Open letter to Nigeria’s youth: How long will we continue to live in hell?

by Ibironke Oluwatobi


Dear youth of Nigeria,

I would like to start by mentioning that I write from no exalted seat. Neither do I make claim to have a seat in the realm of the highest wisdom.

I write from the position of an average Nigerian youth, a position I believe helps me see the true realities of the situation of the country. I try to clear the lens through which I view the country. I make my lens clear of personal interests, clear of tribal sentiment, clear of any of the influences that threatens to warp my nationalistic view. My conclusion, without euphemism and without making an attempt to polish what I see with words, is that the Nigerian society of today is a mess.

An observant Nigerian youth would find it agreeable that Nigerian institutions and systems have been rendered ineffective and unproductive. From our educational institutions that now prepares students to become unemployed graduates, to the deteriorating state of our health system. Electricity, security and jobs have become increasingly unavailable to average Nigerians. Religious institutions in the country have failed in their role of guiding adherents to uphold moral principles and virtues. A lot of our religious leaders are guilty of hypocrisy. Many of them partner with politicians to trade the vote of adherents for political favours and financial gains. The traditional leaders that we have, find it a useful tool to draw division lines between the ethnic groups. Their positions and influences are used to pursue their personal interests, against the interest of the nation. It is unfortunate that we can no longer trust our law enforcement agents with the law. Bribes and kickbacks have become unofficial additions to the pay pack of Nigerian workers, who use it to supplement their meagre salaries, that have now become mostly inconsistent. Our justice system cannot serve us justice because it has been hijacked by the powerful and influential. Those that keep the Nigerian law today, are those who cannot afford to break it.

In Nigeria today, our set of political leaders, making new promises of hope, are mostly the same group of people that robbed the nation in the past. The military era and our democractic experience has produced a ruling class composed of individuals, mostly of questionable wealth. These group of people have dominated the Nigerian political system, toughening the conditions against visionaries and forward-thinking Nigerians. Ideas in Nigerian politics are treated on the basis of power and money generating potential by politicians and political parties, while the national affairs are attended to sparingly. If you think differently, then Nigerian politics is not your place. Our politcs is mostly about how much money you have to spend, how many pockets you can fill, rather than your political ideology and philosophy. The Nigerian political sphere operates such that it is the avariciously rich but poor in vision persons that thrive in it. This is why the present composition of our political system cannot produce the kind of leadership that would advance the country. Whether it is PDP or APC, none currently has the right program and orderliness to advance Nigeria.

More than that, the problem of Nigeria is not only a leadership problem. The masses constitute a part of the problem. Often times we accuse politicians of bribery and corruption, but we fail to ask important questions like: who collects the bribe? Who collects election souvenirs and handouts from political aspirants to decide who to vote for? Who picks his favoured candidate on the basis of ethnic inclination? Who chooses to stay apolitical yet expects a working government? Who surrenders his/her right to choose his/her political leader, to religious leaders? We would find ourselves guilty of these things and see why the country is where it is today. Everytime I think of Nigeria, the words of Joseph de Maistre comes to mind. In his words, “every nation gets the government it deserves”. In the same context, the famous philosopher, Plato, said “the nation is what it is because the citizens are what they are.” Therefore we can conclude that Nigeria is a mess because we, Nigerians messed it up.

In all of the maladies of the Nigerian body, there is one common factor, and that is the fact that the national spirit is lacking. A lot of the identified flaws in the system have a negative subliminal nexus with the poor sense of nationalism among Nigerians. Looting, corruption, aloofness and other forms of retrogressive undertakings are common in our system because too many Nigerians do not have, or have at some point lost interest in the national course. The humongous wealth of a few and impoverishment of many is a consequence of the Nigerian individualism habitude. Most Nigerians would rather personalise the common wealth and let the nation take care of itself, but what you have when a Nation takes care of itself, is the Nigeria of today.

As the youth of Nigeria, it is unfortunate that we have met a mess but we should be encouraged by the fact that we do not have to dwell in it. To take up the painstaking task of correcting the system and reviving Nigeria, we would need to pursue a common national course. We should see the possibility of having a country with all her sectors functioning. We should see the possibility of having a country where facilities that supports innovation and creativity are in place. We should see the possibilty of making home a better place to be than abroad. We can aspire to the global standard, we can meet the standard and leave the standard to catch up with ours. We can make it such that you only have to be a star in Nigeria, to be a global star. We can make it easier for our dreams to come true and certainly, easier for our individual prayers to be answered. But first, we must unite in understanding and purpose. We must realise that Nigeria is not even a stable hell, but a worsening one. The more we continue in our old ways, the more the horrors.

Some Nigerians believe that the dawn would rise at the 2019 general elections, but the election would not produce progressive leadership in Nigeria. Our problem is a structural one not elections. We have conducted a number of elections in Nigeria, but the right leaders have not come to fore. This is not because elections are bad but because elections are about options. In Nigeria, we have always had to choose between thieves and benchwarmers. This is the reason elections in Nigeria have not produced the best quality of leadership. But being youths offers us a chance to do things differently. Our best chance of resuscitating Nigeria is to use a collective positive wave, taking advantage of the youthful population, to repress the pervasive negative tendencies in Nigeria. This means that not one person would change Nigeria, not just the President alone, it must be a collective effort. It is easier to correct the Nigerian system when there are good leadership options available across board. Then, the needless political rites, that are debt ladening, typical of the Nigerian system can be abandoned, for the right leaders to find their way into positions of power and bring ease to the lives of Nigerians. There is no better way of making good leaders than making one out of ourselves as followers. A respected man of the older generation once said to me, “when you have too many youth in your hands, not productively engaged, there is a problem.” At that point, I realized that greater problems are looming and in fact, as youth, we risk sitting at the centre of the same problems we are wailing about today, if serious corrective steps are not taken now. We need better leaders from our generation. It is our only way of changing from being potential problems to becoming solution providers. Nigeria is dying and we are its only hope.

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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