. But, is that even possible in Nigeria today where religious division and tribalism are the orders of the day? We saw how a proposed peaceful #RevolutionNow panned out. My question, often to them is that; “what is the way forward then?” Or should we just continue on this journey to nowhere? That’s food for thought for all of us.
Sadly, a critical section of the Nigerian society, the youths, whose past were jeopardised, whose present is being ruined and whose future is being mortgaged, are less concerned in all of these. Once in a while, we see them show “extreme” interests. But to what ends? They often misdirect their energies to “wrong” causes. This Monday, 12th of August, is another International Youth Day (IYD), with the theme: “Transforming Education”. But are the youths even aware or concerned?
Right now, many of them are preoccupied with inanities. While they wake up everyday in joblessness, hunger, sickness, hopelessness, and the rest, their antidote is social media. “The madness of mobile phones” (a topic I wrote about but not in the public yet) is the trend now. Many sleep and wake up with their phones. They are addicted to it and It has become their “god” (just like rest majority of the society). Let me leave the rest for the future article.
When not on social media, insulting and abusing themselves, and any person who tries to call them to order, they are engrossed in watching football. There is always enough matches to distract them for a lifetime. Many who cannot successfully answer questions about the states and capitals of Nigeria, can name all the clubs, players, coaches, match schedules and matches’ results around the world.
Not that such is bad in itself but when it is taken overboard, making them lose focus about what is critical to their lives, then it becomes real problem. Sometimes, they extend such excesses to another level, where they begin to fight and curse one another about who the better player is, between Lionel Messi and Christian Ronaldo.
When it is football off-season, the seasons films are there for them. Whether on the satellite cables like; Telemundo, Zee World, etc, or those in foreign videos like Avengers, Game of Thrones, etc. There is always something cooking that can occupy their time.
The seasonal show, Big Brother Naija (BBNaija) is already on now. At least, for 99 days of frivolities, they have something to distract them. That will take their minds off their “misfortunes” for some time.
So, are these the youths who will make revolution happen, whether peaceful or violent? I very much doubt that. They are not ready. Where we have witnessed the power, the doggedness and zeal by them, it was often towards the wrong purposes.
In the past few years, and particularly for some weeks now, the world witnessed the viciousness, the tenacity and the readiness for ultimate sacrifice, which were displayed by the members of Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) referred to as Shi’ites, in their agitations for the freedom of their leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, who has been in the government’s custody, with his wife Zenaat, since December, 2015.
Those weeks were “hot” for the residents of Abuja in particular. The security of the three-arm zone was bridged when they attacked the national assembly on 16th of July, 2019. Despite the clampdown on them and arrests of many of their members, they were not deterred. The following day, they continued. Then, on Monday 22nd July, the protest claimed some casualties. Some of their members were killed. A deputy Commissioner of Police and a corps member serving with Channels television as a reporter, covering the protest, were killed. The IMN members said they were ready to die for their leader.
However, can such extreme agitations ever be deployed to demand for good governance, for better lives, for better education, for better healthcare, for better infrastructures, for security of their lives and properties, and many anomalies facing them as ordinary citizens of this country? No. They will never do that. Only religion can make many, especially youths from the north, to engage in such (mis)adventures. Religion is truly the opium of the masses, as Karl Marx said!
What about those days of Pro-Biafra agitations by the now proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB)? There was hardly any other thing that has united the Igbo youths like that. Not even electing their political leaders. The IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, was able to play on the emotional attachment of the people to an independent Biafra, to rally them. I was usually shocked and impressed at the same time with the turn-outs while it lasted.
Then I always thought; why can’t these people deploy this massive support to form a political movement or a party, select the best among them and vote them to political offices in all the states in South East, as well as for quality representation at the national level? With that, a “model” in developments can be made of the Igboland, as against the current dilapidated conditions.
Also, with brilliant and well-qualified individuals representing them at NASS, all their positions can continue to be canvassed. And with the model leadership they will be exhibiting back home, that would be a leverage for peaceful negotiation within the Nigerian state. But what happened? Youthful exuberance crept in and Nnamdi Kanu turned himself to a “tin-god”. He began to see himself as the new “Ikemba Odumegwu Ojukwu”, when in the real sense, he can never measure up to the great “Gburugburu” in many ramifications.
Some other organisations from other parts of Nigeria like Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) in the South-West and Niger-Delta militants in the South-South, have at one time or another, displayed uncommon courage in fighting what they believed were in the interests of their people. However, what were the results?
Oftentimes, such agitations were misplaced. This is because, fighting for resource control, which will still be cornered by privileged few from among them is not the way to go. There is a common enemy facing all the youths and masses all over Nigeria, irrespective of where they are from, the religions they practice or the political parties they belong. That common enemy is bad political leadership and bad governance, at the federal, state and local government levels. That should be the focus of all well meaning youths to see to how they will rout them.
An example of a “better” agitation was the then popular “Ojota rally”, which forced the former President Jonathan to rescind his decision to deregulate petrol by removing the subsidy. With the benefits of hindsight, Nigerians have realised that he actually meant well, for we are still paying for that action till today, with the massive corruption still going on in the petroleum subsidy regime. People later realised that the protests were more politically motivated than altruistic reasons, because, those who “sponsored” that protest against the deregulation then, are now in government, and have done worse, unfortunately.
Many current leaders have been around for many decades, some up to five (1966 class) but what results do we have? Big mess!
So, in all that have been raised, while the ailments affecting all the youths across board are the same; poor quality education, poor healthcare, unemployment, hunger, bad roads, insecurities, lack of public power, poverty, collapsed infrastructures, and so on, many of which the people in government are responsible, the youths never find it expedient to do anything about it. They remain docile over the years.
The next level ministerial appointments have just been made by Mr. President, with non of the nominees less that 45 years, despite the promise of inclusiveness and gender balance during 2019 political campaigns. The youths have been scammed! But what did the youths do? They kept mute. May be they have realised the limits of their usefulness too. Only two months ago, some of them protested against an appointment made by the senate president, Ahmed Lawan, claiming that “there is no more monkey dey work, baboon dey chop”. But now that the table is being set and they have been conspicuously excluded, what happened? They have gone comatose.
The people in power know that the youths are only good enough for political campaigns, mobilisation, votings and at worst, political thuggery. The best they will consider them for is the “Special Adviser” to people who will not listen to or take their advice, or “Special Assistant”, a more or less glorified “errand” boys and girls.
But have youths who had opportunities shown impressive performance? Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi is currently the youngest governor in Nigeria. Senator Dino Melaye used to be the youngest senator in the 8th assembly, until the latest sensational “woman-beater” senator, who is just 41 years displaced him. Can all these young people in political offices be considered good ambassadors of the youths? Your guess is as good as mine.
Going forward, youths should first be focused and determine what their interests are, in the Nigerian state. They should then develop requisite capacities and competence. Active involvement and participation in the political process is key to breaking into the system, before taking over can happen. Enough of “boy-boy” for the oldies. The time to act is now. Your future is in your hands.
May God continue to guide us aright.
God Bless Nigeria.
Lateef Adewole is a political analyst and social commentator can be reached by email [email protected] or via WhatsApp +2348020989095