Bringing About Change Through A Generational Tectonic Shift – Tony Abolo

The Oasis Reporters

January 2, 2021

Let me open my conversation on the above topic with four significant quotes, that to me, sets the agenda of the key aspects of this all important discussion.

Coming from the upheaval of the #EndSARS, it is incumbent on us as older Nigerians to look at the long trajectory of history in order to give courage to you the young ones, and situate it all in the context of our national history and give some guides as to how we all can cross the present Red Sea and get either all of us, as a presumed nation or perhaps whatever fragment is left of it, to the promised land – the place of peace, justice, equity, prosperity and pride, which I believe is the dream of all young Jaycees, as well as all young men of goodwill within the geographical space called Nigeria.

Ironically, the #EndSARS protests were dramatic enactments of the second verse of Nigeria’s national anthem which places the burden on the youth to build a nation of peace and justice.
“Oh God of Creation
Direct our noble cause.
Guide our Leaders right.
Help our youths the truth to know.
In love and honesty to grow.
And living just and true.
Great lofty heights to attain.
To build a nation where peace
and justice shall reign”.

Second Verse, National Anthem
My first quote is –from KARL MARX, the revolutionary author who wrote the DAS KAPITAL – a manifesto for Communism –

Moribund Societies create their own morbid gravediggers.
Revolt against injustice is not (only) honourable (but) IT IS IMPERATIVE – KARL MARX

And another quote from – Jerry Rawlings
People who are not defiant,
Cannot defend their freedom – Jerry Rawlings

And from Obafemi Awolowo:
The Rich and the highly placed in business, Public life and government are running a Dreadful risk in their callous neglect of the poor and down trodden – Obafemi Awolowo.

And from Al Jazeera
If you do not upset people, you are not saying anything. Al Jazeera.

My dear fellow Jaycees, today is a day for deep thoughts and raising the bar of our collective energies. No matter the misgivings and misinterpretation of the #EndSARS event, no matter whether there were unseen hands that propelled the monumental events of #EndSARS, it remains in our historical accounts, that some youths gathered in towns, around the country even if it was mainly in the South to chant- End Police Brutality and above all, End Bad Governance.

No one except the beneficiaries of an evil system that has stuck for sixty years in Nigeria would say, we are all not ashamed of the kind of leadership that we have experienced in Nigeria, since independence.

And hence, you the under 40 in the Jaycees have been invited to be specifically trained and nurtured in leadership so that upon attaining the mandatory exit year of 40, you can go and make – the fellowship, necessary to create a positive change. Much more than ever, a radical change is needed in Nigeria. And you as Jaycees have to lead that change. That is our mission. Nigeria is in a bogged hole in the sands. It does not have the capacity to get out of the hole. And hence we must then discuss – How do we bring about change?

What is change, anyway ? How can the youth use the matrix of Leadership to help to organize self, or any organization they find themselves?

How and why are the youth the only assets we have to bring about the dynamic change that we talk about? It is in that sense that we talk about picking up the baton of leadership from the adults to the younger generations in an orderly manner and by training, acquire cognate experience. And how can that change, given the rot Nigeria is in, be made, a radical right about turn, a metanoia, a radical change, hence I talk about a tectonic shift?

The journey we are asking you to embark on is not one you should consider yourselves as pioneers. Trying to upturn a system and make it function and benefit everyone is a journey people of your age had undergone years ago.

As far as I remember, the mother of Fela, Madam Funmilayo Ransome Kuti revolted against injustice. You have heard of the Aba Women Tax Riots in the 1929. More recently, what the #EndSARS sought to achieve, an Hausa politician, Aminu Kano who formed the People’s Redemption Party, sought for in the emancipation and education for the Talakawas, the poor people of the Hausa stock against the intransigence of the Fulanis and the old Nigerian People Congress, the NPC.

