Opinion: The power of the Nigerian youth

by Jude Feranmi

As we celebrate the International Youth Day, in the midst of the activities and the partying and the conferences and the signing of new charters, one of the important tasks for us as youths is to really comprehend and appreciate how valuable we are, what offers we bring and how much power we have in contemporary society.

I am sure by now, you already have an idea of which events are holding in your city to commemorate the event or you are even speaking in one.  Unfortunately, there are very few ones where youths are given the platform to speak for themselves but listen to representatives of a generation that has failed and continue to fail. What we have which I like to think you agree with me are speakers who do not belong to the UN definition of that demography. But this is another topic for another day

Another thing you would find again is many youths jumping from one conference to the other or from one political party rally to another or from one twitter conversation to another without the knowledge of these things I mentioned above – How Valuable and How Powerful and in tandem with the proverbial adage that says, Until one knows the purpose of a thing, abuse is inevitable, I make bold to say that until youths globally know the value and the power that they have and can wield, abuse is also inevitable.

Let me tell you a story. I have spent the better part of the last 12 days in August in Edo State for the upcoming elections and I have had many experiences with youths all over the country and all over the state and they range from victim to useless to useful to very  useful to  hopeful.

In the end, it’s the stories of Chris Lugard, Bright Stone and Joseph Nnamdi that I want to share.        ( Real names withheld)

He is a grassroots personality in his ward and a final year student in a polytechnic. He has been used and dumped and called back and used and dumped again. He knows that without him, those who get elected and get to decide his fate and his daily living from signatures on their tables and the ideas they parade from their mentality about development, cannot get the support of his local community. So, he decides to use that as a leverage to buy the attention of those who need to get votes. What he offers is exchanged for a few thousands of naira and No recognition at the end of the exercise until another election that matters is on the way. He will not

Bring in Bright Stone. He is a student leader in one of the universities and a popular one at that, he is interested in the politics of his country as an instrument to changing the face of society, and by the time you have a 10 minute discussion with him, he has already quoted you two parables of Jesus Christ. He however knows that without bending to the reality that is money politics which you can go ahead to interprete as selling your influence for stipends, there is very little he can make happen. He is tired of the cycle of broken promises and is willing to volunteer himself for a movement that represents that but those who follow him, already accustomed to a status quo will refuse to be influenced by mere talk of a movement that will be different from the hundreds of movements that have delivered nothing. He concludes what he can do is insignificant.

Joseph Nnamdi is slightly different. He has seen what good governance is in other countries and has tasted the very results and dividends that liberal democracy can bring. He is passionate about his country and believes that a journey to replicating what he has seen has to be started. He has lots of ideas and brings them to the table. At the table where decisions are finally made, he is overrun by people who are old enough to be his father and his ideas are flushed into a closet of ancient mentality. He doesn’t need money to be motivated but an environment where his ideas can help shape society in a way that can replicate success in governance and politics. As a result of his lack of influence, he concludes also that there is little if nothing he can do.

Now, when we address the Nigerian Youth, we assume that they all fit into a one-size fits all category and by so doing, we make the mistake of a generation and  what Chimamanda Adichie calls the danger of a single story. In fact, when we go ahead to draw sharp lines in order to categorize them like my father would do – youths in town (non-graduates) and youths in gown (graduates), we still make the mistake of allowing for those who fall into both categories or fall into neither and so in the end, the conferences and the celebrations we go are just excercises and activities that have now become an annual ritual.

The stories of the gentlemen I mentioned above are stories of Nigerian youths who all have something in common despite their backgrounds, their statuses and their aspirations – they are valuable and powerful but cannot use it for the benefit of society.

It is the young ones that comes up with ideas of how to set up a campaign

It is the young ones that go door to door in mobilizing for change

It is the young ones that organize conferences and do the menial jobs of calls, sponsors, organizing and execution

It is the young ones who stand in the queue for hours just so he can get a voters’ card

It is the young ones who know what arguments to use to criticize state policy and the ones to proffer alternatives

It is the young ones who have the energy to carry out what needs to get done so results can appear irrespective of what happens

It is the young ones who lose their jobs when their ideas are left behind for a policy or a lack of it that grounds society

It is the young ones who suffers when anything gets banned, from okada to imports to hawking

In the end,

It is the young ones who get to decide who decides their own fate for the next election cycle.

It would seem reasonable to any such demography affected the same way that the youth demography in Nigeria is affected to come TOGETHER to tackle these issues when it is quite evident that what is needed to turn the tide is available right there and then. We are instead limited by the divisions and the machinations that those who understand this power have sowed into our midst and hindered by what looks like a blindfolding of our eyes so that we cannot see so much so that we might need apostle Paul to come and repeat his prayer to the Corinthians that their eyes of understanding might be opened. We are also stopped by obstacles of poverty and continued repression via all means possible manifesting in lack of jobs, religious and culturally backed relegation and psychological depression which are all intentional tools in the hands of those who feel threatened by the enlightenment of the average Nigerian Youth and the likely effects should it happen.

Replicate this scenario in every geo-political zone of the country taking into cognizance the unique features of each of the state, what you find is a generation in the dark partying and dancing away their lifetime without any inkling of thought given to a much needed leadership into light and renaissance.

Until this enlightenment happens and those who have seen the light whether with their inner eyes or their outer eyes can lead the rest into this light so that the value and the power that the Nigerian Youth has and can wield can be evident to a slight majority, our generation might also be sleepwalking into a disaster where it will then be rightly nicknamed by the one coming after as the generation that came, saw and did nothing.

Those of Us who insist that this MUST not happen will have to double our efforts.

_____________________

Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

Jude ‘Feranmi is the National Youth Leader, KOWA PARTY

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