Uche Okorie: This is a generation of political cowards (Y! FrontPage)

by Uche Okorie


My generation is all of these things I have described and perhaps more, but has this one tragic flaw.

We are political cowards.

That is simply what we are.

I belong to a tech savvy generation of political cowards whose crème de la crème is accomplished in many respects. Accomplished in Theatre and Film where they contributed in no small measure to drive a world renowned movie industry worth approximately US$5.1 billion as at 2014. Accomplished in Music where the very best of a motley lot have crystallized the toils of their musical forebears, synchronised the contemporary sounds of far flung places and gone further to give it a near universal appeal in a mesmerising symphony of melodic tunes. Accomplished in all shades of comedy, building on pioneer work by the slightly older generation and bringing a business savvy difficult to fault as they crack ribs and unlock wallets all over the world. Accomplished in literature spanning a refreshing crop of budding authors and writers slowly but surely coming to reckoning. Accomplished in law and other professional endeavours producing some of the most intelligent young people anywhere in the globe with a string of local and foreign degrees in some of the most prestigious educational institutions in the world working for many of the world’s biggest brands. Accomplished in the use of the internet and social media which they have embraced in a way that will make many of their global counterparts green with envy, spurning off mega online start-ups and accumulating legal and not so legal hard currencies in the process while contributing a shrill and chirpy voice to the social media cacophony that has become a constant in our lives.

My generation is under 40 years of age, between the age brackets of 20 to 39. The very life wire of the economy. The epitome of bravery, achievement and life’s essence. The very embodiment of the majesty of youth. An important demographic the world over.

My generation is all of these things I have described and perhaps more, but has this one tragic flaw.

We are political cowards.

That is simply what we are.

Political Cowards. A generation ‘…contemptibly lacking in the courage to do or endure dangerous or unpleasant things’.

The extent of our cowardice is mind boggling and rather amusing if it was not so pathetic. Buried in thousands of computer and phone screens all over the earth, the very best of my generation, the social titans as I like to call them, are quick to adumbrate justifiable political vitriol from their high horses directed at a mostly inept political class out of touch with global best leadership practices.

We are bristling with ideas and good intentions, forgetting that the road to hell and damnation is paved with good intentions. Politically we took the clueless clues from our parents and older siblings’ generations’ of politics being too ‘dirty’ for decent folks and the idiotic practice of arguing over the best and worst of the lot of supposedly ‘dirty’ folks that regardless of such dubious wisdom became politicians. So while we dazzle in other aspects of our lives, we heckle endlessly on social media, lacking the political spine to put our money where our mouth is.

It is particular painful as politics has the greatest capacity to drive societal progress. Why isn’t my generation interested in full participation in politics? What exactly are we afraid of? Political assassinations? Well in every trade there is always a hazard. I will rather the remote hazard of an assassination than a self-induced annihilation engendered by political apathy. Bad governance is a weapon of mass destruction. Are we afraid of financial impecuniosity? How can we be when political parties get some form of electoral funding from INEC? And who says you can’t mount a political challenge using today’s technological tools and a lean budget?

Granted political cowardice has been a long time coming in Nigeria. Our immediate older generation, the generation of the Soludo’s, Ribadu’s, Ezekwesili’s, El-Rufai’s, Okonjo-Iweala’s had to be more or less invited into politics, with a minute few getting involved on their own volition. But at least they have embraced it and for better or worse are making a mark. Must we wait till we are invited to participate in the process? What if the invitation never comes from a political class that is increasingly wont to propagate themselves?

Why should we leave the important business of governance to the older generation? Why should we, a generation accomplished in many respects, so cowardly abdicate our all-important political responsibility of participation?  Why should we be content with the crumbs of politics falling from the selfish table of a perpetually reprocessed political class that has no scruples in devouring our collective commonwealth? Why should we tolerate nay even permit such putrid stagnation in our politics whereby politicians from the older generation continue to run us in circles? Why should we be content with Twitter and Facebook activism and the occasional political hashtags when we should rightly be in the driver’s seat reversing the rot, churning out sustainable policies and crafting a befitting legacy for our children?

For all our noise on social media don’t we realize that in spite of any criticism that could be levelled against them, the older generation, no matter the prevailing circumstances be it military rule or democracy found a way to capture the highest echelons of power and to cling on to it well into their old age?

Yakubu Gowon became Nigeria’s third Head of State at 32. Muritala Mohammed became Nigeria’s 4th Head of State at 37. Olusegun Obasanjo’s first stint at leading Nigeria was at 37. Odumegwu Ojukwu was President of secessionist Biafra at 34.  But all that was then.

Today things have deteriorated to the extent that my generation may never become leaders. We that were once told we are the leaders of tomorrow, have run out of tomorrows.  In Nigeria, our generation may just be on the verge of missing out on political leadership forever. The train most likely has left the station for many. When are we going to cut our teeth in politics if not now?

On the 22nd of February 2014, about six weeks after his thirty-ninth (39) birthday Matteo Renzi, a 1999 law graduate of the University of Florence born on the 11th of January 1975 became the Prime Minister of Italy. On the 1st of July, 2014 he became the President of the Council of the European Union. He has been a politician holding different major positions since 2001 and was Mayor of Florence from 2009 to 2014 when he became Prime Minister.

Bakari Sellers an American, at 22 was elected to the South Carolina General Assembly-the youngest ever member of the assembly. He acquired his law degree at the University of South Carolina in 2008.

Apart from Sellers, in the US alone there are more than 40 accomplished civic and political leaders all under 40 across racial and party lines contributing to the American story. Huma  Abedin, Justin Amash, Adam Sorenson, Massimo Calabresi, Tim Padgett, Marco Rubio to mention a few. I cite this contemporary examples to highlight the simple truth that there is simply no excuse to stay away from political participation in this day and age.

2015 is around the corner and my very accomplished political cowardly generation is more likely than not going to let the opportunity pass of becoming Councillors, Local Government Chairpersons, Legislators, Governors, President etc. yet again, while the irrelevant noise continues on Twitter on why a Ribadu should go back to a party that launched his political career and other such political inanities.

Do we want to be remembered as a generation that stood up to be counted when it mattered the most or one that due to politically timidity unwittingly contributed in writing the last chapter of ‘There was a Country?’

Choose the legacy you prefer.


Uche Okorie is a lawyer and poet. He holds an LLM in Global Business Law from New York University and an LL.M in Maritime Law from the National University of Singapore. He is currently a PhD candidate in Maritime and Logistics at the Australian Maritime College, a specialist Institute of the University of Tasmania, Australia where he was awarded a Tasmanian Graduate Research Scholarship.. He can be reached on twitter on @uchekorie

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

Comments (2)

  1. I will join when you lead the way. Stop preaching and start walking, the problem is too many people like to talk but never lead by example so create the young peoples political party so if I can register and contest as a young person.

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