It did not succeed in the 60s, 70’s and 80’s even when Balarabe Musa and Abubakar Rimi went into the PRP and engaged with its philosophy and struggles. Balarabe Musa was in the struggle until he passed on, some weeks ago. Even Awolowo, from his young age and his formation of Egbe Omo Oduduwa, wanted to upturn and better the Nigerian system. He struggled and lost, until Ojukwu labeled him, the President Nigeria never had. And even Odumegwu Ojukwu himself, even if he fought the civil war and sought a Biafra Country, before the war, while he and other military officers were renegotiating Nigeria, he was a pioneer in the struggle for restructuring, back in 1967.

And to bring the history more recently, in 2001 a club of young persons in politics, among whom was Donald Duke, got together to form a National Integration Group (NIG) in order to have young persons stir our politics with a national vision and vigour. Making a critique of it, the famous Arthur Nzeribe said the (NIG) had neither a succession plan nor did it fall under any known theory of political association or agitation, as it was a cheap and defeatist idea

And in that same year 2001, Segun Awolowo, in company of Olisa Agbakoba, Abubakar Umar, formed the Progressive Action Movement- PAM-a movement, Segun said, stood for equity. And to quote Segun Awolowo as to why he drove the
Many young Nigerians who simply stick to their professions and Businesses, leaving politics out there, failing to realize that the Politician would have a great impact on their lives. I am also guilty of this as we all went out voting (for the party) AD, not minding if it was a goat that (was) put down for a particular office. If the right people don’t get into politics, the wrong people will always be there. In view of this, P.A.M. is therefore trying to nurture and promote the emergence of the successor or generation in politics which has been forestalled by the long years under Military Rule

A young man, then Richie Rich, as he returned from America in 2002, in an interview in This Day was very blunt. Listen to him
“Look at this country. It is in a mess” Nothing works ….
I want young people to take over. It is necessary, the old men, have nothing to offer. They have had over 30 years (as at then, but now (60years I should add) of trying. That is why we are still where we are. There is nothing new they can do. They have nothing new to tell us. We need a new generation of leaders who are ready to work hard. This country needs all the young people, I can get“

And if you are dismissive of Richie Rich’s statements, an elderly Emmanuel Ijewere who back in 2001, was the President, Nigeria Institute of Directors (IOD) responded to then Governor, Central Bank, who wanted older persons as CEOs of Banks, said- Old age does not mean relevant experience.
And Mr. Chika Mbonu who was then 36 years and the MD and CEO of now defunct Citizens International Bank Limited, said, in his own reaction to age bar in becoming a Bank CEO, said – Efficiency and age are poles apart.

At this juncture, let us turn our minds to the often argument as to – Are older better or younger better? To answer this question, I would save myself, my personal thoughts and refer you to a philosopher, Professor Douglas Anele of University of Lagos, and Associate Professor John Edemode of AAU, Ekpoma.
Writing in the Vanguard in 2001, Professor Anele says –
Many of the people in Obasanjo’s cabinet are over 50.
They are spent forces and do not have fresh ideas about how to do serious battle with the pulsating problems of the moment. Furthermore, the younger ones amongst them are learning fast, first class lessons in ineptitude, after all when the master cow is eating grass, her calves watch her.

The glaring poor performance of the Federal Government is the fruit Nigerians continually reap from the tree of recycled materials in Government”

“I am appalled by Afikuyomi’s endorsement of the notion that a leadership of the under 50’s can without question do better than what we have at the moment. Now it is true that youth can confer on one, a vibrancy and zeal for work which can be lacking in old age. But there are glaring instances of young men and women who have displayed nauseating ineptitude either as lawyers, Doctors, Accountants, Engineers, Lecturers, and Politicians etc.

