25 Nov 2014

Youths And Politics In Nigeria - by Adigwe Chekwubechukwu

The arguments have come again and again concerning the need to have youths as leaders in modern government. After all, as the cliché posits, they are the leaders of today, no longer tomorrow because they have waited for a long time and this “tomorrow” still remains elusive. If recent events are anything to go by, Nigerian youths will have to wait for as long as they have to because the present crop of leaders has yet to get tired of governing. We are still operating a recycled system of governance or democracy in the country.

It will not be surprising to some that the Senate President, David Mark, will be returning to the Senate again after being elected four times previously and spending 16 good years in office. Many are of the view that having a senator of this calibre increases the level of debate in the upper chamber and it produces good decision making, as the wealth of experience of long term serving senators like him is put to bear. However, I don’t need to remind anyone that this senator was once a military administrator in this country. He is gradually ageing into office and many of us have yet to see how the likes of Mark have brought development to their immediate constituencies or the country at large.

But this write-up is not about the Senate President. No, it is about the geographical landscape called Nigeria. It is about our youths who are busy discussing about Jose Mourinho of Chelsea Football Club and Arsene Wenger of Arsenal and Manchester United while our leaders continue to sing the same song in a different tune. It is about our youths who are busy with “Big Brother Africa” and Nollywood and dancing “Skelewu” to the extent that they have lost political consciousness that our elders have decided to take us for a ride. We have given up on ourselves and on our country thinking – It is not our business.

But that is not true. Government is the business of everyone. It was Aristotle who said that man is a political animal because, according to him, man is politically inclined by nature. Most of our present- day youths are apolitical. Yet, they crave for change. Where will the change come from? Certainly not in our sitting rooms! We must not allow our elders or leaders to continue to ride on our backs like donkeys. This should not be allowed to continue anymore as they do not really care about us. Truly, they don’t. To them we are just pawns to be used for their mind games.

Listening to the television the other day, I was able to confirm this fact myself. The Chairman, Senate Committee on Defence, George Sekibo, was having a meeting with the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Kenneth Minimah. This was after bombers had killed and displaced many people in some northeastern states. It will amaze you to realise that the first question the senator would ask the general was how safe and conducive was the region for campaigns and elections. This was ridiculous! It was not how the displaced persons were doing? Or, what efforts can the government do to ameliorate their burdens? This will show you the level of the disconnection between the government and the people.

In saner climes, Senator Sekibo will be made to resign but not in this part of the world, where anything goes. We are a country of millions of people anyway, so what is the big deal if for instance 46 boys lost their lives? Minus 46 from our population figure, you still have a great figure, don’t you? So, why should anyone be bothered? It is even more irritating and worrisome to see governors at the expiration of their tenure jostling for a place in the Senate as If it is their resting place after the “hectic burden” of being governors. A trend that if allowed to continue will see many of us youths in the sidelines of political governance for a very long time because most of them will be collecting their pensions as former governors and at the same time collecting allowances as senators. This amounts to one having one’s cake and still eating it. In a country of abject poverty and unemployment, this is the height of selfishness, insensitivity and wickedness.

The Yoruba have a saying that: “Agbalagba kin wa loja ki ori omotuntun woo”. I do not know if I got my spelling right. If not, my apologies to the Yoruba people but the message behind the proverb is that an elder cannot be in the market place and watch the head of the child go down. This has not been our lot in this country as our elders or leaders have not only allowed the head of the child to go down, they have also trampled on the head of the child. They have refused to fund education but instead send their children abroad so that we will not be liberated; they have refused to make our roads motorable but they themselves fly with private jets, so that death will catch up with us in our prime. It is usually the child that buries the father but our leaders have turned it the other way round. As a result of this negligence, the society is now plagued with hunger, poverty, unemployment, prostitution, armed robbery, kidnapping and even Boko Haram.

As if our woes are not enough, some youths just because they have been offered “messengerial” soup dumplings, decide to sell their blue ribbon. At least it shows that Ayo Fayose’s “stomach infrastructure” in Ekiti State is gaining acceptable wisdom in other areas as we saw with the bags of rice in Bayelsa State recently. Youths must learn to show dignity of character and purpose. We must tell our leaders what we expect from them instead of carrying placards and singing their praises when they have done nothing with the hope of getting 30 pieces of silver which amount to selling our conscience because at the end of it all, we could have benefitted nothing from our foolishness.

We must begin to take ourselves seriously, if ever we want our elders or leaders to respect us. There is nothing stopping a youth from becoming minister for youths and sports in this country. After all, we know and follow sports better than the older folk. Heaven will not fall if a youth is made a minister of education. We understand education in this country because we go to schools here, so we know the challenges the sector faces. But will the government be reasonable with us? No, our leaders will prefer to have someone who went to Harvard or a politician that instead of improving the sector will end up fighting clan battle with the governor of his state. Even the ministry of ICT needs a youth to head it. We are the masters of the jet age. Aren’t we? The minister for information is also within the purview of the youths. Our leaders/elders cannot place a heavy premium on years of experience during our search for jobs when they do not make any conscious effort to make us gather that experience. That is hypocrisy.

Unfortunately, none of the political parties takes any serious effort to accord the youths any prominence. Yet, you see our youths joining the bandwagon and address themselves with political slogans. A few examples will suffice here: TAN, Buharists, Ebelites, Atikukites etc. We can’t negotiate our future from the position of weakness but that of strength and intensity of purpose. And we must realise quickly that this country belongs to all of us and not just a selected few who keep knocking on our doorsteps seasons after seasons. It has all dawned on us that anyone can aspire and become whatever they want to be in this country.

...Chekwubechukwu is a graduate of Mass Communication, based in Lagos.

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