by Ayo Sogunro
Book Title: Are We the Turning Point Generation?
Author: Chude Jideonwo
Year of Publication: 2014
But there can be no change without government, the author argues. For change to occur, the government has to be part of it. “We cannot, cannot change Nigeria without its government.” This is profound, as conventional messages suggest that the people have to develop without, and in spite of the government.
Chude Jideonwo hardly needs an introduction to anyone who is a constant participant in the socio-political aspects of Nigerian youth development. As a prime mover of both The Future Awards franchise and the YNaija empire, he has contributed immensely to local entrepreneurship, youth development and social awareness. But this is not to say he is “generally acceptable” to the Nigerian youths. In fact, he has raised enough controversy in his, quite successful, efforts at straddling the casually indifferent world of business with the passionate proselytizing of social commentary.
This combination of businessman and activist is a factor that makes his book very important. Nigeria has had few people able to combine a commercial outlook with a social welfare perspective—principally because success in commercial enterprise often depends on some sort of governmental support. And since Jideonwo has been able to find a balance somewhere, this book provides an opportunity, not just to hear Jideonwo’s thoughts about the state of Nigeria, but also to decipher the author himself as an archetype of the successful Nigerian youth leader. Are We The Turning Point Generation? provides us with an opportunity to reconcile the, somewhat contradictory, images of a pro-development activist with that of the—allegedly—pro-government businessman.
But then, there is nothing wrong with being pro-government—as the book clearly shows. Government is a necessary aspect of society and the sooner it is directed by people who have an understanding of what society requires, the better for everyone. And in this book, Jideonwo manages to convince us that he understands what society requires.
But, of course, this self-analysis is not the intention of the writer—instead, he has directly challenged the reader with an introductory question: are we the turning point generation? Are we, really? And this question is an appropriate title, for as Jideonwo states in the book: “Our problem is not a lack of answers. What we battle now is not a lack of ideas or solutions or suggestions. The problem, as I see it, is that we ask the wrong questions again and again and again.”
And yes, this looks right. Especially when you consider that the government has equal—if not more—access to the database of blueprints, statistics, information and Google searches as does the ordinary Nigerian. So therefore, our problem cannot be a lack of answers. But what are the right questions? We have to assume one of the more important questions—if not the most important one—is the one that titles the book. And so, the essays start with what we have to believe is one of the right questions. Are we as pivotal as we seem to think we are?
And this question is one the author seeks to unravel through the course of several articles, consisting of keynote addresses, open letters, personal reflections and other inspirational summations, all structurally grouped into five parts, each dealing with a theme on the Nigerian political life. And, yes, Jideonwo’s book is definitely political—without being about politics. It begins with a call to arms, a blatant disapproval of the current state of affairs: “Losing It”. Some anger is implied—the author has had enough, not just of governmental misdemeanors in general, but of this government in particular: “too many of [the President’s] actions…have created too many doubts in my mind.” And so, he contemplates, we need to regenerate Nigeria. Things have got to change.
But there can be no change without government, the author argues. For change to occur, the government has to be part of it. “We cannot, cannot change Nigeria without its government.” This is profound, as conventional messages suggest that the people have to develop without, and in spite of the government. No, Jideonwo contends, “Nigeria is not going to be changed by non-governmental organisations digging boreholes.” This is a very simple message at heart, and it is one that responds effectively to a number of well-meaning objections against reliance on governmental responsibility.
But again, everyone knows the answers to the questions—if only the right questions are asked. But, instead, we ask the wrong questions, because we are a society in a hurry. We want money, without asking what good our individual wealth does. We want progress without asking for its source. And therefore, in our bid to reach our hurried conclusions, we skip the fundamental questions and the fundamental social factor—our own government.
And so, we agree that government has to change. Government needs to lead the change. But this leads us to the question of the composition of government, especially the role of the “Youth”. Jideonwo is obviously a passionate believer in the development of the Nigerian youth. Most of the articles are inspiring messages, stirring with youthful enthusiasm and targeted to a youthful audience: but does this mean the Nigerian youth has to be involved in government? Are we ready for that kind of change? Or should the “oldies” continue to run the show?
Jideonwo’s answer is straightforward enough: character is not a function of age. There is no intrinsic positivity in one’s youthfulness. He argues that: “The young have it in them to be as clueless and as corrupt and as close-minded as the old.” The alliterative structuring aside, but this seems to be a fair observation, for as any Nigerian can attest, no great innovation has come out of the national student unions. Today’s “oldies” were yesterday’s young people. And now, we are stuck with that question: are we the turning point generation?
But there is a glimmer of hope: no narrative of Nigeria’s political history can be complete without the story of Nigerian youths and Occupy Nigeria and its accompanying mixed feelings. Despite the current president’s assertions that the events of January 2012 were a sponsored agenda, the average Nigerian youth recognizes the series of protest as the change that could have been the start of all changes; the turning point that could have heralded the turning point. But Occupy Nigeria came and went and nothing seems to have changed. So, what went wrong? Maybe we are not strong enough for a mass revolt, maybe we do not need one—Jideonwo argues. We have tried, and that is fair enough. And instead, we will go for the incremental revolt. This too is change, even if it is, ultimately, the harder kind to achieve.
A number of points are made in the book. But will you necessarily agree with everything the author concludes on? Maybe not. There is an urge to argue the point with Jideonwo. One wants to ask if he has considered this issue or that. Fortunately, however, the author comes across as probing, not authoritative; inquiring, not lecturing. Consequently, a few of the conclusions are easy to forgive.
And with this style of introspective literature, the author progresses with his exhortations and coaxing. Sometimes the language is sober and ponderous, but mostly it is conversational and quick. The paragraphs move quickly and the pages flip past. Chude Jideonwo writes splendidly and the tone of the book is easy reading. Are We The Turning Point Generation? is a delightful book that sets the right tone for a meditative evening while highlighting profound thoughts about the Nigerian social psyche by one of the leading members of the current generation.
Ayo Sogunro is the author of The Wonderful Life of Senator Boniface and other Sorry Tales. A lawyer by profession, he also indulges in socio-legal philosophy on ayosogunro.com. Interact with him on Twitter via @ayosogunro.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.