The bulk of Nigerians in the notorious 419 ( and now yahoo yahoo) business are under 50 and a large proportion of youth are so lazy and morally warped that it will be a miracle, if they perform better than the older generation, when the youth themselves eventually dominate leadership”

Associate Professor John Edemode, takes a very sanguine view as he, writing on the conditionalities for Youth Ascendancy in Nigeria, in Afenmai Heritage Magazine. He writes:
I believe that the Youth will be calm with having a greater voice and visibility in the public and private productive spheres of our national life.
We must recognize and accept that there are no Universally acceptable, applicable and efficient, predetermined method of managing youth issues.

Every nation, and its constituents must exhaustively assess specific youth issues from the society / culture in terms of its strengths, weakness, threats, potentials and overall objective. That objective should suffice for the moment, but should not jeopardize the prospects and interests of successive generations of youth or any other section of the society.

Having now stated the two sides of the argument, we must begin now to look at our peculiarities in Nigeria. The Natural process of acculturation and socialization is that the older persons possess society’s heritage, wisdom and foresights by training, mentorship, discipline and institutional frameworks, which they pass to the younger generations and they in turn pass the baton onwards.

However, in our case, we have had rupture and dislocations particularly in our ascendancy structures, as to how people become tenders and the long years of military rule. Then there is the unseen hands of an ethnic supremacy agenda which neither allows the country to cohere or unite, nor allows social mobility. We have had years of such dismal leadership of such a shame, that countries that were our peers in 1960 like Brazil, that is where Nigeria is going now to borrow $2.1 billion dollars in 2020. Indonesia and Malaysia that came to NIFOR near Benin City to buy palm nut seedlings, now has a net worth of over $183 billion dollars, exporting animal and vegetable oil, fats etc.

Compare that with our $12 billion export of crude oil in 2019. We have banditry, herdsmen who occupy the highways; a Federal Government unwilling to lead or incapable to defend the populace, more so now that the police are hardly ever available; unemployment and underemployment are at dizzying heights.

We are in a second recession in 5 years, which is like all the years of Buhari have been spent going backwards. The GDP of the economy has shrunk to about – 3.2%. There is very little light in the tunnel. The true story is that the country is in a chaos – disunited, in a permanent agitation, with even the Northern Elders Forum openly calling for the President to resign.

Can the youths now come in to the rescue? The question then is what kind of youths? Built around what values and ideologies? How should they go about remaking the future? Because, the past is a wasted generation, we cannot but ask the youth to stand up and press forward. Should it be through politics, innovation, enterprise, private sector, government or through what route?

For me, the kind of youths I see eager to jump in to rescue are young persons without the inhibition of colonialism, Military rule, old ethnic hatreds and divides – the today youth who want to stand and be counted as tomorrow’s men and women”.

Can the Jaycees offer you that space – to build a future of possibilities and have the wherewithal to make positive change ?
The conditions required are strict and tough and is a long list. First, you must be in the Vanguard of translating #EndSARS into a vision and movement – The Obama type, the Yes, We Can Movement, in a big bold relief. We need a critical mass of change makers. Without a strong and determined movement, you cannot make a dent in the encrusted rot and decay that is the Nigeria system.

Second, you must be an educated and knowledgeable person. This is more than having a certificate or a degree. Most of you do not read. And when you read, does it get into analytical and critical thinking, such that a new idea is formed?

We are in need of ideas – new ideas, not a rehash of old ideas that has gotten Nigeria into a hole. You see other nations with brilliant ideas that reshape their society. For example Mohammed Bin Makhtoum saw a desert and some streams. He converted it into the wonderful space, called Abu Dhabi. Such are the radical ideas we need, if Nigeria is to become something else.

Singapore through visionary leadership became a first world nation, under Lee Kuan Yew within 30 years.

Today China does not send its youth to Europe or America to study the usual, Engineering, Mathematics, Economics. They are training their youth in Artificial Intelligence, Algorithms, Machine Learning and Robotics.

