by Raymond Inkabi
“The fault, my dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves…” from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar
We have been cornered into denying and disputing the full range of possibilities for developing the #Youth. In fact, the political liberation of our youth is more often wholly suppressed under the spectre waiting for the right time, of inexperience, and of condemning the young to a precarious and alienating space in the day-to-day relations that hold our society together. The youth also think that the proper thing to do is to wait for a politician or political party to solve their exclusion from national life and to legitimize their call for affirmative action.
The truth is we don’t need their Grecian legitimacy. We are perfectly capable of being deciders of our own fate, which in this case we already are as we unite to support this cause. This is something that should not be disavowed, but acknowledged openly. We must rise to the task and find the terms for articulating what kind of society we the youths really want. This can be quite complicated, not addressing our deliberate exclusion in governance at all levels, implicitly reinforces the belief that the youth is not ready to be handed political power, and thus, cannot be trusted to lead. If affirmed fully and radically, #30PercentOrNothing will definitely lead to a liberated Nigeria, close to what Our Founding Fathers envisioned for us – a promise where every youth has an opportunity to excel as against the old order where we are told that decision has already been taken. And as patriots we are the future of this country. But with kind of response we are getting from our “predecessor-ever-present successors” I think there will be a lot of questions as to how quick will it be for this generation to be deciders of their own fate. Things are going to be faster and quicker than we are seeing now.
Why this Campaign?
Supporting ever-present gerontocrats to represent our interests as young aspiring persons is the least efficient and effective means of applying political power. The alternative, broadly speaking, is acting directly to represent our interests ourselves. Elections in this country are the means of perpetrating change. Politicians have been obsessed, and their eyes, fixated on them. The #Youth, demoralized and disempowered by doddering elite, cannot forge and wield political power – gerontocracy, I dare say is king. And quite a lot of energy is squandered by Nigeria’s youth debating the old question of whether or not and who to vote for in 2015. The answer, of course, is that it’s the wrong question. Because it is not not-voting that could take it away from them; reason they have power is, we placed it in their hands, we have consistently failed to apply it, deliberately, ourselves. And for the politicians, the question of who the youths will vote for is easy given the premise that many of today’s young minds and brains are herds and very unfortunately accomplices in the self-serving portfolios of the political class.
There’s a risk in crossing the street and
There’s a risk in not crossing the street… Martin Luther King Jnr.
We have long represented an important constituency for electoral mobilization in Nigeria. However, today, as the country faces an explosive “youth bulge” disproportionately burdened by under participation in the Nation’s politics, it’s important to note that including this demographic in leadership is becoming more important than ever before.
Many had wished for a politics that has maturity to balance youthfulness and gerontocracy, realism and idealism, to distinguish between what can and cannot be compromised. But can admitting the possibility that the “old breed” might sometimes have a point by snuffing out “new breed” be right? Others don’t even seem to understand the arguments between right and left, between young aspiring men, women; and the already tired old ruling class, or the difference between the PDP, APC and a for” all youths” #30PercentOrNothing advocacy for affirmative action. The critique is why won’t a 22 or 25 year old become a Governor, a State Commissioner, a Federal Minister, a Local Government Chairman or even an Ambassador? Why won’t a 30 year old become a President? Or should they reach melting age before they can aspire for such offices? Hell No! Thankfully, both the supporters and opponents of this campaign recognize the difference between laxity and action, of responsibility and irresponsibility, between those things that last, i.e. long-term and those that are fleeting-short term, and between inalienable human rights and then bestowed privileges.
We have long represented an important constituency for electoral mobilization in Nigeria. However, today, as the country faces an explosive “youth bulge” disproportionately burdened by under participation in the Nation’s politics, it’s important to note that including this demographic in leadership is becoming more important than ever before. And despite the much flaunted numerical importance and exuberance of this active population, very little is really known about the participation of Nigeria’s youth in politics.
Our society is not fair; but we cannot let that stop us. We are not all equal, and instead of decrying that inequality, we must work to overcome our disenfranchisement in the political processes of our nation. For us to be able to focus on getting power back in our hands, the terms themselves have to be set anew. To side step the entire issue of voting for old men who want to consolidate political power, and instead focus all our attention on getting elected ourselves. And on the alternative ways to apply our numerical power through #30PercentOrNothing might save everyone a lot of wasted energy, and unlock the vast potential dormant for so long in our communities, our social standing, relationships and ourselves.
