by Tonye Altraide
Last weekend, my brother-‐in-‐law and I were having a discussion over a glass of wine at dinner at a Chinese restaurant. I had asked him where his vote will go in the next elections if he had the chance. I already knew what his reply would be as he was apathetic to politics so it didn’t surprise me much when he answered ‘nowhere’. His response anyway, had opened the window for me to ask him my main question “Why.” Why wasn’t he interested in choosing a leader for his constituency? Why wasn’t he ready to responsibly vote for someone whose strategy would positively affect his life and that of his family (my sister and niece included)? His reply was short and simple. “Listen, I am 40 in November and the people who were ruling the country before my birth are still in power today.” Incredible!
It reminded me of that meme I had seen on social media about how they told us we are the leaders of tomorrow but that tomorrow never comes. It was real. The trick had been played on his generation. We had to accept that our political class had played on the emotional and psychological imbalances of at least 170 million people for over forty years. Impressive! Managing to change nothing of effect and still getting away with it. Even more impressive!
Then last night I saw a video from the Bayelsa State scholarship students studying in Kursk, Russia. They were appealing for help. Their government had abandoned them. Tuition fees were unpaid and living expenses withheld. They were stranded and left with no other option than to make a video, post it on YouTube -‐ its first line titled ‘A cry for help’ -‐ and show the rest of the world their struggles.
It was gut wrenching. I carried on watching it anyway, repeatedly. Immersing myself in their pain and the somberness of their words. They were young Nigerians like me chasing their dreams or just trying to gain an education that will position them suitably in today’s society. I must stress that although this is only one side of the story, there is no denying that these youths have been let down. No responsible government should allow issues as such to escalate to that stage.
At university, many of my friends were under government scholarships and I know how they had to fight regularly to receive their stipends. Fact is, many of us youths have been let down by politicians. They know it. We know it. It is no secret. They do not care. They must think ‘what’s the worst the youths can do’?
In his book ‘Are we the turning point generation’, Chude Jideonwo says “Government is the single most important force for change in any society”. I agree, but if government will not support you, work with you, or find compromise with you then you should not let government kill you.
Most politicians don’t seem to be interested in genuinely helping youths solve the problems that lay at their feet. They aren’t bothered about how we face the challenges that come our way. So why don’t we just ignore them, for once? Why don’t we try to save ourselves? How about we do nothing when they need us.
We have no jobs. No electricity. No medical care. No uninterrupted education. No past. No present. Even the future is specious. A fallacy!
So why not try something new to grab our future back while we still can. Why not ignore them? Why not boycott the next elections and start taking a stand for the one thing you have every right to lay claim to.
If you think about it, we have nothing to lose and everything to fight for.
Tonye Altraide is a cultural enthusiast. He obtained his degree in Civil Engineering from Anglia Ruskin University, Essex.