Where do we stand? Do you read? Do you study? Do you have knowledge, with which you can compete in the global space? Readers they say are leaders and leaders are readers. So, if you want to lead, to make a change, to evolve ideas, you must be a constant reader, a learner, a critical thinker, a person of ideas. Nigeria is where it is since 1950’s. We have not moved or advanced beyond 1950. Is that your idea of the future?

And speaking of Reading, Reflections, Critical Thinking and the role of ideas – IDEAS rule the world. Ideas determine the direction of any nation, willing to make a change.

But how do ideas come about? They come from reading, reflections, debates, discourses, brainstorming and the creative energies of leadership with which to prevail with leading ideas.

You must then be an open minded person, ever willing to listen, ever willing to learn, to interact, to rid your mind of prejudices and old ideas and not be stuck in ideologies, old belief systems, culture, history and sometimes religious beliefs. And if you listen, the muse will inspire you with insightful ideas.

Thirdly, you must understand the theory of social change. How do societies move from where they used to be, to where they seek to be or beyond where they could be. It is the study of “Metanoia” or Catastrophe Theory.

Defining Catastrophe Theory, Alexander Wood Cock and Monte Davies in their book of same title, say – “Catastrophe Theory is a controversial new way of thinking about change – change in the course of events, change in an objects shape, change in a systems behavior, change in ideas themselves”.
“The theory is controversial because it proposes that the mathematics underlying three hundred years of science … have encouraged a one sided view of change …. But there is another kind of exchange, change that is less suited to mathematical analysis ; the abrupt bursting of a bubble, the discontinuous transition… the qualitative shift in our minds. It challenges scientists (social and physical) to change the way, they think about processes and events in many fields“

Fellow Jaycees, Ladies and Gentlemen, The #EndSARS was an “abrupt bursting of a bubble” in the classic definition of catastrophe Theory, with its major demands of
Ending police brutality
Fixing bad infrastructures
Reducing the carnage of herdsmen attack
Reduction in the cost of governance
Reduction in the salaries of political class
Demands that were voiced after 60 years of Nigerians tolerating utter nonsense and they were voiced not by adults who have endured the shenanigans in government, but the youth, children of, in the main, the direct victims of bad governance. Corroborating the events of #EndSARS as a Metanoia, a radical change and a catastrophe event, writing in ThisDay under the column – This is Nigeria, Salewa Akomolafe titled her write up under the Caption – #EndSARS, A TURNING POINT FOR CONTEMPORARY NIGERIA? She writes that “It was a civic activism of an unusual kind, of near monumental proportion, it was a semblance of the beginning of a genuine revolution – without bloodshed”. If only we had a democratic regime, a listening, empathetic and a thinking political class !!
Fourthly, there is a need for a wide scale reading – not the narrow reading in your discipline, but multi-disciplinary reading for a greater understanding of a complex and interconnected world, as well as history and the trajectory of progress.

Quoting the famous Philosopher, Douglas Anele of University of Lagos, writing in November 29th, 2020.
“Quality of Leadership has grown progressively worse since Achebe’s books (on Leadership and the Trouble with Nigeria) were published …. Nigeria is ruled by men (and few women) whose Minds are bereft of deep knowledge and wisdom derivable from great literature, of relevant pragmatic ideas, policies and efficient implementation strategies that can transform the country from the poverty capital of the world into Africa’s version of Japan or the United States“

And hence my Fifth recommendation is the Salon Model. How did Europe move from the Dark ages, from the Agrarian Revolution, to the Industrial Revolution, to the Age of Enlightenment, to the Renaissance, to the Computer and Internet age and now to the Fourth Revolution age of Artificial Intelligence?

It was all due to (a) a great emphasis on education and knowledge and the salon culture. The Salon culture was the gathering of minds at a coffee shop, along the street where men and women debated issues, controverted ideas, reshaped ideas and forged new ideologies and societal nuances.

How did the old Athenian and Grecian Societies evolve the concept of Law, Political Governance, Separation of Church and State and idea of Democracy- it was through debates at the Acropolis and in the Athenian public arena.

