by Gbenga Olorunpomi
This time around, the youth took centre stage, while the elderly and experienced listened and marveled.
Just over a week before hugely successful Future Awards Symposium, a similar event took place at the Muson Centre, Lagos. It was the 5th Annual Bola Tinubu Colloquium, with the theme, “Beyond Merger: A National Movement for Change, A New Generation speaks.”
This time, there was something unusual about the setting. The past four events had witnessed technocrats, foreign and Nigerian, analysing national issues and pushing forward solutions. This time around, the youth took centre stage, while the elderly and experienced listened and marveled.
On stage that day were names you wouldn’t expect to hear in a room full of politicians and government officials. There was Grammy Award Winner (in-waiting) Banky W; the fiery, yet eloquent, Kola Oyeneyin; the gentle and intellectual Myani Bukar; the banking expert in Femi Edun; and the gentle and insightful Hafsat Abiola Castello. They were there to give their parents something to think about and they did that and some more.
The star of the night was undoubtedly, “Mr. Sleeves Up” himself, Kola Oyeneyin. Maintaining a fine balance between the required respect for the elderly and dishing out the cold hard truth, Kola spoke with the combined passion of 68 million Nigerian Youth that have cried for the opportunity to be heard. He spoke on the subject, “The Responsibility of the Older Generation on the Younger Generation.” His words were laden with the stark reality of what is happening in the hearts and lives of young people and he delivered excellently on his topic.
The most unforgettable part of his speech was when he looked straight into Bola Tinubu’s eyes and screamed, “If this merger will be successful, young Nigerians must be part of this and part of it from the start! And failure is not an option!!”
He proposed that politics be made ‘sexy’ to attract young people to it. “Currently politics is dirty in Nigeria,” he said. He also said there was nothing wrong with Godfatherism. “We must encourage political mentors and positive political godfathers. Proper systems where the right people are nurtured and prepared for political office. There was a way some of the governors that are performing today were discovered – I don’t want to mention names – but that’s proper Godfatherism.”
Kola ended his wonderful speech with these words, “Chief Chinua Achebe said, ‘Nigeria is the way It is because Her Leaders are the way They are.’ The question is not whether the fathers and mothers in this room can; the question is whether the fathers and mothers in this room will. Thank you.”
That brought the house down! The standing ovation he got was thunderous. You could tell it was an Obama Moment. You all should watch out for that guy.
Then, it was the turn of my brilliant friend, Myani Bukar, a lawyer and a Development Economist. He is the Knowledge Management Adviser to the Governors’ Forum. Myani’s topic was, ‘The Issue of Citizenship, Identity and Conflict in Nigeria.”
He started by showing photos of wartime Nigeria, Rwanda, Côte d’Ivoire and Bosnia. There were ire similarities amongst the scenes and Mynai confirmed this, saying, “All of these crises are a result of conflict based on identity and access to public services, which is the subject matter of citizenship. For every one of them, fellow citizens killed each other because of the competition for access to resource.”
He also added that 88% of conflicts in Africa was based on identity.
In his submission, Myani made a firm case that the criteria for citizenship must be focused on the individual. Focus must be the equality of all individuals before the Law and not sub national groups or ethnicities and residency, not indegenship, should be the operational basis for citizenship and the indigene/settler divide should be operationally and legally done away with. He also asked that the constitution should be so amended.
He also took a stab at the current the federal character principle, saying that it should be overhauled. Land ownership systems ought to be looked into critically, he said, and the existence of institutions like Christian and Muslim pilgrim boards be discontinued.
He ended his speech thus, “On the Economic policy front, the rent state must be killed, paving the way for a multi-resource economy operational within a system of individual entrepreneurship and the development of the local economy. I recommend that we again revisit the recommendations posited here in 2010 by Prof. Hernando de Soto and specifically recommend that everyone here reads his book, ‘Why capitalism triumphs in the West but fails everywhere else.’”
