It is now a cliche, but it is still true – this generation is different from the last, and there is much to celebrate
They will no longer patiently wait for salvation, they will enforce it.
By Stanley Azuakola
“NOTHING GOOD is happening,” declared an exasperated blogger in late 2009, at the peak of a very uncertain period in Nigeria’s checkered history. He was wrong. What he saw were the headlines: no jobs, no power, no justice, no end to labour strikes, and no president in sight. What he didn’t see buried in-between the tones of grim reports was the mustard seed of a generation that cannot wait.
All across the nation, young people are rising and taking their fate in their own hands, refusing to be limited by their background or the hard ground. They are GenerationNext (GeNex), a subset of young people under 40, defiantly poised to cross the many hurdles their own nation has thrust haplessly on their paths.
No one who encounters (or hears about) the effective advocacy of Toyosi Akerele, the uplifting melody of Ty Bello, the meteoric rise of Bilyaminu Shinkafi, the unflinching resolve of Ify Aniebo or the remarkable achievements of Chimamanda Adichie, can successfully pretend that nothing good is happening. Yet, even more remarkable is the fact that for every one of the above mentioned is a thousand others, nondescript and unremarkable for now. They will seek and knock and hustle and demand, but they cannot wait any longer and they will not be denied. In the midst of countrymen comfortable in mediocrity, GeNex are resolved to break into the pantheon of high flyers.
A resilient set
No other generation has had to endure the surfeit of disadvantages that members of this generation were born into. It’s true that man does not have a right to a life free of challenges, but does any group of people have the right to suffer these much disadvantages?
Take a pick of any heading – ease of doing business, security of lives and property, welfare of its people, availability and state of infrastructure, transparency – and chances are that Nigeria is ranked one of the poorest. GeNex recognise these challenges, it hurts them too; but it has not halted them. They see a dead end and make it into a bend. Gradually the economy is feeling the impact of their resilience – in entertainment, media, technology, medicine, advocacy, everywhere.
How are they different from generations past? Or indeed from some in their age bracket who would rather trudge like turkeys than take up wings? Five things distinguish them.
They want to make change happen. For them, being successful is more than just a ticket to fame or financial security. It’s about contribution and impact. Their passion is fuel for this purpose. They see a need and try to fill it. Money and fame follow the trail of their impact.
They know how to make the change happen. Gone are the days of idyllic passion devoid of competence. GeNex acquire the right skills, knowledge and competencies, recognising that potential atrophy and passions wane in an environment void of learning. Technology, whether it’s social media or crowd sourcing or plain old google, has provided the needed tools.
They have the opportunity to make the change happen. To do more than survive in Nigeria, one must realign his thoughts to see the glass for what it is: half full, rather than what it might also be: half empty. This is one reason why GeNex rise amid the seeming drought. They see opportunities where others see only futility. They do not wring hands and agonise; they think and create.
They have the disposition to make the change happen. They possess a singleness of purpose, and their march is blind to tribe, gender, religion, or even age. They may worship on Fridays or Sundays or not at all; and may bear anything from Adolor to Zainab.
They have the willingness to do what it takes to make change happen. For many in GeNex, life’s journey so far is a profile of commitment, courage, and creativity. From afar, they seem to live charmed lives but that’s only one half of the story. The other half is of sleepless nights and the thankless efforts. They do all that is required to make their dreams happen.
Beneath the headlines of old men postulating about the unreadiness of the youth to lead this nation and get things done, some young people are redefining what it means to be a Nigerian youth and attempting to create a whole different future.
“Nigerians are profoundly proud of their patience,” says Peter Enahoro in his hilarious masterpiece, How To Be A Nigerian, “and you can win him to lifelong friendship if you say to a Nigerian that you are grateful for his patient understanding.”
At last, a generation is rising that will prove Enahoro wrong. They will no longer patiently wait for salvation, they will enforce it. They are not patiently waiting for angels, aliens or aid to do that which they are sufficiently endowed to perform. A new story of what it means to be Nigerian is being written and GeNex is leading the charge. Y!