The Oasis Reporters
February 13, 2018
Fashionable now is the elite expression of generosity towards the youth segment of Nigeria. ‘It is now time’, they vow, ‘for the younger people to take the baton of leadership of Nigeria’.
In that statement released on behalf of former military Head of State, Gen Ibrahim Babangida, the self-styled former president is reported to have said ‘we need to…collectively prepare the way for new generation leaders to assume the mantle of leadership of the country’.
There is no way one can tell whether this is coming from the bottom of good intention or not. But certainly a fantastic intervention it is, more certainly at a time when the Nigerian youth is no more used for anything. In the time of Obasanjo and of Lamidi Adedibu (of blessed memory), Nigerian youths were deployed to steal ballot boxes during election; to foment trouble at polling stations and to do one thing or the other.
But today, the youths are not even used for thuggery. The youth, in the political circle of decision making, is a useless entity.
The canvass for youth’s participation in politics is on the road to qualifying for a fad. For now, nevertheless, let’s make do with the word ‘fashion’. There seems something sinister around this sudden love for the younger generation among the high class. And to say that such a new style is worn by the Coalition for Nigeria is instructive, though not certainly compellingly succinct; at least not immediately. Defining the structure of the Coalition for Nigeria, Obasanjo said ‘It [the CN] must have a pride of place for all Nigerians, particularly for our youth and our women.’
A pride of place probably means a great sense of active belonging. Thus, the creator of the CN intends it to be populated with youth and women.
Then came Donald Duke, a former governor of Cross River State, who flanked Dr. Olusegun Obasanjo alongside Oyinlola when the Coalition for Nigeria was launched in Ogun State. I received the alert of his essay on my whatspp, brilliantly titled the Urgency of Now. The essay is as handsome as Mr. Duke himself.
“The discourse today centres around women and youth participation in our politics. After all, their demographics easily account for 70% of the population. Have we, the so-called ruling class earnestly considered handing over the baton of leadership in the near future? Let us consider the recent PDP primaries, the same old guards dominated the scene. The average age of the aspirants was not less than 60 years going on to 70. Have we considered that a child born at the return to civil democratic rule in 1999 is a voter today and the one that was ten years old then is likely a parent and now saddled with concerns of the future of his or her offspring? The answer is an emphatic No, we haven’t.”
A fantastic query by Mr. Duke!
Only that it can be hard to understand why Mr. Duke did not invite a young person to sit at the right side of Obasanjo during the launching of the CN, instead of himself. Evidently, the CN has begun to explore the areas that may be attractive to Nigerian youths in order to win their love. Little wonder each of these people must indicate how the PDP and the APC has failed in the inclusion of young people and women.
The problem here, so to say, is: why now? That the fashion is in high vogue is a hard fact, but why has it become so rife at this point in time and not months ago?
In all of 2017 back to June 2015, none of these high elements mentioned youth involvement in national leadership gloriously. So, at what point in time did it become a prayer-point of the overfed elite to ask for the miraculous ascendancy of the impoverished youth in national decision making?
A tentative solution is that this new love for young Nigerians and Nigeria is a part of the ritual of every fourth year, the ritual of manipulating the earth in order to win elections. So you find that the hymns about youth inclusion began only in January 2018, when the Abeokuta theologian raised his resounding voice.
Part of the science of politicking is galvanization. Galvanization is the process of rallying or mobilizing the minds and bodies of elements across a population to support a cause, because their support is critical to the success of the cause. That being the case, considering that the youth are very large in number, it is certain that appealing to their lacks is a way to get popular support. And for the fact that agitations for removal of constitutional bottlenecks against such people have grown in the recent time, such as the Not-Too-Young-to-Run campaign and bills in the parliament; as well as the recurrent complain by women that they are least represented in government, it is highly intelligent of any campaign group to hack into this.
But politicians are crafty. Mr. Duke knows that his charge to youths to take over is ordinary, banal—the normal chorus of every election time. “Every four years or so, there is so much vibes made of youth participation in politics, it’s an attractive bite,” admitted Duke. A convict of his own conscience and intellect, he sought to wriggle out of the trap of self finger-pointing: “the difference this time, however, is that there is no longer time on our hands.” This time, unlike 2015 and four years earlier, youths must urgently come. Nigeria is a state of emergency and the youth and women are the emergency hands. Interestingly.
But is Nigeria in an emergency?
Is Nigeria hemorrhaging nonstop, like a butchered family house?
Yes. Blood is flowing around the country as tenders of cattle lease terror to tenders of crops, who never live to return the lease. Report is out that the economy has been rebuilt by the sitting president, but all we see on the street are symptoms of chronic economisery rather than indications of wellness. How do we explain mass job loss in a country where people were mostly unemployed, escalated prices of food and commodities, harsh business environment and the taking away of the right to plant one’s farm in peace and harvest by genocidal herdsmen? There is emergency, certainly.
But do we need an emergency solution?
Emergency situations call for emergency solutions. But emergency solutions do not call for reckless, haphazard calculations, most especially ones involving cutting corners.
So, do we need the youth in this emergency?
The youth are needed, but not by following the Coalition for Nigeria. This ongoing campaign of love for the youth is cunning, an act of cutting corners. It will not help the youths and it will leave our country more traumatized. Young people’s participation in politics is a perennial, constant concern. To abandon it after winning election and hype it when looking for vote is a criminal way to gaining political power. Young people will decide to take control of their collective destiny, then mobilize themselves, and by gradual development of their movement, will replace the old order. It is a bait, at best, in the hand of the old folk to lure young people into supporting them to perpetuate their old dynasty when this love offer is made. This perpetuation can be done in any of two ways. One is to pick another fagged-out individual and show voters why he has the credentials needed to turn things around. Another is to actually pick a young person, but from within their ranks, then enthrone him. Then the young person is a part of the old dynasty, in blood and orientation. The overfed blood and orientation of the corrupt and selfish dynasty that made Nigeria the ugly thing it presently is.
Then how, in the above scenario, has the mass of young people in Nigeria found a pride of place in the leadership of their country? To be sure, it does not seem a poor person can become the president of any country, let alone of a country running a strictly monetized politics. For now, nomination fees running in millions of naira already has disqualified intelligent but less moneyed people from getting elected. Nevertheless, by the nature of the condition of young people in Nigeria which is characterized by hopeless despondency arising from reinforced unemployment, disillusion, suffering and the complete dissociation and alienation of governance and policy from this helpless race, youth involvement in any election must go by fielding candidates from the rank and file of this hopeless race, ones that emerge, are formed, developed and forged out of the crucibles of the neglect they have suffered.
As has been said, youth movement is not an electioneering carnival. It is a social constant, necessary, like the breath in our nose. Young people themselves will identify their place and role in the polity, define it and fashion their ideals of redirecting the ship of our society from the raging gale of maladministration. These movements will emerge from the body and soul of the youths, and not handed over to them like birthday gifts by some benevolent, selfish old bulls.
Written by Deji Adesoye.
Adesoye is a commentator on Public Affairs.