It is evident based (go and verify) that Nigeria youths occupy some top corporate and diplomatic positions in global bodies, while also calling the shots in development of affairs on the world stage. Also relevant to the present discourse is the sad recognition that whilst these talented Nigerian youths are being celebrated abroad; same youths of ours are helplessly relegated to the background in the scheme of political and socioeconomic affairs of their own nation.
Also, Nigerian youths are often made not by external aggressors but by their own leaders, to watch the political and leadership affairs of their nation from the political gallery. Making the development a crisis is that in the past two decades of democratic experience, Nigerian youths visibly but ignorantly endorsed this underground plots by their sit tight political elders and leaders who claim the wisdom of Solomon as to how to run the polity and are not ready to let go of power or shift political boundaries to accommodate the restive youths. They daily perfect anti-youth political strategies and tactics while the youths maintain silence and feeling of comfort in the face of political leadership deprivations.
In some cases, they mockingly incentivise the youths by allowing them to settle for the easiest option at their disposal which is praise singing or what is referred to as ‘’Otinkpu’’ in Igbo local palace. And as a reward, they are compensated with crumbs that fell from the masters tables.
Also within this time and space, “youths are the leaders of tomorrow” becomes a form of a mantra, a sermon by our leaders that we can describe as a gospel without the truth. They preach this without taking pragmatic steps to develop or design strategies that will help it see the light of day.
But the youths in particular are also beginning to view it as a one sided narrative especially when it is coming from our present crop of leaders. It has become an epigrammatic tale that revolves around a particular plot constructed around electioneering, with the sole aim of achieving electoral victory. In most cases this becomes more of a slogan or anthem for the political parties. It lasts as long as the electioneering period and fizzles out as soon as the winners emerge. Youths are never assured again that they are “the leaders of tomorrow” till the next electioneering campaign. And the cycle goes on and on. This has been the grim fate and burden which successive generations of Nigerian youths have grappled with since 1960.
It recently got to a comical but worrisome stage that some political parties and their gladiators were appointing and anointing men well above 60 as national youth leaders of their various parties. Some of these political grandfathers recently at different gatherings declared that the current crop of Nigerian youths is not matured politically enough to be saddled with critical political positions. The youths were roundly accused of not being any different from the “politically matured” adults.
All these are happening because our nation is unfortunately being blessed with a huge number of ‘coercive’ and selfish leaders as against truly ‘democratic, pacesetting and coaching’ leaders. Because of this arrangement also, you find our political space filled with leaders that cannot accommodate, coach or invite the youths to start learning leadership via a sincere political apprenticeship. They do not believe in groaning the youths, they have no idea of community organizing and also lacking in emotional intelligence that is needed for good leadership.
However, current waves of political activism on the part of the youths are viewed by political pundits as a step in the right direction. This calls for celebration because alarming apathy has been the sad commentary about the political participation of young people in Nigeria thus giving some Methuselah politicians the leeway to continue to pervade the political space unchallenged.
Characterizing the present happening as alluring is that no one seemed to have seen it coming that these Nigeria’s youngest citizens previously described as ‘lazy’ could one day build; stakeholders’ engagement, demand accountability from leaders, advocate nation building tradition and good governance activism.
The first glimpse of evidence that Nigerian youths have crawled out of their shells to make a demand that their elected government treat them with dignity and protect their constitutional rights and democratic freedoms, came about two years ago during the ‘famous’ ENDSARS Campaign which spanned for weeks and enjoyed the support of well meaning Nigerians of diverse background, profession, religion and tribe.
As the nation Nigeria braces up for the 2023 general election in the country, recent happenings around the world’s political arena regarding the emergence of some youthful Presidents, has brought about a shift in thinking. Social media has also become not just a platform for this debate but a willing tool. Youths on their part are getting unusually busy aligning and realigning politically. Proliferations of politically induced associations are becoming conspicuously visible.
In all these, one point that our leaders must not fail to remember is that ‘there comes a time in life when the oppressed cannot remain oppressed forever.’ Nigerian youths are like emerging markets which must emerge definitely with time. And this piece holds the opinion that such appointed time is now!!!
What the youths presently need from our leaders include good and accountable governance with performance hallmark, support, direction, and provision of opportunities to undergo political apprenticeship and not oppression and suppression.
To the youths, they should remember that ‘freedom has always been an expensive thing. History is fit testimony to this fact that freedom is rarely gained without sacrifice and self-denial.’ This is a call to action. This is a holy invitation. This is a call to the youths to build their nation by becoming patriotic in seeking leadership. Let them be guided by the age long dictum that ‘a patriotic youth is a nation builder.’
Doing the above may seem difficult at the beginning but little and persistent push will perform the miracle. Let the youths roll the camera to record change by first getting registered for, and collect their Permanent Voters Cards(PVC) so as to vote for the candidate of their choice come 2023 general election.
This is important.
Even when the above is not easy as it in some cases requires a whole lot of sacrifice and self-denial, this piece holds the opinion that youths should be consoled by the fact that human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Even a superficial look at history reveals that no social advance rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. ‘Steps towards the goal of justice require sacrifice, suffering and struggles, the tireless exertions and passionate concerns of dedicated individuals,’ remarked Martin Luther King Jnr. To this end, let youths be well aware that this is not the time to show apathy or complacency, but the time for vigorous and positive political action.
Utomi is the Programme Cordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via; email@example.com/08032725374