But what goes on in our Nigeria and amongst the Youths? Where do you all gather to engage in robust debates and exchange of brilliant ideas? Instead of the Salon model, we gather at drinking bars and night clubs, eating Nkwobi and pepper soup, drinking, gossiping, arguing in blind ways and never contributing to society and knowledge.

So how would Nigeria of your dream ever come about? Can we adopt the Salon thinking model? Never act like the older generation.

Sixthly, you all need to learn to avoid Nigeria’s and particularly Youth’s existential threat- STUPIDITY.

Hence you must learn Professor Cipolla’s 5 Laws of human stupidity. Stupid people, Professor Cipolla explains, share identifying traits. They are
Are irrational and
Cause problems for others without apparent benefit to themselves, thereby lowering society’s total well being.
You may agree with me that for sixty years, 95% of our politicians belong to that class, stupid people. There are no defenses against stupidity, Cipolla argues, but then he adds, that the only way a society can avoid being crushed by the burden of idiots, is for those, the non-stupid, to work much more harder to offset the losses of their stupid brethren.

The question then is, are you ready? If you are, it then means those of you the non-stupid, must raise your IQ, through strength of quality education, raise your capacity to abstract and think, be creative and hardworking and raise the bar. It is human beings who land on the moon and walk in space, so why not you?

If not, concludes, Professor Cipolla, the Country goes to hell. May we then learn from the wisdom of scholars and intellectuals, he concludes, to save ourselves from the stupid, existing within all strata of our political leadership.

For all these encouragement and challenges, I thoroughly realize how the odds are stacked against young persons in Nigeria

(1) The structure of Nigeria today is a permanent and perennial source of conflict. Many of you ask, is this a Federation, a confederation of States, a Fulani Northern oligarchic nation, a theocratic State and Is this a nation?

(2) How come we keep recycling the old and redundant people in our politics?
(3) Is Nigeria modeled around an almajiri, begging bowl, 16th century Zakat wasteful spending country

(4) Will we ever be modernizing into a 21st century or leap frog into a 22nd century nation, such that the country expands and can absorb its over 60million youths and their creative energies ?

(5) How come we never are ever lucky with a really bright and educated Leadership?

(6) How come we never have transformational leaders in the mould of Mohammed Ibn Makhtoum of Abu Dhabi ?

(7) Why are the elders, adults and Nigeria so full of greed and bereft of viable ideas ?

(8) Why is corruption the only virtue in all of us ?

(9) Why is a particular ethnic group in Nigeria unable to see beyond bloodletting, greed, power grabbing and unending ethnic supremacy wars?

(10) Why are very many unproductive, parochial and hardly literate people placed in high positions of authority?

(11) Why is the simple logic of Restructuring so difficult to understand?

Reduced to its barest minimum, it is that each ethnic group should share its own space, undisturbed by others which is merely a human desire for space, peace and a self defence circumference

(12) Why is there so much abrogation of freedom of speech and intolerance of other people’s opinion by the political class. They seek to force their ideas down the populace throat.

Why? Why can I not, as a free human being, an entity created by God to have free will, why can I not express myself, albeit, within the ambit of law?

Repression brings laziness, being less critical and being not creative, the curse of our lives under the Military.

(13) Why is the political class so enmeshed in tribalism and nepotism?

(14) Why do the nepotistic leaders select unmerited favours to give to only their own ethnic groups?

(15) Why is there never justice in the land? and the good quality of the true human spirit created by God, be allowed to soar ?

(16) In a country of 206 million plus people, why is there no level playing field for many to fulfill their God given potentials? Why selective favours and waivers and privileges for just a handful?

In the backlash of all my 16 questions, is there room today or tomorrow for the today youth to rise, shine and lead?

