This article was prompted in the main by the cynical and pathetic attitude Nigerian youth have adopted in their response to the grave attenuation of ideals of good governance in recent time, particularly the discovery of unlimited amount of money in different national currencies and in the most unlikely of places. In response to a particular senator’s infantile taunts of his imaginary enemy and desecration of the sanctity of learning, Nigerian youth were simply churning out videos parodying the said lawmaker. When huge piles of money were being discovered in septic tanks, cemeteries and uninhabited places, Nigerians, on the social media, simply came up with one cynical post about a school offering various certificates on whistle blowing ranging from Diploma to PhD.
Rather than being amused, these responses got me angry. And I have quite expressed this anger on my social media platforms, in addition to advocating for mass action to redress this debauchery perpetrated by politicians in the name of governance.
In this contribution, I have adopted a title that speaks to us all but directed the content towards the youth. The reason for this is not far-fetched. While the youth ought to be at the forefront of the change movement, logic and reality dictate that social change could be triggered by any agent but for it to have far-reaching implications, it will necessarily involve a large number if not majority of the people.
On a deeper reflection, it appears the youth of this country are patently marooned and this has stripped them of direction and purpose. As a matter of fact, they can neither contemplate nor grasp their identity and the historic role expected of them at a time when the nation itself is grappling with existential challenges as now.
My advocacy for mass action is not in anyway misplaced because that is one of the vital means through which the people could re-direct the compass of democracy when it is malfunctioning as we have in Nigeria today.
Historically, the youth has always been the vanguard of social change in many a society. Any alteration in the social order in the society is termed a social change. Sociologists and social psychologists are unanimous about this view on social change. When this change involves the power dynamics in the society in a significant way, within a short period of time, and when it includes people rising up against authorities, political scientists will call it revolution. The two concepts reinforce each other.
Nigerian youth must learn to unlearn the state of stupor they have been consigned by forces not exactly of their making which though, they have the capacity to alter if they have the will. But, having the will is also predicated on several factors, chief among them is education.
Demonstrating helplessness and hopelessness in the face of challenges detrimental to both individual and corporate existence is pessimistic and self-defeatist and it is an option we as today’s youth should abhor.
The way things are presently, Nigerian youth are now second-class citizens and inconsequential demographic in the nation sociopolitical matrix. This to me appears to be our own choice as people are generally defined by the choices they make in life. When important national issues are thrown up, rather than positively engage the system, we manifest what psychologists called regression. We turn to comedians and clowns; yell and rant on the social media and wait for the next horrendous revelation. Imagine the number of video clips that parodied Dino Melaye’s gibberish on his certificate scandal. All produced by the youth. The vexatious WhatsApp post on acquiring various degrees on whistle blowing which prompted this article was probably authored by a member of our social demographic.
This is a pathetic response from a group facing serious existential challenges in a nation that care less about whether it exists or not. The predators in government do not take cognizance of our existence because we turn ourselves to their slaves and sing their praises even when they ruin our future. We do this because we want to identify with our religions, ethnicity or other social categories.
Nothing will change in the attitude of the nation towards the youth as long as the youth make itself inconsequential and irrelevant.Unfortunately, nothing will also change in the society if her most vibrant segment is uneducated, foolish, confused and docile. It is true that meaningful social change could occur in the society through the agency of the youth but that will be a youth demographic ready to seize destiny by the forelock and direct it in a way that will favour her as a social category and also edify the nation as a whole.
Those who colonised Nigeria were not old men in the departure lounge of their earthly sojourn. Those that fought for our independence were young men in their prime.
The coming of the colonialists heralded a social change as they upset the existing social order then. Young men were the vanguards of that social change. Lord Lugard was 42 years old when he became the High Commissioner of Northern Nigeria in 1900. Ten years earlier, that is, at age 32, he was the Military Administrator of Uganda. The amalgamation of Northern and Southern Protectorates in 1914 was simply a culmination of years of exploits and feats. This is not giving plaudits to colonialism but a reminder to us about the vigour of the youth.
Another social change of seismic proportions also erupted when Nigeria decided to say enough is enough to foreign domination. In the vanguard of that social change were young men like Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikwe, Tafawa Balewa, Ahmadu Bello Sardauna, Anthony Enahoro among other notable personalities in the nationalistic struggle for independence.
These men were not dancing ‘skelewu’, making a parody of Melaye’s video or the colonialists racial slur, nor were they turning serious national issues into jokes. They were in the trenches fighting for the freedom and survival of the nation. That was another epoch of great social change.
The military incursion into our polity though undesirable as we have seen from the retrogressive impact they have on our society, was also spearheaded by the youthful officers in that institution. If nothing could be credited to them as an achievement, they garlanded themselves with the honour of sacrificing their lives to maintain the seeming unity and corporate existence of Nigeria. Generals Ironsi, Gowon, Muritala Muhammad, Obasanjo, Yaradua, Danjuma, etc were all in their prime when they catalysed those social changes that shook the nation to its foundation.
What will our generation do for this country? Before we rationalise our lethargy, Nigeria was also facing grave existential challenges when these young men established their footprints in the nation’s history just as it is facing it now. The difference is in the form of manifestation of these challenges.
Lest we claim ignorance, I will identify three of these contemporary challenges and allow other people to add to the list. No country can grow beyond the vision and competence of her leaders. Who are those leading us? Are there ways we can improve our leadership selection process? Corruption is a cankerworm that will destroy the fabric of any society if not tamed. It is an existential challenge. How do we respond to this malaise? Do we praise those whose hands were caught in the cookie jar because they come from our own part of the country or share religious affinity with us? The question of how we can harmoniously live together as a corporate entity without suffocating ourselves, in common language, restructuring, is also another huge challenge. There are myriads of other challenges threatening the existence of this country.What are we going to present as our contributions to the development of this nation? This is a million dollar question for the youth of this country.
Olaniyi wrote from Lagos.