The Strengths of this Campaign
I have wasted time – now time has wasted me… Goethe
It will be recalled that Rethink Nigeria on April, 1st, 2014 spearheaded advocacy for 30 percent #Youth representation in political appointments into public office at Federal, State and Local Government levels irrespective of the political party in power, to begin with the next electoral dispensation in 2015. A position it presented to Nigerians at the National Conference through youth representatives. As a national campaign, this has strengths going for it. Firstly, it addresses a subject that is already foremost online and offline in the public mind. We refuse to take accept the false political dichotomy presented by the media, handed down by doddering old men, or even the other false premise fed to us by traditional institutions – that we are the leaders of tomorrow. This campaign is not immune to radicalism or apathy. However, it must evade and transcend thoughtless dismissals and cynicism. #30PercentOrNothing declines to take sides, instead it raises entirely new provocative questions about the state of #Youths without being alienating or exclusively reserved for a specific political party’s members.
Secondly, #30PercentOrNothing is now global and local. We don’t have to try to get every activist to come to one city or state to demonstrate for this cause; on the contrary, this is a perfect time for people to act where they live – local communities, while feeling connected to the nationwide campaign. The forthcoming 2015 general elections is an event of national importance that will take place in every neighbourhood, an excellent opportunity and occasion for us to demonstrate a resounding push for #30PercentOrNothing affirmative action. The idea is to encourage youth participation in politics and practice the many ways we can take power out of our old ruling class, be they elected or unelected, and redistribute it to every willing competent and capable youthful hand through this campaign for affirmative action. However, one must note that, this call is not to gain control over others, but to attain control together of our country and determine our own lives.
Nationwide Call to Action: Don’t just [Not] Vote, Get Active [Stand for Elections]
We have longed refashioned society and rebranded politics leaving young men and women politically disenchanted and intellectually confused. In order to revert decades of youth marginalization, we must project our ideas, skills and youthful vigour in a fundamentally creative political manner that will generate a new society – because from social regeneration comes new social relations, and from new relations comes a new economic and political reality. This Nigerian is more open-minded and accepting to new logics and ideas, most intelligent and prepared. This new generation is burdened with the many problems that plague our Nation: Pollution, Insurgency, Corruption, Disease, National Integration, and Underemployment etc. They will have to be innovative and intelligent to solve these problems. The trampling of the youth, #30PercentOrNothing, The struggles, #30PercentOrNothing, the exoduses, #30PercentOrNothing and the tactical alienations #30PercentOrNothing. The longing of a #Youth, #30PercentOrNothing yet, only a few dare question this trend. And those who protest openly are accused of being paid agent provocateurs. While others, are told the need to allow for patience and understanding of the natural process of growing up.
Not-voting is the least effective strategy for having a say in society. You can decide not to vote any time election comes by, but it’s what you do every day that counts. Don’t abdicate your power to old so-called representatives – take responsibility for the ways we can change our country ourselves. Those who are totally disenchanted with participatory politics for the youths, who rule out #30PercentOrNothing, and instead want the continuity of the political status quo, can be rest assured that if we all apply our powers as #Youths, there won’t be need for complains and disappointments. The question of which old politician is to be elected to an office will become memories of the past. They only have power because we delegate it to them. A campaign for action puts power back where it belongs, in the hands of the Youths from whom it originates. #30PercentOrNothing
If you think you are going mad, you must be sane… Joseph Heller
Election Day is a flashpoint for many concerns and desires next year; #30PercentOrNothing is becoming one very important decimal. Hence, a need for a national campaign to take advantage of the 2015 election year to emphasize the power of the #Youth. The power of direct participation [#30PercentOrNothing] and to present capable youths as a viable alternative to gerontocracy. We all can make it happen if everyone in his or her own little way contests for an elective post, even if not successful at least the intent has been demonstrated and a message passed across. The need therefore, is for Nigerian youths to show the effectiveness of having #30PercentOrNothing inclusive governance as a right to make decisions without mediation or hierarchy, and as means to implement youth-friendly policies and create the kind of communities we desire. This should not be under-emphasized and must not be taken lightly. Those who wish to cast a vote, rather than be voted for, are welcome to do so; but we urge you to vote for a competent youth. I never doubted the incredible significance of this mission for youths. Not only is this, what motivated me to participate in the call, it’s also my reason for accepting to write a piece on it, and brace any challenge that may arise in the course of demanding for it. Rethink Nigeria, a political advocacy group of young professionals affiliated to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), through #30PercentOrNothing so far has been successful in calling for attention towards the plight of the suppressed youth. An affirmative action driven by the genuine frustration of young persons. For destiny sometimes depends upon the most trivial of decisions. And one day there will be no tomorrow. Every journey starts with but a single step. Let’s make #30PercentOrNothing a reality.
Raymond Inkabi, holds a Bachelor Of Technology, Degree (Hons), in Geography from Modibbo Adama University of Technology, Yola.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.