I have some suggestions. First, you must break the circle of inertia. Today, it suits them to prevent national circulation of ideas, talents and total freedom, via ethnicity and religion. You must break though the cordon of their deceit. You must network. You need a network of young people who would re-enkindle nationhood ideals, friendships, talent and business exchanges and give vent to prove humanity at its best. There then must be social mobility.

Why must you be a young person needed in Yobe or Bayelsa or Oyo or Sokoto and you cannot move about because of a crude ethnicity rule of being circumscribed to a State where you are born?

Do you know it is one of the reasons for youth unemployment? We are not spreading talents or opportunities. And because we do not network freely, we are all bound in our ethnic cocoons. We must break out. The NYSC and Unity schools were the earlier attempt to build networks, but the adults and ethnic politicians destroyed the fabric. We must find our way back.

Second: The Youth must begin to learn the art of power. Should it be by political participation or by forming your own political parties?
Even if there is Tinubu, Tambuwal, Umahi, Amaechi, Atiku Abubakar, El Rufai-, you all must move to define a new politics. Your best bet is via crowd funding. If 4 million youths take that route, build up your networks, raise at least N500.00 each, how much is that?

You can no longer take the back seats in the game of power. But must it be 2023 or should you infiltrate the today political parties? Or should it be a ten years or twenty years strategic game plan?
Should you take over the church societies? The socio-cultural groups? The Local Governments? Power at the State level and ultimately at the centre – that is, if Nigeria survives? Or should you take over at the State Assemblies levels or Federal Legislature and ultimately the Presidency? Power is never given. Be then ready to contend with the greedy and never say die, today politicians.

Or should the route to power be at the level of high tech and the private sector, in which case you could be the future Mark Zuckerberg or Jack Ma of China, a kind of the model of young, rich bunch of young men who are wealthy and visionary who dictate the direction of national politics.

Then comes the core questions, what kind of leadership would the crop of new vibrant, tech savy, brilliant and wealthy youths give to the nation, other than the same, the same as the rot we now have?

You must then purge yourselves of all the negative and nihilistic values which have dragged Nigeria down and kept it at the bottom of the ocean of poverty and nothingness.
You must develop beneficial ideologies that can create a nation’s re-birth. You must change your attitude. You must change your work ethos. You must be a highly productive corps. You must develop new values, values that build a rapidly changing society- not the get rick quick syndrome, not the hushpuppy culture, not the yahoo yahoo syndrome, but values of sincerity, integrity, hardwork, self transformation, values of national cohesion, where all energies from the North to the South, from the East to West are harnessed for a social purpose,, values for a national transformation.

You must be ready to ask, how can we re-make our tomorrow? China that is a superpower began its new trajectory from 1979, under Deng Xiaoping. Japan that was a leading Asian Tiger nation, changed in about the 17th Century, when all the old people in leadership decided to relinquish authority for the youth-in what is referred to as the Meiji Restoration. A new Nigeria is possible.

We need a critical mass of young people who validly and genuinely reject today’s status quo, who envision a brighter and better future for themselves and their children and grandchildren and who are willing to create, a new country and a world of unending possibilities.

That is the paradigmatic and tectonic shift that will lift Nigeria to end the vacuous and empty dreams of Nigeria 2020, Nigeria 2030, Nigeria 2050, Nigeria 2060; dreams that are neither structured nor are determined to succeed. It is possible with a new set of networked and determined youth. That is my challenge to everyone here today.

I will end with the words of Esther Agbaje, a young Nigerian-American who just got elected in November 2020 into Minnesota House of Representatives as she viewed the import of #EndSARS and how the youth can rise from the ashes –
All of us as young people, we have power within ourselves. We should not let anyone diminish us and we should make sure we are moving up. We should also open the door for the young people behind us. When we keep hope alive, and keep striving, we will reach our dreams, in one way or the other, together.

I believe so too. I thank you all

Jaycee Senator Tony Abolo
National President 1980/81

Greg Abolo

Blogger at The Oasis Reporters.

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