Then, it was the turn of Banky W. His speech was, like his music: soulful, heart-warming and filled with hope. It had numerous punch lines that only a master songwriter could conjure up. He showed the audience photos of Dubai (where he had recently holidayed) in the 1960s and recently. He made a case that Nigeria could be as marketable and developed with the proper kind of leadership and dreams.
“I’m here because I’m a dreamer,” he said. “Everything I have now, that God blessed me with… was born out of my dreams. I dreamt of becoming a singer; dreamt of owning my own record label company, and other businesses. I dream of a changed Nigeria where each child, no matter the background has a dream of his/her own, and is given access to education, healthcare, and basic amenities in life to make those dreams come true.
“I dream of a changed Nigeria where the opportunities abound for anyone willing to work for them; where every man, woman and child is given a fair shot to avoid poverty and become a success at whatever they set their minds to do.
“I’m Banky W, and I stand for change. Do you?”
Last to speak was the Ogun state Special Adviser on MDGs and the daughter of Late MKO Abiola, Hafsat Abiola-Castello. Her voice, gentle and alluring, carried through the room and sharply focused the audience. She spoke on, “The Millennium Development Goals: Where are we in the race and how can we go faster?”
Although, the country is on track on four of the eight MDG, she said, three of the more critical ones were totally off track with one carrying a huge question mark.
“In Nigeria,” Hafsat said, “We have 10.5 million out of school, primarily in the North East and North West. That constitutes the largest body of children out of school in the world. Nigeria has 170 million people; we have countries like China, with 1.4 billion, also India with 1.1 billion but we have more children out of school than (both).”
Youth, not oil, is Nigeria’s most valuable asset, she said, and accelerating MDG attainment requires a functioning economy. She also said Nigeria’s window of opportunity is the imminent global food crisis which could make agriculture the “new gold commodity.”
“This is a golden opportunity to create wealth, employment, ensuring our children are educated, that the maternal and child health is improved by preparing to bridge the gap that China and India may create in global food supply,” she ended.
The event was chaired by Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, who had to leave early in the event while the Chairman of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mallam Sanusi Lamido, Sanusi, took his place. He responded to the speeches by encouraging the youth to get involved in politics and not wait to be invited.
“Politics needs to be more intelligent, more articulate, more issue-based, and I hope that these 68 million youths that we have will set the agenda, drive it and I will be very happy to vote for a 38 year old president in this country,” Mallam Sanusi said.
Presently, it was the turn of the Guest of Honour, Bola Tinubu. He thanked the speakers for provoking what he called “intellectual inquisitiveness.” He said he disagreed with the Mallam Sanusi, who had earlier challenged the youth to form their own party.
“Come and join us,” he pled. “With a wife like this, (pulling the beautiful Senator Oluremi Tinubu closer), is politics not sexy? Join us, it’s sexy here!”
At the end, there was a common agreement that the ACN and the organisers of the event knocked this one out of the park by handing over such a platform to young ones. They got it spot on by inviting the proper young minds with diverse experience to the Colloquium, which commentators say is now the biggest platform for discussing national issues.
For me, I think via this singular move, the ACN and indeed the merging opposition parties, have won a new set of young supporters for themselves. The 5th Bola Tinubu Colloquium came at the right time and the memories of the day will linger. I only hope all Nigerian youth will catch the opposition’s not too subtle moves to get more of them on their side and also make moves to be assets to them. Instead of adopting the comfy but self-afflicting ‘siddon-look’ posture, friends, let us encourage any move that will ultimately deepen our democracy and cause a positive shift in our land. Our chance is this merger and it is now!
Like Banky W, I also stand for change. Do you?
Gbenga Olorunpomi is a senior digital marketing strategist. He has over 5 years in the marketing communications business and has designed social media strategies for major brands like Coca-Cola and The Economist. He is experienced in the media, having worked for two years at one of the country’s biggest public relations firms as Media Relations and Content Manager. Gbenga is a Principal Consultant with Cyborg Nigeria. He is affiliated to the ACN. He tweets from @gbengagold
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.