Why Are Nigerian Youths Missing In Action? - by Maxwell Adeyemi Adeleye

Class struggle, as opined by Karl Marx, a German scholar, in his theory of historical materialism, is about the peasants’ strives for success. It is about war commissioned against perpetual hegemony, status quo and exploitation by the proletariats being used by the bourgeoisies to produce what they cannot buy. Class struggle is about the common people struggling towards restoring their battered souls. It is about the poorest of the poor striving towards becoming the richest of the rich.

In Nigeria today, the spirit of class struggle seems to have died amongst the youths. The youths have had their today and tomorrow strangulated by the old cargos that currently hold the reins of power. Sadly, the youths are not thinking. They have accepted that their future be mortgaged. The youths have refused to take their destiny into their hands.

Those who ruled Nigeria in the first and second republics are still controlling the polity and economy of the country. For instance, Chief Edwin Clark was 35 when he was appointed the Minister of Information; today, at 83, he still determines who gets what, when and how in the Niger Delta. Ebonyi State Governor, Martin Elechi is 76, yet, he still wants to be a Senator. Chief Tony Anenih is still on the throne at 81.

The elite are rotating power amongst themselves while the large numbers of the less privileged youths are wallowing in squalour. Our fathers continue to recycle themselves in government instead of giving way for the younger generation. They made education, which most of them in the old western region acquired free of charge, almost unaffordable.

The older generation has refused to retire and quit the civil service so that the younger ones could be employed. Instead, they continue to hang on by falsifying their age. The looting and widespread corruption by our fathers have battered the economy so badly that small and medium scale enterprises, which should be the main employers of labour aside from the government, are virtually non-existent.

Youths are the building blocks of a nation. The stronger, more vibrant and politically aware the youths are, the more developed the nation is. Countries that had empowered the younger generation in the past are now better off. David Cameron became the Prime Minister of Britain at 43; one of his predecessors, Tony Blair, has already retired from politics at 63. Americans elected Barack Obama at 47.

Furthermore, Juan Barreto became the Prime Minister of Dominica at 32 in 2004. Joseph Kabila became the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo at 31 in 2001. Nikola Gruevski became the Prime Minister of Macedonia at 36 in 2006. Today, Macedonia has risen from a periphery nation to a semi-core country in international politics.

Mikheil Sakashvili fought a fierce battle against the order of gerontocracy in 2004 in Georgia; he triumphed and became the President of Georgia at 37. Faure Gnassingbe was inaugurated as the President of Togo at 39 in 2005. Bulgaria elected Sergei Stanishev as Prime Minister at 39 in 2005. Dmitry Medvedev made history when he became the youngest President of Russia in 2008 at 41.

All the examples cited above are successes recorded in the 21st century. In Nigeria today, many youths at 36 are still single, looking for jobs whereas their mates are already presidents and prime ministers in European and American sovereign nations. The next British Prime Minister might be a Nigerian. The young man, Chuka Umunna, 37, a member of the British Parliament, hails from Anambra State.

Unfortunately, I once wrote a piece, arguing that age is not a barrier; hence, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari who served as the Minister of Petroleum Resources at 33 and Head of State at 41 in 1977 and 1983 respectively, becoming the President of Nigeria at 73 is not a bad idea. While many Nigerians wrote to commend me over the article, Femi Dasilva, a Nigerian student at Central Michigan University, United States sent me a mail thus;

“My dear friend, you wrote well but I want to advise you to stop writing like an ancient analyst; start writing like a modern commentator. At your age, instead of demanding generational shift, you are agitating for institutionalisation of the politics of gerontocracy. My brother, though I am not a fan of Tinubu and Obasanjo, we can count of many young people that they have empowered; please, how many brilliant young Nigerians can we trace to Buhari’s school of thought? I agree with you that the Fulani man is the only one who can give the PDP the run for its money; he’s loved by the majority of almajiris in the north, but through Buhari’s utterances, it is obvious that the Daura-born former dictator has lost touch with the realities of the 21st century. Ask, why Americans rejected Senator McCain (71 then), in 2009? Buhari is just being packaged by those who have money but lack electoral value”, my friend concluded.

Many people constantly intimidate the youths (in fact, the youths intimidate themselves as well) that we are too corrupt, but they did not say that our fathers and grand fathers used their ill-gotten wealth to destroy our sense of decency and value system.

Arguing that there’s nobody below 45 to govern Nigeria is an indictment of the older generation. A good leader produces good successors. Nigerian youths seem to have succumbed to the status quo. We have refused to fight. It is no surprise when a former Head of State, Ibrahim Babangida, described Nigerian youths as unfit and unprepared for leadership. He was aspiring to be the President of Nigeria then at 70.

Most Nigerian youths are so disconnected from political happenings and government’s activities as they do not know or care how they are being governed. The way youths argue blindly on social media whenever salient national issues are raised call for concern.

One of the reasons Nigeria is moving a step forward then four steps backward is because we lack vibrant and informed youths. The youth are supposed to be the centre of gravity of the society. The youth should be the “life” of a society. The youth should be the hope for a better and brighter future of any society. But this is not the case in Nigeria.

Even the older generation does not have ample confidence in us. In Nigeria today, our leaders have abandoned the youths to start grooming their own children who will eventually take over from them. It is not surprising, therefore, that most of our former and outgoing state governors, senators, ministers and presidents have already “planted” their children in politics.

Now, I begin to wonder and ponder, what then is the gain of millions of youth who support these leaders? Is it that the youths aren’t good for anything than being used for “hallelujah jobs” only to be dumped afterwards? For how long shall we continue like this? Nigerian youths, where lay the spirit of class struggle?

- Maxwell Adeyemi Adeleye, a young political analyst based in Magodo, Lagos,