by Hemenseter Butu
It started in University of Jos, when I met some young men who were properly motivated and willing to do a new thing on the Plateau. We aimed to turn the world’s eyes to Jos, and advocate for peace while we had everyone’s attention. The ideas were fresh, cool, and doable. Unfortunately we never got to implement them, but we remained friends and years later one of those young men nominated me for the Young Aspirants Leadership Fellowship in Lagos organised by Young Stars Foundation.
I have always been a loud critic of the current national administration and, despite my clamour for doing, I must admit I did too little myself. That week in Lagos, I was reminded, urged, pushed even to reasons why I must do more. I discovered I was the incompetent one as I believed I had what it took to deliver yet I hadn’t taken enough reasonable steps, whereas those who suffered my criticism have been giving their all to the betterment or not of this nation day in day out. They make moves, scheme, plan and create history. No matter how bad I feel about their actions, they are moving and I, on the other hand, am not doing enough.
YALF reminded me to take a swipe at opportunities, it reminded me of the need to be the change we seek. That week in Lagos reawakened a desire to achieve increased youth inclusion in the decision making facet of our society, political and otherwise. Listening to speakers like Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa and Prof. Pat Utomi share their daily experiences I found one similarity. They all rose up and advocated for something they believed in. They didn’t just write about it, or tweet about it. They did it.
On the third night, we watched the movie “Amazing Grace” featuring the life of William Wilberforce and that movie was a blessing. It was filled with pointers, but for me the scene that sparked some old flame in me spoke to the effectiveness of turning a perceived weakness into strength. The Prime Minister told his friend Wilberforce, “we are too young to realize some things can’t be done, so we’ll do it anyway” That right there, my friends, is the beauty of youth. Youth is the time to jump at ideas, experiment, see what works, fail and learn. More importantly it is that time to dare, dare to dream and pursue those dreams restlessly, to push mountains, and cross oceans to achieve them.
As the fellowship week drew to an end, YALFers convened a mock legislative house and held plenary. Unfortunately It was riddled with the usual “Mr. Speaker, fundamental observation…..”
“Honourable members, point of order”
“Why are the principal members of the house from one geopolitical zone and not the other?”
Someone even asked for “celestial observation”
At first I was sad and, in a fit of rage, I stood up amidst the chaos that was about to ensue and berated fellow delegates, reminding them why we were gathered in the hotel in the first place, reminding them that we were the solution not the problem as their actions for the past one hour plus had depicted. But when the programme ended, after days of thinking, I realized what had happened, our actions were mimicking those of the legislature we’d become accustomed to. I remembered a scene in another movie “The American President”. Michael Douglas who played the character of President Andrew Shepherd told his friend and chief of staff that “….People don’t drink the sand because they’re thirsty. They drink the sand because they don’t know the difference.” The Nigerian youth is like the man in the desert, we’ve been so long afflicted with bad leadership that we can’t tell the difference, we assume their methods of leadership and legislation represent the right way to go about running the country. This kind of thinking and action is what we must discourage right now that we are still youthful.
No country ever becomes great by continually applying lessons from failed leaders, None! Neither do innovative corporations thrive from utilising pedestrian ideologies. We (the youth of this country) must come to a halt, take a deep breath and refuse to accept status quo. Our legislative houses cannot continue to be filled with members who only know to say “Mr Speaker, point of order….” without offering any meaningful contributions.
We cannot continue to learn from these types of models. Barring any hiccups to the current trajectory of our national politics, the next generation will have virtually no meaningful figure to learn from. Members of that generation, I’m afraid, are our children, and when they derail so woefully, stumbling blindly in the darkness of their time, we will be wondering where it all went wrong. Today our apathy exemplified by the siddon look, or rather siddon tweet, attitude is the first step to reaching this darkness, our inability to even offer competent individuals willing to take a shot at leadership positions also plays a part.
Finally, during my time at the hotel where we were hosted, I managed to come away with a few lessons. Lessons that have been silently growing in my heart. That the youth of this nation are both its solution and its destruction. The choices we make will determine what lessons we pass on to future generations, to continue with this culture of corruption and ambiguous campaign promises like “I shall fix security” and the like or to take a complete u-turn and actively pursue what I like to call “situation specific solutions.” The steering wheel truly is in our hands and the time to make that turn is NOW!
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.