“There is nothing as powerful as a idea whose time has come
” – Victor Hugo
On a sweltering Tuesday afternoon in March 2010, over four hundred young Nigerians embarked on a rally in the nation’s capital Abuja. We marched from Eagle Square to the National Assembly, in what seemed to be a historic effort on the path of youths to reclaim Nigeria. It was a call for change, a bold statement that we’ve come of age and that the word ‘apathy’ is far from our vocabulary. At one point during the procession, a rainbow-like streak appeared in the sky. “See, rainbow!” yelled Chude, the rally coordinator, as he threw both arms in the air. The crowd responded with a cauldron of emotions as the symbolic gesture made by the good heavens reaffirmed our efforts to engage in the EnoughIsEnough youth rally. With renewed zest, we raised our placards, displaying several messages like
“Stop the Killing in Jos” and “Give us Light” which showed plainly the pent up frustrations and demands of a generation of young Nigerians.
Not even the presence of armed police men who were perched like vultures in waiting could dissuade us, for the cause for which we chose to fight was as much theirs as it was ours. We shrugged our shoulders, dismissing the possibility that we were putting ourselves in harm’s way. How could we have come this far, only to allow our courage to waver now? Most of us had arrived in Abuja the night before from Lagos – retreating was not an option. I couldn’t forget my mother’s warning: “I know I can’t tell you not to go, but please sandwich yourself in the middle.” When we tore through the human barricade of gun-toting guards who were sent to deny us access into the national assembly, a girl close by used me as her human shield.
The script behind the script
If any young person had to tell the Nigerian story of the last five decades, what would it be? We’ve been told of eight military coups, 30 months of civil war and political turmoil. We’ve witnessed religious and geo-political divides and a streak of missed opportunities, thanks to that monster called corruption. The story reads like a badly written script, one which we must not accept. The significance of this year’s independence celebration is that the next generation, on which the nation’s hopes are riding, will re-write that script, determining what we want the next 50 years to be.I present to you my generation: one whose major offense was being born in the geographical entity called Nigeria, whose dreams are deferred, and whose creativity is stifled. This is a generation set up for disaster – our inheritance is a nation that has been bled dry by greed, corruption and a recycled political class. In my generation, a good education is a luxury and not a right, and we’re treated in caverns called hospitals. My generation is being raised in an era where our values are skewed – idle minds have become the devil’s factory in society that couldn’t care less. My question is this: can we survive the tragedy? Can we possibly create a country than the one which has been forced into our hands?The stories that have characterized the last 50 years are disempowering to any youth. However, we must be a generation who thrives in spite of a failing government. We must take responsibility for the state of our lives and nation. Sure, there is plenty of blame to go around, but blame, no matter how justified, is a luxury we cannot afford. The duty to fix our broken nation – to re-write this tragic script – lies squarely on our shoulders. There is nothing more powerful than a generation whose time has come, and our time is here. History has shown that every society responds to the demands of its youth, so the onus of this change falls on us. We cannot afford to sit on the fence because, make no mistake, the system will sooner change us than we change it.
A great script requires an active imagination. We must dream without limitations. Nigeria will be a country whose people are patriotic; whose leaders are selfless and honest; a nation whose policies are people-centered and transparent, and whose public servants are committed to due process. I see a country where militants are the defenders of our unity, the rule of law is upheld and democracy is allowed to thrive. I believe there is a bright new Nigeria emerging in the midst of this chaos. Blessed are they that believe, but more blessed are they who commit themselves to bringing about this change. Blessed are those solitary bulbs who shine in the midst of a dark, cynical world.
(photo credit: pixhaus.com)