Chude Jideonwo: Before the buzzwords, young Nigerians were on to something!

by Chude Jideonwo

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*This piece was first published in the Nigerian Dialogue in 2011

Just like Greenland before it, TY Bello’s latest inspiring offering ‘The Future’ has caught on like wildfire. Yet again this one woman squad has dismantled many of the assumptions – that female artistes don’t succeed because there is some in-built bias against them; that soulful, meaningful music will not sell or will only sell in a particular elite psychographic. Or that a song about Nigeria will not become a pop culture hit.

But that is as far as the similarities go.

Unlike Greenland, The Future doesn’t speak a general message to a general audience – it speaks of, and maybe to, a specific group: “We are part of this.”It shows an evolution in TY’s vision as well as it shows the new reality: that young people are changing Nigeria. They might have neither political nor financial power, but they moved the rug under the feet of those who do while the latter wasn’t watching. And they have changed the way the game is played.

Six years ago now, myself and two friends came together bound by a common experience and a common vision. We were young people, emerging into our own at a time when democracy had just returned. We sensed a new spirit, a new pride in being Nigerian, and a new hope for the future. We couldn’t define what it was, we couldn’t predict where it would go, but we knew that it was here, and that, to maintain that momentum, we had to drive it.

We didn’t know, and couldn’t have known that we were indeed on to something – on the cusp of a greater revolution and a movement.

It is here.

These days, everyday, you hear of the African youth bulge, the power of the youth demographic, the possibilities of a young electorate as well as a young labour force. These days, I am able to paw through facts, figures and statistics that define exactly how this trend started and where it leads – and the positivity it portends for a continent direly in need of fundamental change. When we started out on our mission, we didn’t have those facts or these figures, when we started to move against the tide, we didn’t know for sure if it would work or not – but, powered only by passion for country, we knew we were on to something.

At the time when we claimed The Future, when Fela Durotoye began to speak of a New Nigeria, and Toyosi Akerele began to command the youth to Rise, when we embraced the spirit of Naija as a generation, when ‘Gbenga Sesan began to speak of a paradigm shift, and when an army of Nigerians everywhere from Niger to Owerri began to organise a stream of trainings, conferences, seminars, workshops and talkshops focused on a Nigeria of our dreams, without precedent whatsoever, we knew we were on to something, but even we didn’t fully see its dimensions.

When the elections came this time around therefore, it came to an electorate that was ready and prepared. We had had half a decade of practice, half a decade years of making change happen in our little corners in our little way. All this band of accidental change makers, and accidental activists did was simply channel their passions towards electoral change.

We are a different kind of Nigeria.

We don’t leave activism to ‘activists’. This is the generation that eats and drinks change for a living, which has found a way to combine earning a living with earning change. We understand that working for change is not a series of activities, but a lifestyle and a culture. We will party, we will pray, and we will push for change.

This is not a generation that will leave the fight to a particular group of people, a particular timeframe or a particular space. This is a generation that will fight whenever, wherever and whatever – whether from the cubicles in the bank where they work, or combining it with running their small and medium businesses.

Thanks to Mark Zuckerberg and others – who understand this imperative and who belong, on a global sphere to this generation – that has become not only very possible, but inevitable. With your Blackberry you are an election monitor, with your Facebook account you are alternative media.

Something has given. It is officially no longer cliché. As former minister of education, Obiageli Ezekwesili first assured myself and my friends four years ago – and that phrase has stuck with me ever since – this is the Turning Point generation.

This, the new Nigeria.

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Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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